Doh! New discovery in our old house

A few weeks ago the Great Hall at Trerice, which is only lit by sunlight through the 576 paned window, had just the right sort of light to pick up details in the plasterwork frieze. The frieze is runs around the two-storey room at ceiling height, so it is not often that much attention gets paid to it because it is so high up and the light’s not always very good. There’s been many times when we’ve seen it but not actually looked at it!

Closer inspection of the frieze came about when it was asked why Homer Simpson should be depicted in the plaster… doh! turns out it wasn’t Homer but a lady wearing something like Tudor dress and headwear.

This one’s in the middle of the frieze on the Musicians’ Gallery wall, above the door from the Screens Passage to the Hall.

Most of the figures are completely different, although those in the corners of the room, diagonally facing each other are very similar, but have minor differences. We’re in the process of researching more about them, and whether they are just generic images or have a stronger link to Trerice and the family who lived there. It might be very fanciful, but they could be portraits of the Arundell family…

We’ve been wondering if it’s possible to date the figures from the styles of clothes and hats they’re wearing.

Going clockwise around the room from the lady’s image, at 12 o’clock, the others are:

This one’s in the other corner of that wall next to the window. Originally it was thought that it was a scary looking baby but it seems to have a beard, so could be an old man.

This one’s on the side of the room with the window, opposite the fireplace (at about 4 o’clock). It has some similarities to the brass of Sir John Arundell in armour in Stratton Church.

This one’s diagonally opposite its ‘twin’.

This one’s in the centre of the frieze (at 6 o’clock to the lady’s image).

This one’s diagonally opposite the similar one near the window.

The next two are above the fireplace, opposite the window, which might suggest a place of importance.



The last is back on the first wall at the Musicans’ Gallery end, in the corner.


We’re wondering if it’s possible to date them from their clothes and hairstyles?

Thanks to Emily Hide for the photos.

Schools’ project: a few more finishing touches

The finishing touches (almost) have been added to the mid Tudor noble lady’s gown – fore-sleeves and a girdle. Just need to finish the smock and create a hood to complete it.


The brown late Tudor dress is getting closer to completion with a supporter or picadil for a ruff under way. Not satisfied with the result from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 4, (probably used the wrong fabric and glue) version number two, without glue, is being attempted from the Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns Book 2 (ed. Susan North and Jenny Tiramani) which so far is looking a lot tidier. It’s interesting to note that although both books examined the same object the patterns and instructions are quite different; the ability to x-ray items noticeably alters and revises views on the methods of how things were constructed.

Each tab or picadil was cut out in card and paper clipped in place first to make sure they fitted together on the base.

They were then cut out of the top fabric.

After the top fabric was wrapped around each piece of card and sewn together they were folded in half and slotted over the base and sewn at the bottom.

The underside neck bit was stitched – an attempt at stem stitch but a bit rusty – for decoration then attached to the picadils.


The card neck piece was then attached before the top fabric was added over the top. The next step was to cover the join with ribbon – brown in this case to indicate it goes with the brown dress – all about the subtlety!


After that the top fabric was added to the top side of the picadil.

The two picadils together (the Janet Arnold pattern on the left).

A couple of fashionable ladies or so

Among the things being worked on at the moment are two outfits for noble ladies.

One is a mid Tudor noble lady, loosely based on a portrait of Mary FitzAlan, countess of Arundel, mixed with the Tudor Child‘s pattern for Princess Elizabeth’s gown.

Each layer has been made by a different person in the Costume Group. The outfit is made up of a padded petticoat, a kirtle and fore-sleeves, and a gown.

The padded petticoat

The kirtle

After doing about 40 eyelet holes, on various outfits I didn’t fancy doing more, especially in velvet, so resorted to brass rings, which should be easier for children to thread up. There will be a placard over the top of the lacing.

To finish it off we decided to add a partlet as well. Just waiting for the fore sleeves before getting a final photo.

The other is a late Tudor noble lady’s gown with hanging sleeve, complete with French farthingale and stays underneath. The next step is to make a suitable ruff and supporter.

The foundation garments.

With the petticoat over the top.

The gown on top.

Also just completed, a mid-late gentlewoman’s gown and kirtle in red and black.


More for the Schools’ Project

Some more outfits recently finished.

Mid-late Tudor noble lady
It’s not bad what can be achieved by layering up ribbon and braid…



Mid Tudor merchant


Late Tudor gentlewoman

Mid Tudor gentleman

Late Tudor servant

Whodunit? – again!
On Friday Trerice was open in the evening from 6-9pm with the opportunity to investigate the murder of a conservation assistant. The volunteers are all suspects and the weapon is hidden somewhere around the house. Within minutes we managed to spook a few visitors with the rag stuffed body!

