Newsletter – April 2007

Tourism businesses embrace house history

This winter we exhibited and presented at three tourism business events in Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire where we attracted a lot of interest in our services. Business owners heard how they could enhance the historical appeal of their property by learning about its past, and use stories about the building and its former owners and residents in their marketing material and guest information packs. Commissions from these events included the history of a farm which has been in the same family for 140 years, a former staging inn, and a pair of cottages that belonged to the Earl of Powis.

Into Cheshire

We have extended our geographic reach to include the county of Cheshire and recently spent some enjoyable days in Chester Record Office researching the history of a Jacobean house built as a country retreat for a wealthy Chester lawyer. In 1722 the owner’s two daughters married two sons of the 1st Duke of St Albans and celebrated by roasting an ox in the garden in the depths of December. The 1st Duke of St Albans, I found out, was the son of Charles II and Nell Gwynne; however whether oranges were served at the feast I couldn’t say.

Architectural research service

One of our recent projects required some specialist building knowledge so we called in Shropshire architectural historian Sue O’Dowd who has studied vernacular architecture and knows her crown post from her king post roof. Sue loves rooting around in attics with a large torch, notebook and camera looking at those parts of a building least likely to have been altered during its lifetime. As a result of her observations, she is able to suggest how a property may have previously been laid out, why doors or windows were blocked up, and why a staircase may have moved and where it might have been previously. Following our successful collaboration, we are now able to offer Sue’s expertise as part of our house history service.

Good connections

Building Beginnings was recently featured as a case study by WiRE (Women in Rural Enterprise) in a series of press releases about rural businesses run by women and covering a wide range of products and services. Our feature was published in the Shropshire Star on 16 March and, in addition to describing our business, included a photograph with client Mark Lewis at the Hadley Park Hotel whose history we have researched. Mark was keen to find a link to Thomas Telford whose 250th anniversary is celebrated this year, and we were able to show that Telford had worked on a section of the Shropshire canal that was dug through the Hadley Park estate in 1793.

House Beautiful

Our appearance in House Beautiful magazine in March was short and sweet and took the form of a case study of client Jackie Miller’s Worcestershire conference centre and B&B, Colliers Hill. I learned a few lessons about giving telephone interviews and wish to place on record that the National Archives in Kew is not the best place to begin researching the history of a building…

I take up my pen

Responding to an invitation to write an article for a major UK history website, I was delighted when my piece on Sandford Avenue in Church Stretton, Shropshire was published at the beginning of April. You can read it here.

From the archives

Shrewsbury Chronicle, 13 February 1796:

Stop thief!

In the hurry of publishing the Shrewsbury Chronicle at a late hour on Thursday last, an uncorrected proof sheet was feloniously stolen. Whoever will give information of the thief shall receive a reward adequate to the heinousness of the offence. An Advantage having been taken of the said proof sheet for Party Purpose; it is hoped no Gentleman, however strongly he may be attached to any Party, will countenance such an unprecedented Act of Villany.

A reward of £40 was offered for the successful prosecution of the offender – a sum equivalent to £2,863 in today’s money.

Summer shows

This summer we will be exhibiting at the Cheshire County Show on 19-20 June and the Burwarton Show in Shropshire on 2 August. We also hope to attend the Newport Show in Shropshire on 21 July, and would be delighted to see you at any of these events.

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