19th Century and Onwards, Places

The Worn Doorstep, Oakville ON

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The Worn Doorstep, Oakville, Ontario. This is one of my favourite Old Oakville historical homes.

It was built in 1870, though it wasn’t yet a home – it was built as a paint factory. It has also been an electric generating plant and a guest house. It became a private residence in 1966, when it was purchased by Lt. Col. The Rev. John Anderson, who performed extensive renovation work and lived there until his death in 2004.

The name “The Worn Doorstep” was retained from when it was opened as a tea room in 1925. Before that, in 1892, it was called “The Electric Light Cottage”, and I can’t decide which name I like better.

These photos were taken in two separate visits in 2012 and 2013. There is now a small informational plaque in the corner shown above. It’s a house I like to “visit,” in a manner of speaking, whenever I’m in the area.

18th Century and Earlier, 19th Century and Onwards, Places

Turku Castle/Turun Linna

Last month, my husband and I spent a couple of weeks visiting family in Finland and Germany. The historical site we were both most excited to see was Turku Castle, in southwest Finland.

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Turku was the capital of Finland until 1812, when Alexander I, thinking Turku was a little too close to Sweden and too far from Russia, gave Helsinki capital city status instead.

However, the castle itself is much older than all that – construction began in the 1280s, when Finland was under Swedish rule.

In its time, the castle went through many renovations. It started its shift from military stronghold to residential palace in the 16th century, when King Gustav I of Sweden/Gustav Vasa took the throne. According to the castle guidebook:

The windows were filled with panes of parchment, the fireplaces were worn out and the rooms were gloomy.

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Turku Castle underwent a period of major renovation, including updates like replacing drawbridges and gangways with staircase towers, and salons for the Duke and Duchess. Unfortunately, the castle didn’t have a great life after that. A 1614 fire nearly destroyed the wooden structures of the main building, and the castle was hit by a bomb on the first day of the Continuation War in 1941. In between all that, the castle was used as a prison, a garrison, and – the ultimate in boring – a storehouse. Poor Turku Castle.

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Thankfully, plans to restore the castle had been in the works for some time, and another major period of renovation kicked off – one that lasted for 47 years!

It’s a big building, almost maze-like with its alcoves, narrow hallways, and staircases.

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Including this one, built in a spiral formation so that any right-handed would-be assailant coming up couldn’t draw his sword. Crafty.

There were many large and airy rooms (some too big to feel like a mere “room”), and some that were more modest.

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One of my favourite rooms was the Ladies’ Parlour, featuring this labyrinth carved into the wall. The labyrinth was believed to trap evil spirits and keep them from getting into the room.

I think, though, my absolute favourite room was the Scriptorium, the workroom used by the castle’s scribe. Important visitors’ names were recorded on the walls.

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Here I am gazing lovingly at the wall. I was like that for quite a while! I didn’t even notice my husband moving on after he took this photo.

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And a photo from my perspective. I’ve recently taken up calligraphy, so I enjoyed seeing the work and figuring out how certain letters were formed.

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The Nun’s Chapel featured this incredible crucifix from Hammarland church. From the fact sheet in the room:

The carving … is from the late 14th century, when the mystery of the blood became stronger because of the unsettled times and the epidemics of plague.

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The Castle Church is still alive and kicking, and many couples get married here.

The King’s Hall and Queen’s Chamber can also be rented out for events, and the walls are lined with beautiful tapestries that are very difficult to resist touching!

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So, to sum up, Turku Castle gets two very enthusiastic thumbs up from me. As someone of Finnish descent who has lived her whole life in Canada, it was invigorating for me to get so close to a sizeable slice of Finnish history. I enjoyed Turku a lot anyway, but the castle was a definite top three highlight for me. Check it out if you’re ever in that part of the world and can’t say no to a good castle!

18th Century and Earlier, Books

I kind of feel sorry for the woodpecker.

Many buildings outside London had thatched roofs of reed or straw, and in January 1784 Woodforde noted: ‘I rejoiced much this morning on shooting an old wood-pecker, which had teised [teased] me a long time in pulling out the reed from my house. He had been often shot at by me and others…For this last 3 years in very cold weather did he use to come here and destroy my thatch. Many holes he has made this year in the roof, and as many before.’

– Jane Austen’s England, Roy Adkins.