Cowdray House, Midhust, West Sussex title banner, a history of a magnificent 16th Cent house, destroyed by fire in the late 18th Cent
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Plan of Kitchen


South-East Corner and Kitchen
In the southeast corner of Cowdray is the massive hexagonal kitchen tower. Its internal diameter is 26ft or 30ft from corner to corner and because it was so substantial it was the only part of the house that did not get badly damaged in the fire. The kitchen is on the ground floor and within the four massive arches along its south and east sides are the fireplaces. Three of these are of special interest. The northeast is filled with a large hot plate with two rows of round holes for saucepans and dishes, which were heated by two fires beneath. Behind the hot plate is a window giving light to the working area. In the flue of the eastern arch are the original spit wheels and fans that used to be turned automatically by the rising heat. The iron range and hole in the floor for the basting pan also remain. The southwest arch used to contain a passage leading to the brew house to the south of the kitchen. This has been blocked up and the end of the other building has been taken back so there is now a gap between it and the kitchen tower. On the north side of the kitchen, the old serving hatches have also been blocked up. In the centre of the floor once stood a six-sided pump with a semi-circular trough, which supplied the water. The kitchen was lighted by a lantern-like series of four large seventeenth century windows, placed high up. Some still retain fragments of their original glass.

On the outside of the tower, going up the west side, is a stair turret leading to the room above the kitchen. At he time of the fire, this room was used as a muniment chamber for storing documents and manuscripts. After the fire, there were pitiful accounts of how the documents were left in the room to decay for over fifty years, open to the ravages of the wind and rain and any casual visitor who cared to enter. The room is now used as the Museum, containing a collection of relics from Cowdray, plus other items of local and Sussex historical interest.

Shortly after the fire, another floor was inserted in the kitchen about 12ft up, to form another room that was used as an audit chamber. It was lighted by the existing kitchen windows. One of the two fireplaces that were built for it still remains up on the south side of the kitchen. During the restoration of Cowdray about 1915, the floor was removed and the kitchen restored to its full height.

Descend the stair from the muniment room, cross the kitchen court and go through the kitchen entry into the hallway, turn left, through the porch and you are out into the quadrangular court again, so concluding the tour of Cowdray as it could have been seen in 1770 and 1978.

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