So, back to Essex, and it would be a crime, whilst in Coggeshall, not to visit their most celebrated buildings. So, first stop was Paycocke's, built circa 1500 for Thomas Paycocke, who had made his fortune manufacturing woollen cloth.
Paycocke is old English for peacock, and the grandeur of Thomas's house does show off his fine feathers. (So this really is A Peacock's Tail.)
In the late 16th century, ownership of Paycocke's passed to the Buxton family, until 1746 when it was sold to its tenant, one Robert Ludgater.
As Coggeshall's industry declined, so did the fortunes of the house, which had been divided into three small cottages by the end of the 19th century. (This is beginning to sound a bit like Black Beauty - I think we're at the point where Beauty has become a cab horse called Jack in the care of Jerry Barker.)
In 1885 treasure hunters threatened to strip the house of its carvings and use them to adorn a distant mansion (enter Mr Nicholas Skinner, the brutal owner of several shabby cabs who works his horses to death) but this plan was thwarted by protesters and a buyer called Mr Pudney, a self-employed removal man who continued to use the house as domestic and business premises, before selling it back, in a much altered state, to members of the Buxton family. ('It must be 'Black Beauty'! Beauty! Beauty! do you know me? - little Joe Green that almost killed you!')
Lord Noel Buxton, a direct descendant of the earlier owners of Paycocke's, embarked upon a 20 year project to restore Paycocke's to what the National Trust rather snootily describe as 'what he believed was its original state', taking down partition walls, uncovering carvings, demolishing outbuildings and patting and patting [me] as if he were quite overjoyed.
In 1923, the famous composer Gustav Holst spent a summer at Paycocke's with his family, and his daughter, Imogen, said 'I shall certainly write to Mrs. Gordon, and tell her that her favourite house has come to us. How pleased she will be!'