The derbyshire woman who wears 17th century clothes – to tesco and aldi! – derby telegraph best dinner recipes for two

But for catherine rogers, any trip, whether it’s to church or the supermarket, is a chance to dress up to the seventeens. Because her favourite attire just happens to be clothes styled on those of the early 17 century. In other words, the kind of everyday garb worn by ladies in the reign of king charles 1.

Needless to say, this can cause a bit of a stir down the frozen food aisle. But catherine takes it all in her early 17 century stride. “lots of people are used to it,” she smiles, “but others can be a bit surprised when they see me dressed like that out shopping for the first time.

“they often come up to me for a chat which is great, sometimes wrongly assuming that I’ve just come from working at calke abbey or ashby castle. When they ask me why I’m dressed like that I explain that I’ve always been interested in the early 17 century and that I’ve even got a house that goes with my clothes.This house


or sometimes I just laugh and tell them I’m mad! I’m pleased to say that their response is usually really positive, a sort of ‘rock on!’ ”

Picture: mark bickerdike photography 22 february 2018. Opening of the new ALDI store, burton road, derby. GV (image: mark bickerdike photography)

True to form, catherine is wearing exquisite costume from the 1620s when she greets me at the front door of her historic jacobean timber-framed house in the south derbyshire village of hartshorne, near swadlincote. Read more

Welcoming me across the threshold of upper hall on main street, catherine looks resplendent in a black wool gown with red lacing, worn over a white linen petticoat adorned with beautiful embroidery known as ‘black work – even though it’s red.Upper hall underneath the petticoat she’s wearing a white linen chemise with lace collar and cuffs and on her head an embroidered white linen cap. Or to be absolutely correct, a ‘coif’.

“I wear this kind of clothing a lot when I’m out and about and the people who know me take no notice,” she laughs. “I have about ten other outfits similar to this one.”

Does she make them herself, I enquire. “no, I don’t have the skill and patience,” she replies. “I buy them at re-enactment fairs. There are lots of people making these sort of costumes nowadays, either off-the-peg or to measure.”

She and her husband, professor chris rogers, both 60, bought upper hall, which is half of the old manor house in hartshorne, in 2012 and have treasured it ever since. They love it so much, in fact, that they open it up for group visits by people who are as fascinated by history as they are.This house “because this house is so special, we feel we should share it with others,” they explain.

Grade 11* listed, the house was built in the 1620s around the time that king james 1 died and king charles 1 took the throne of england. Explains catherine: “I’ve always been interested in this period of english history right from being young, but I suppose it’s intensified as I’ve got older. After I began wearing the clothes of the era, chris and I thought we would like to find a house to go with them! At the time we were living at sinope, between ashby and coalville, and it took us three years of searching to find this property.”

Catherine stresses that she isn’t a professional historian. “I’m passionate about this particular period of history, a little mad I suppose!”

early century

Over coffee and a plate of french bisket breads – home-made by catherine from a 1604 recipe book and resembling delicious almond macaroons – she tells me something of the history of their beloved home.

“we know this house was built in the 1620s because the timbers have been dated from around 1622. We also know that the house first appeared in the parish rates in the year 1629 when the tenants were the benskin family and the rates were eight shillings a year!”

As we soak up the atmosphere in front of a roaring log fire in the heavily beamed hall, which the couple use as their main living room, catherine tells me that the house would have been considered very grand, expensive and high status when it was first built.

She points out a tudor arch over the massive original brick and stone fireplace.This house “that was a feature that would have soon gone out of style at the time,” she remarks, adding that by the early 18 century, the design of the house would have been thought old-fashioned. “at that point people would have been looking for a nice georgian box rather than a timber framed house,” she says.

Although it now has five bedrooms and two bathrooms, to the couple’s delight the house has otherwise remained essentially the same for the past 400 years.

“we believe that one reason it has survived in such an unspoiled state is because for most of its life tenants rather than owner occupiers lived here, so nobody changed it very much. During the three years we looked for an early 17 century house, we never expected to find one in such an original and unspoiled condition as this.Early century for us it was a dream come true. Usually you would find lots of georgian and victorian additions.”

Catherine and chris know that the house eventually became part of the bretby estate and in 1910 was sold off by the earl of carnarvon to allegedly help fund his archaeological excavation of tutankhamun’s tomb in egypt. “that year a mr george wilkinson paid £270 for it,” they say. Read more

Their immensely picturesque four-storey brick, timber and stone house comprises the hall/living room, a historic kitchen with two side rooms, a lovely two-storey porch and a series of chambers and garrets on the two upper floors, which now serve as bedrooms and bathrooms. The rooms are all beamed, with wattle and daub walls, and most have their original fireplaces.This house

They also have another sitting room traditionally known as the curate’s room, though they’ve no idea why. “but it’s a jolly room, we love its fine fireplace, and we watch TV in here,” catherine says.

Taking pride of place in the kitchen is a lovely oak dining table which can seat up to 14 people. “sometimes I cook an authentic 17 century supper for family and friends and serve it at this table. I cook everything in my wonderful oil-fired rayburn, which also heats our water and radiators.”

Catherine has researched early 17 century food extensively and her repertoire includes roast goose, guinea fowl and ham, salmon pie with ginger and currants, shropshire cakes, bosworth jumbles, damson cheese, pickled mushrooms, herby pudding made with barley and grand salads decorated with nasturtium petals.Upper hall

Beneath the house is a network of cellars and catherine shows me the wine and beer cellar and the salting room. “until refrigeration, meat was salted to preserve it,” she says, pointing out the original centuries-old salting trough.

Guiding me round the first floor of the house, catherine shows me the kitchen chamber, now a bedroom, so called because it’s directly above the kitchen’s vast fireplace and cooking range.

The master bedroom is known as the hall chamber and catherine points out some original carpenter’s marks in the beams. This atmospheric room, again with its original fireplace, features an ornate canopied half-tester bed. “I’ve always wanted a bed with a lid on it,” catherine laughs.

In the bathroom she shows me some ancient burn marks on the beams, caused by tapers lit to illuminate the room as it has no windows.This house and in the two-storey porch on the ground floor, with its original jacobean front door, she draws my attention to initials carved in the stonework. “we love this graffiti from 1669,” she laughs, “although we haven’t a clue who W.A. Was.” read more

A professor of civil engineering at the university of birmingham, catherine’s husband chris is equally passionate about the history of their house, finding its longevity an inspiration of sustainability.

“my work involves researching infrastructure systems that support cities and I’m also researching cities of the far future – how to make them sustainable, resilient and liveable,” he tells me. “nostalgia and the dynamic between past and future, is permeating current thinking. One argument is that if you want to think about the future, think about the past.Upper hall

“the question is: how well will modern buildings last? Our home has stood for four centuries and hopefully will be around for a lot longer. The issue is about re-using materials and making the best use of your resources. Those used in this house have lasted for 400 years. That’s sustainability!”

Catherine and chris rogers will be opening upper hall, 10 main street, hartshorne DE11 7ES, to visitors on heritage open day on september 8 this year. They also open for pre-booked group tours. For more information, email catherine at c17lady@gmail.Com or telephone 01283 222797.