Thursday, June 27, 2013

"A Farewell to Kiplin"

One of our projects on this trip has been volunteering at Kiplin Hall, a 17th century manor and home to the founder of Maryland. The job that Andrew and I were given was to review the archives. We weren't sure what to expect and after a full day of reviewing documents about installing a pond we weren't hopeful that it would get too exciting.

Our luck changed the next week when we found a play that the last Kiplin resident, Bridget Talbot wrote. In an attempt to save her home, which was falling apart, she turned to the National Trust and later the British government and was turned away. Her reaction to this news was to write a play called "A Farewell to Kiplin," that demonstrated not only her disgust with the whole process but also her plan B on how to save the house.

The scenes of this play are engaging, mostly because they play up the extremes of the mid-1950's. She has the government officials come in and discuss the various ways they are going to ruin the house. These ideas go from the very extreme (H-bomb), to political (turning it into a communist school), and immediate acts of destruction (throwing darts at a famous painting.)

Another tactic used in the play is bringing in foreigners (American, Russian, Indonesian) to show their reactions to the manor. No tourists are featured more prominently than the American one, who confesses that no matter how much money America has it will never be able to have historical homes as old as Kiplin. The American tourist gets increasingly upset about the house not being saved, especially when he learns that the house belonged to the man who started the Maryland colony. This was intentional by Bridget whose plan B was to get American support in saving the house. She even goes so far as to call the house "an American shrine." It didn't completely work in getting her house saved, that part would come later, but this play did reach an American audience and Bridget Talbot was heard.

Is this play over dramatic? Absolutely! Yet when you get beyond that I think this play really shows the struggle that Bridget went through. She clearly loved her home and was prepared to do a lot to save it, and I admire her tenacity. Working at the archives and seeing the first hand accounts of the preservation process makes being in Kiplin an even more enjoyable experience because you know about the effort that went in to saving it.

Today when I walked through Kiplin and said my own farewell, I couldn't help but think that Bridget Talbot would be very happy that her home has not only be restored but that it is a thriving part of the historic community in North Yorkshire.

                                       Kiplin Hall

(Photo Courtesy of Robert Olguin)

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