1993 Redevelopment of Old School site

Article from the East Anglian Daily Times on 23rd September 1988

AN ELMSWELL farmer has made a series of unusual discoveries while renovating an historic farmhouse. Mr. Dennis Dyball, of Willow Farm, was digging through old foundations, some of which date from the 11th Century, at Oak Farm House on the Ashfield Road. He came across a horse’s head fixed into the foundations.

Further discoveries included pieces of porcelain, and sandals which are thought to date from the 16th Century. The sandals are beautifully preserved. One lady’s shoe is intact and has leather strappings and a wooden sole. The shoe also has a metal platform under the sole to raise the wearer’s foot above the mud.

Mr. Dyball says, “It has made the job of renovating the house very interesting. We keep coming across unusual objects as we make progress with the building.” He is keen to preserve the original appearance of the house and has exposed some beautiful curved beams. It appears that parts of the 11th Century building were left intact when it was modernised hundreds of years ago.

Other discoveries include clay pipes and a lead spoon. They had been embossed with the same motif. Mr. Dyball also discovered sections of a stone quern used by the medieval family for grinding corn. Mr. Dyball said small amounts of wheat were also found in the house, and they appear to be of an unusual variety.

“The horse’s head is something of a mystery. Archeologists have told us that it was not uncommon for animals such as cats to be buried in old houses, but they could not explain the presence of the horse’s head,” said Mr. Dyball. The owner may have been fond of a particular horse and decided to bury it within the house when it died.

The house has also given up another interesting secret about its past. A more recent occupier appears to have had a particular fondness for good quality Ceylon Tea. Several lead tea packets were found stuffed into the walls. They bear the name of the firm, Walker and Dalrymple, and the words: “Intermediate pure Ceylon tea”.