There are two more murder mystery evenings in the next couple of weeks followed by a spooky Halloween night.


Shopped till we dropped!

Last weekend (or so – bit late posting!) a group of us from the Costume Group ventured across the Tamar to go to the International Living History Fair near Leicester. We stopped at the lovely Coughton Court on the way up and had a look around the house and garden. There were some interesting monuments in the church next door too, one of two of the Throckmorton family holding hands, and a brass of one lady who had over 100 grandchildren.


At the Living History Fair it was a bit like kids in a sweet shop, and we were not sure where to start! We shopped for accessories for the schools’ project and costume days including belts, purses, hats and books.

We met the Tudor Tailor ladies and the folks of the Green Valley Farm and had some interesting chats, bringing back some useful ideas and tips to Cornwall.

Our haul!

Nearly there!

Better not shout too loudly but we’re halfway through cutting out the last pattern for the schools’ project!! The last outfit is a late Tudor noble lady based on an already made pink kirtle, originally made for an old cream dress, now transformed into a new gold gown.

Here’s some of the outfits hot off the press (sewing machine!)

imageLate Tudor nobleman and late Tudor merchant’s wife


Late Tudor nobleman

Late Tudor nobleman



Late Tudor merchant's wife

Late Tudor merchant’s wife

Getting there, slowly

The Summer Costume Days are over now – it’s taken a little while to recover! The last was particularly busy, with about 40 visitors dressed in the morning and twice as many in the afternoon – not bad for four hours. We had some lovely comments too from visitors which is greatly appreciated.

After a day of repairs, including the complete rebuilding of two French hoods, we’ve managed to cut out another pattern for the schools’ project. This one’s for a mid Tudor noble lady, based on the Princess Elizabeth pattern in The Tudor Child. It’s also loosely based on a portrait of Mary FitzAlan, Duchess of Norfolk in blue and red, who had a very distant connection to Trerice through her stepmother Mary Arundell of Lanherne, a cousin to our Arundells (the FitzAlan earl of Arundel’s coat of arms is also in the plasterwork of the Great Chamber at Trerice – we’ve always assumed it was something to do with this marriage connection … but not completely sure). So far it includes a padded petticoat, a red kirtle with red and gold forepart and a blue velvet gown (a really nice shade, similar to the portrait) with large sleeves and fore-sleeves to match the kirtle.

Another busy day

We had another 500+ day today (over 500 visitors) which is really busy for Trerice as it’s quite a small house. About 120 of those visitors were game enough to try on a costume! We’ve introduced four sessions a day for trying on clothes so that the volunteers dressing the public can get a regular break, which makes it a little less exhausting than last year. 50 of those 120 today were in the 45 minute session after lunch!

Several more of the schools’ project outfits had a test run today so we could see which items needed alterations and tweaking. It was great to see them being worn, so a big thank you to our testers.

It was great to see the Parade Ground looking so busy when we emerged for lunch.


It’s all happening again on Wednesday!


Tudor Fortnight at Trerice

Our summer costume days are underway, we’ve had a lot of interest from visitors and some good weather has meant we’ve been a little less manic than usual, which is nice.

We’ve finished two more outfits for the schools’ project – an Elizabethan sailor and a mid Tudor loose gown and loose kirtle.


The sailor’s outfit is based (roughly) on one I saw in the Queen’s Gallery in London last year, with a loose tunic top and baggy knee-length hose in linen.


Also completed is an English gable hood to go with one of the early Tudor dresses.


A couple of the schools’ outfits have had a trial run in the last two costume days, which was great. We might be able to test some more in the next few weeks.

The last remaining wooden farthingale has bitten the dust :( The hoops had become more gaffer tape than willow, after one-too-many 10 year old sat or stood on it before we could intervene. It is now being remodelled with curtain wire which has proved to be a lot more durable with rough handling so far in our other farthingales. The skirt itself is being altered too; it was based on the Alcega/Janet Arnold pattern with hoops put into tucks of material, so there is now far too much fabric, which will distort the shape with the new wire or be ridiculously huge and awkward to sew.

We’re in the middle of Tudor Fortnight at Trerice at the moment, and the Wardour Garrison are down for the weekend. They’ve set up their tents and have been showing camp life including musket demonstrations and target practise. Hope they haven’t got blown away by the tail end of hurricane Bertha! There’s also two Tudor themed banquets being held this week in the evenings on Wednesday and Saturday. Plus a costume day tomorrow and on Wednesday, hobby horse jousting and various craft activities.