The Glebe House in Clapham, London ,is an old Georgian coaching house that stands where the old manor house of Clapham once was. This building is now a home, a B&B, a location for filming, classes and salons, and so much more.
Alix, who owns the house, is warm and welcoming and checked that we are ok with dogs before her labradoodle, Vincent, jumped up at us enthusiastically. I gazed around and asked her about the building. She told me that the sitting room I stood in was once a thoroughfare for horses and that out beyond the kitchen used to be stables before the church bought it and built the rectory that is there now. Alix said the only reason the coaching house survived redevelopment is that there was a sitting tenant at the time who would not budge and the work had to go on around him. Because of all this the entrance to St Paul’s church is directly next to the front door of the house.
Alix showed us to our room and from the window I could see the church’s front garden open up like the lawn of a villa. That night was the last of a five night run of my first play at the Bread and Roses Theatre. We stayed on after to watch the band play in the pub and we drank wine and danced with the same spirit they might once have done in the manor house. Walking back to the Glebe House I noticed how quiet the streets are, how peaceful. We slept like we were drugged and in the morning Vincent was outside our door waiting.
I watched the serene goings on at the church next door. Bells hung low in the morning air and a Deliveroo driver rode up and down the alley by the church, unable to locate his hungry household. Other then one or two people it was peaceful. The lawn yawned in front of the dingy church and to the far side one or two gravestones poked up from the ground and leaned towards each other.
In the kitchen Alix stood at the window and told us that when it was a coaching house the man who lived there would peer through that window and watch the horses in the stables outside, where the rectory is now. I listened hard and tried to hear the sound of hooves still in the air’s memory somewhere. I tried to imagine the beautiful bulk of horses moving slowly, shunting each other in the stables, the smell of hay and manure.
When we left Glebe House, rested and relaxed, I stood by the entrance to St Paul’s church and thought about what it was like here before this. Before the time of the stables there was the time of the manor house and before that who knows. I thought, each of these things are still there if you know how to hear them and where to look. Everything is till there. The earth is the same, no matter what is built above it.
Samantha Priestley is the author of the Folded Word short-fiction chapbooks Dreamers (2014) and Orange Balloon (2016). She’s a novelist, playwright, and essayist who spins words into gold from her home in Sheffield, UK.
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