I am very lucky to be able to say that I get to travel about a fair amount and go on various adventures around the country and the world in some cases. It’s one of the things I love to do, explore new places and discover new things. The weekend just passed I found myself in a tiny village called Colsterworth which is a couple of hours away up the ever so familiar by now A1(M).
In this quiet little place is an old house which is very important for one huge reason, it is the birthplace and family home of Sir Isaac Newton. I was very lucky to be able to attend a private tour of the house and the land around it, never have I been so excited to see an apple tree in all my life. One thing I obviously always look out for when visiting places are the slightly more sinister or darker sides to them that others might not discuss so readily.
On the ground floor there is one of two known death masks for Newton hung upon the wall. Death masks were traditionally taken for several centuries leading up to the invention of photography to take a copy of the likeness of someone for portraits or statues, for example. They would have been taken of significant people and would be cast from their actual face using wax or plaster. We noticed that in comparison to the paintings of Newton, his death mask seems to have a tiny forehead but I wonder if it just didn’t go all the way to his hairline!
You mean to say you don’t have a death mask above your fire place??
Also on the walls, behind Perspex, are carvings or inscriptions into the original fabric of the wall. We were shown the below ‘witches’ marks’ which are commonly found in old houses in these forms. They are also known as apotropaic marks which were intended to ward of evil and for the purposes of protection. These do commonly come in the form of daisy wheels like the photo below where a circle contains curved lines creating a lobed flower effect. These are also known as hexafoils and can be found in numerous overlapping patterns. More about these can be found here.
Terrible photograph but hopefully you can make out the daisy wheel above
Lastly I’d like to discuss the family coat of arms which sits above the main entrance doorway to the house. The coat of arms is described as two tibia bones crossed like a traditional emblem but minus the skull above. The internet does suggest that the crossbones symbolises a strength or determination which is interesting. It’s believed that Newton did use this emblem in his life but some sources say he adopted it while others that it was inherited through his family. I’m inclined to believe that latter but either way it is use of a symbol that we now associate differently, similarly to the gravestones of the time that hold the skull and crossbones iconography.
If you ever find yourself travelling along the A1(M) and see the sign for Colsterworth it is certainly worth a visit. If only to see the infamous apple tree!