Eight and a half minutes of fame
House history seems to be a growing interest item in the media these days judging by the number of approaches I have received from magazines, radio and now television. Or perhaps it’s because I can provide a nice line in ready-made stories. Anyway, the television was fun to do and will be broadcast on Heart of the Country this month (see below). The trailer reads ‘Tony Francis joins a house detective as she uncovers links between a Worcestershire farm and World War II conscientious objectors’. Many thanks to Jackie Miller at Colliers Hill for agreeing to participate.
My television début will be broadcast on Tuesday, 12 December 2006 at 7.30pm on ITV (Central).
Jackie and I will also be featured in the March 2007 edition of House Beautiful magazine.
Frogs for breakfast
My first radio appearance was on Eric Smith’s BBC Radio Shropshire breakfast show on 14 September when I was interviewed by Genevieve Tudor in my cellar. The three minute feature was about how I got interested in house history but, for added interest, I introduced Genevieve to our blocked-up underground doorway whose original destination is still a mystery. Genevieve was also quite interested in the frogs that live in the cellar and who were duly mentioned in the piece.
Auditioning to be a WI speaker is not a relaxing way to spend an evening. An audience of about 50 women from across Herefordshire wrote notes and conferred with their neighbours on each candidate’s performance. However I delivered a 10 minute taster of my local history talk The Three R’s: Life in a Victorian Country School with no mishaps and was delighted to be accepted into the ranks of Approved Speaker for the Herefordshire Federation of Women’s Institutes.
I spent a fascinating weekend at the Ironbridge Institute in the summer attending a Recording Historic Buildings course. We learned how to ‘read’ a building, about the equipment and materials used in historic building surveying, and then set out to practice on three houses in a terrace of disused workers’ cottages. You can never have too much string for this type of exercise, and we rapidly enveloped the building in a cat’s cradle of string lines that we used to measure and plot strategic points of the properties to create our plans and elevations.
Up with the larks
The Federation of Family History Societies held a National Conference in September in Bedford. I attended one of the five days and heard speakers talking about how our ancestors survived before the Elizabethan Poor Laws, life in a Victorian workhouse, and working as an agricultural labourer. I always emerge from these types of lectures much more appreciative of the modern world. Nick Barratt who was the consultant genealogist on Who do you think you are? talked about the programme as well as his Hidden House Histories series on the History Channel.
Out and about
I have had the pleasure of working on some very interesting properties this year and have really enjoyed meeting prospects and clients through shows, special events and networking. Three events that stand out were the Burwarton Show, Homestyle Exhibition, and the Herefordshire Tourism Business Advice Day last month at which I had a stand and did a presentation to local tourism businesses. I will be attending a similar event in Worcestershire in January.
From the archives
The Reverend Holland Sandford was vicar then rector of St Edith’s Church, Eaton-under-Heywood in Shropshire from 1860 until 1900. He was an ardent writer of letters, many of which survive in the extensive Sandford family archives. His observations and turns of phrase provide a fascinating insight into his character as in this extract from a letter he wrote in 1877 regarding non-payment of tithes:
‘The tithe schedule is like the statute law of England most particularly clear and accurate in its statement and provisions, but like the same statute law, it requires, though all may not admit it, ordinary common sense on the part of those who have to exercise and apply it. I now send you a statement of Longville vicarial tythes so exceedingly plain that no one with ordinary faculties can possibly misunderstand it.’
I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous and peaceful New Year.