Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Campus" Life

I really felt compelled to write again, even I wrote a new post just a couple days ago. But I've had some great experiences in the last two days that I wanted to share! Yesterday, all of the students had another British Studies field trip (our first was to the city of Lincoln) but it was a very obscure one. Half of the students went to the Southwell Workhouse (more on that later) and the other half stayed behind to tour Harlaxton. It was very bizarre to tour the place we are living in, but also so much more interesting! We are currently in the Victorian era of British Studies (so in the area of the 1830's-1905) which is when Harlaxton was built. We went around to four different sections of the manor to hear each of the British Studies professors talk about different things. The theme of the tour was how the manor was built structurally for the organization of the classes.
One of the 3 chandeliers in the Long Gallery

We began our tour in the State rooms (which include the State Dinning Room, the Long Gallery, the Great Hall and the Gold Room) where the architecture was discussed. Gregory Gregory was the one who built the manor for himself (he had no family) and had two distinct designers. We were then lead to the Blue Corridor, up the Cedar Staircase, to the guest rooms. The manor was designed to split the halls and rooms into gender division. The Victorians were obsessed with paradoxical morals and never wanted the genders to mix. One of the professors pointed out the set of "Bachelor Rooms" where the single men were housed as guests. We also got to see the hidden staircase from the Butler's room in the basement to the two upper floors. (I may have already discovered that and taken it once before...). Exploring all of these areas lead us to the 400 corridor (where I live) and the "servant's area" of the house. The tour became absolutely fascinating to me to imagine a house for a 5-person family and their guests, supported by at least 30 servants that could never be seen or heard. We toured the library corridor which was once the kitchen and the stone corridor that was architecturally plain with high windows so the servants could never been seen or see the upper class. So many new hidden pathways and staircases were revealed to me which was so cool! It was so bizarre to imagine life as it was when the manor was first built, and not as a college house as it is now.
The ceiling of the Ante Room

After that tour, I headed to the Southwell Workhouse, which was a poor house first created in the early 1800's. Because the Poor Law created by Elizabeth I in the 1600's could no longer support the over-population due to the industrialization in England, they created a place called the workhouse. The Victorian belief was that you were poor due to your laziness and your lack of morals. The workhouse was open to you to provide you with food, shelter, and clothing, in exchange for menial, and meaningless work. This work was thought to force hard work and discipline, as well as morality, into you. If you worked hard, it was easy for you to get outside work, and your family could leave.
The top floor of the Cedar Staircase

The catch with the workhouses was that families were separated. Again, genders were divided, living in separate sections of the house, and children were kept in their own quarters. Even couples who had been married for 20 years could not be seen together. There were so many downsides to this structure, but it did get paupers out on their feet again. The workhouse was rather creepy to tour (it didn't help that it was thundering outside) and I still don't know who I feel about the whole concept. But it has made me intrigued over the social justice issues of the time period.
The conservatory

Anyway, I found the field trip overall fascinating because it was like seeing the manor for the first time again. It made me appreciate the rooms within the manor more and it's fun to think about the amount of history that walked the same staircases and corridors as I do now. On a lighter note, tonight was the talent show that I participated in with Ashley and Kate. I accompanied the two on the piano as they, ironically, sang "Ebony and Ivory". Their costumes were fabulous and the audience loved them. They were hilarious! It went over so well that we won second place for the competition! (Our first place winners were tough competition - it's hard to compete with two boys who sang a song about "Pumpkins of the Night" with costumes and lighting). It was great fun and I've been feeling very sociable this week! Tomorrow I'm having lunch with the new UE president as he visits Harlaxton for a few days! I somehow seem to be participating in everything!

1 comment:

  1. Good for you Erin, touring the school again is very cool, getting to see it through different eyes and so far I see that you are just going with the flow and not trying to force anything. That's good.