I got quite excited about it until the other women in the shop put me straight; "Forget it. We won't win Regional Store of the Year - that'll go to Market Harborough because they've just opened and new shops always beat their targets. And National Store of the Year is always Oxford Street." And with that they went back to eating their crispbread, I returned to my More magazine, and we said no more about it.
I wonder if National Trust property managers ever feel aggrieved like this. Take Paycocke's, for example; do they ever read about Waddesdon Manor adding a new car park and a fleet of shuttle buses for visitors, or Chartwell opening a new purpose-built cafeteria, and think "WE'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF A STREET IN A VILLAGE IN ESSEX. IT'S A MIRACLE WE'RE STILL HERE AT ALL. WE HAVE NO ROOM FOR CAR PARKS OR EXTENSIVE VISITOR CENTRES."
To be honest, they've probably got better things to do than worry about Chartwell. Paycocke's may be smaller than most properties but it's a fantastic place and I highly recommend it.
It was built around 1500 and is located on a relatively busy road in a village called Coggeshall. Yet somehow it has survived 500 years of change and development and is still standing sturdy.
It was built for Thomas Paycocke, a wealthy merchant who made his fortune from wool - East Anglia was very big on cloth back then.
The house was passed to the Buxton family through marriage. As the cloth trade began to fall into decline in the 1700s, the house was bought and then split into three tenements. It came close to demolition, until Lord Noel Buxton brought it back into the family. He renovated it and donated it to the National Trust in 1924.
There was a sign on the wall with a poignant quote from Lord Noel:
Paycocke's also gave me a rare moment of historical supremacy over the Scone Sidekick. We wandered into one of the rooms in the house and I immediately turned to him and said; "This is linenfold panelling. It was used in houses owned by rich people. They also have it in Sutton House in Hackney." For some reason the Sidekick decided that he still needed to consult the notice on the fireplace and begrudgingly read out "It's linenfold panelling as also seen in Sutton House in Hackney." I'd have done a lap of honour and high-fived the guide if there had been room.
The tearoom at Paycocke's was lovely - it only opened in 2013 and it has a pretty little outdoor bit and then an indoor part within the house itself, which I always love - but I don't think the scone was homemade. It reminded me of the River Wey scone, which definitely came out of a packet, but it didn't matter at all. It was just marvellous to sit outside in the little courtyard on a Sunday morning and marvel at Paycocke's survival and my burgeoning knowledge of Tudor panelling styles.
Paycocke's: 5 out of 5
Scone: 3 out of 5
Making me feel like Simon Schama with my vast historical knowledge: 5 out of 5