I was always curious about extracts from various journals and written accounts of Farringford, telling us that there was a way made out onto the roof of the house for Tennyson to view the stars. But over the years, and with Farringford being used as a hotel, all evidence of this Star Gazing Platform had been lost. So the mystery of how Tennyson would access the rooftop remained unsolved.
Then the restoration project revealed something interesting. A previously hidden window was uncovered. Not an unusual thing in itself but it led out to a gulley between the inner pitches of the original roof, on the top story of the house. This in theory could have led to the flat roof ‘viewing platform’ on the top of the roof, which it could not be seen from below.
But the viewing platform would be too high to easily access from the roof gulley. So was this the route that Tennyson took, and if so, how did he get up there?
Evidence was then found of ladder fixings leading up one of the roof pitches, and this intriguing mystery was finally solved.
Evidence of the viewing platform can be seen in this engraving from South-Coast Saunterings in England, by M. D. Conway in Harpers Monthly Magazine (New York) 1870
How the Route was Uncovered
One of the upper rooms begins to reveal its secret . . .
The ceiling appeared to be lath and plaster, except for one area, which was made up of cement boarding.
As the boarding was removed the extent of the window was revealed.
The original roof and gulley that led to Tennyson’s famous ‘star gazing platform’.
Star Gazing Guests
Tennyson wasn’t the only person to scale the heights of the house. The following are excerpts from guests and visitors to Farringford who experienced the delights of the star gazing platform:
Oct. 4th. I walked over alone to Farringford, found first Mrs Tennyson, the two boys and their tutor. Tennyson at luncheon. "What do we know of the feelings of insects? Nothing." Tennyson takes me upstairs to his "den" on the top storey, and higher, up a ladder, to the leads. He often comes up here at night to look at the heavens....