Newsletter – May 2008

Summer shows

We are busy preparing for the summer show season which kicks off on 28 May with the Stafford Show and continues with the Three Counties Show, Newport Show, Oswestry Show, Herefordshire Country Fair, Burwarton Show, Shrewsbury Flower Show, and Church Stretton Food Festival. Dates are listed on our website. Come and visit our stand!

Find your place in history

Our new promotional bookmarks have been printed featuring our strapline Find your place in history. These will be available on our show stand, at networking events and on request. We hope they will be more enduring than promotional chocolates (see below) and will keep our name in front of avid readers.

A Suffolk experience

We recently completed a fascinating project in Suffolk researching the history of a 16th century farmhouse. One of the challenges was to identify ‘RC’ whose initials featured in what appeared to be part of a datestone on the front of the property. Of the many owners and occupiers we tracked down, two had the initials RC: one in the 1830s and the other in the mid 17th century. The 1653 will of Robert Cullington together with other evidence enabled us to trace the farm’s ownership back a further 90 years to a manor survey in 1562.

The project was further enhanced by the discovery of a 19th century lawsuit in which the legitimacy of a widow’s inheritance of the property from her late husband was challenged (unsuccessfully) because his parents had never married. Among the newspaper cuttings we found were an 1820s plea for the return of the owner’s greyhound dog Ranto, the sale of farming stock following a later owner’s retirement and, in more recent times, a report on the opening of an antiques centre at the property featuring a photo of the owner with a magnificent 1970s hairstyle and tie, surrounded by grandfather clocks and furniture.

Meet your ancestors

A recent training day on manorial documents at Oxford University was the scene of the most extraordinary coincidence. During the morning coffee break I got chatting with a fellow delegate, also Jill, and discovered that she lives in the very house that my great, great, great-grandfather, Thomas Ming, lived in from 1790 to 1821. He acquired the property when he married into the Mead family and his ownership is recorded in the title deeds. When I had recovered my breath I then discovered that Jill is descended from the very same Mead family, from whom she had inherited the property, and that she and I are fifth cousins. I have subsequently visited my ‘ancestral home’ – a beautiful 15th century timber-framed house thoroughly researched by Jill. Fellow delegates, fellow house historians, fellow relations.

Who do you think you are?

Visited the Who Do You Think You Are Live exhibition at Olympia last week to keep abreast of activities in the field of family history which has many resources in common with house history. All the major archive repositories were exhibiting and a quick survey of promotional material on display revealed that pens, keyrings, postcards and bookmarks were the most common, while sweets and chocolates were certainly the most popular. Learnt some new tactics for attracting visitors to a trade stand that we shall be putting into practice this summer.

From the archives

Not only is this a great story, but the newspaper it came from was found inside a lathe and plaster wall in our house during a recent decorating project. Despite being over a hundred years old The Midlands Evening News dated Tuesday October 2, 1900 was crisp and dry, if a little creased, and included this delight:

 Bull’s Head in a Glass Shop

At the Wolverhampton County Court yesterday, an action was heard in which Mary Ann Appleton, glass dealer, Bilston Street, Wolverhampton, sought to recover £3 10s damages from George Brown, cattle drover. The evidence showed that a bull in charge of the defendant was being driven from the Wolverhampton market, when it pushed its head into the plaintiff’s window and did considerable damage. Judgment was given for the plaintiff, with costs.’

Was this the first ram-raid?

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