The Visitor

Landless labourer’s 17th-century smoke-bay cottage
Landless labourer’s 17th-century smoke-bay cottage from Washington, Sussex, at the Weald and Downland Museum. Photo © Sean Borodale

I recently completed a year as Leverhulme Artist in Residence at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in Sussex. This museum showcases historic buildings, rescued from destruction and rebuilt on the 50-acre downland site, that demonstrate examples of vernacular homes, farmsteads and rural industries from the 13th to the 19th centuries.

During this residency I wrote The Visitor, a group of experimental short stories that intertwine historical evidence with imagination and conjecture, and each follows the thread of the life of an individual house from the museum collection. I see them as tangles of voice, describing a series of glimpses – little fistfuls of dug-up moments or incidents progressing through time.

I’ve drawn inspiration for these stories from a variety of research, observation and fieldwork. Considering the houses in the context of their original sites, I’ve made visits across Kent, Sussex and Hampshire to get a sense of how the surrounding landscape might have had bearing on its occupants. I’m hoping that I’ve been able to isolate particular flavours and tones for the individual houses – a kind of DNA of place.

The Visitor by Jane Borodale
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