Judith Blenkinsop walks back into the garden of her home and inn called Colchester House in Olney, England, three days before Pancake Day. She is bringing the keys to the door of a suite located in a building in the garden that was once a slaughterhouse for the butcher shop, which was behind the main house, complete with living quarters for the owners in the early 1700s. Judith and her husband, Peter, have restored the property and turned to slaughterhouse into three suites, complete with bathrooms and kitchenettes. For more photos, see PAGE 6A. L&T photo/Larry Phillips
By LARRY PHILLIPS
• Leader & Times
Joseph and Mary had to room in a manger, Ann Frank lived in an attic for years hiding from the Nazis, and I got to stay in a 300-year-old slaughterhouse in Olney, England, last week.
When looking for a room in Olney prior to my March 4 departure to England, my contact (and now friend) Tony Lamming had sent me about five places to check out. After looking at Web sites and sending some e-mails, I decided to book at the Colchester House, mainly because of its proximity to the starting line of the Pancake Day Race (about one block) and it had WiFi Internet access.
When I arrived, I was greeted at the front door by proprietor Judith Blenkinsop, a very pleasant lady with a mild manner. She showed me to my “suite,” which was in a building in the back garden. She gave me a key to the front street-side door of Colchester and a key to my suite.
Inside, there was a desk with chair to my immediate left with the bed to my right. A door immediately across the room was the entrance to the Lou (or bathroom). After walking around the bed, to the left was an alcove housing the kitchen area. It had a small refrigerator, a microwave oven, toaster, an electric kettle for boiling water and all manner of dishes and pots and pans.
It was quite cozy and immaculate.
While everything seemed fairly new, there was the olden-style head board and foot board on the bed, made of old wrought iron. The bathroom door was an old wooden plank door with a very old latch mechanism. From the inside, one had to lift a small lever that protruded from the latch, which in turn pushed the locking lever up, therefore opening the door.
One window above my work desk, looked back toward the main house, and the other looked south into the garden area where benches were stationed and numerous bird feeders were hanging, including feeders for hummingbirds.
When visiting with Judith’s husband, Peter, I asked him if the building I was staying in was an old barn or an out-building. He commenced to tell me it was a former slaughterhouse.
“The property was originally a butcher shop and behind here was the slaughterhouse and behind that were the pens where they kept the live beasts,” Peter said, adding they had sold off the back half of the property and built a covered car park behind the old slaughterhouse building.
“The main beam that runs through your suite with the large iron rods is where they would hang the beasts after they were slaughtered,” he added.
The rods were huge 1-inch bolts through the wooden beam with a large nut on one side and an eye-bolt end on the other side.
“Don’t be telling him that, Peter, he won’t be able to sleep good thinking about that,” Judith interrupted.
I assured them both it would not bother me, as I was an avid hunter and had butchered everything from squirrels and rabbits to deer and moose.
I asked Peter how old the property was.
“Next week, we’ll be celebrating its 300th birthday,” he said. “Our property deed lists that it was completed in March of 1711.”
Not as old as Joseph and Mary’s manger, but probably older than Ann Frank’s attic.
One couldn’t find a more delightful place to “room.”