Newsletter – December 2008

Tales of the unexpected

It’s been a very busy autumn and we’ve been working on some fantastic properties. Projects have included researching a Georgian farmhouse with some suspected ‘goings on’ in its cellars, a Herefordshire mansion, a mid-17th century timber-framed house in north Worcestershire, and an old chapel house in Shropshire.

I traced the Herefordshire mansion’s history back to the mid-16th century and found that in addition to an impressive array of magistrates, high sheriffs and Members of Parliament, the property had been home to a founder member of the Alpine Club, an eminent botanist who worked at the National Botanical Gardens at Kew, and a housekeeper who warned against offending the fairies at the bottom of the garden. The house history was leather-bound by Ludlow Bookbinders, a new service we can offer clients.

The Worcestershire house revealed an intriguing tale of debt and encumbered estates through five generations that culminated in bankruptcy, a family feud, and a lawsuit that forced them to sell the property. It then enjoyed a more peaceable existence as a farm for five generations of another family some of whom I discovered in a series of delightful Victorian photograph albums.

Branching out

One of my house history clients asked if I could research her family history and this was a most enjoyable diversion from our normal work. The thing about houses is that they tend not to move about, whereas folk can up sticks at a moment’s notice and head off into the sunset leaving very little or no traces of their movements. One mystery remains, but I did trace several generations of two families, found one of their ancestral homes, and tracked down two previously unknown living relatives.

Reporting in style

We recently commissioned a new design and style guide for our client reports from Shropshire-based Goosey Graphics and we’re delighted with the results. We can now present our research findings in a stylish report that is well-designed, easier to read, and makes full use of all my word processing skills. Coupled with our new snazzy three-in-one scanner/copier/printer we can produce all our reports to a high standard in-house.

U is for Understanding

Understanding the Past, that is  – one of a series of Shropshire Stories put together by BBC Radio Shropshire which featured Building Beginnings. I met up with presenter Jim Hawkins at the Belvedere Guest House in Church Stretton, home of one of my clients, for a three-way interview about the house and my research into its history. The interview was broadcast on Jim’s show on 21 October and I was in the studio talking to Jim and answering listeners’ questions. An enjoyable morning, some useful publicity and I also learned about newsreaders hand signals.

And B is for …

Building Beginnings is one of the hundred or so home-based Shropshire businesses featured in The Power of Enterprise 2009, a book of entrepreneurial stories just published by Enterprise HQ. Page 41.

Training indeed

I attended a weekend school at the University of Oxford’s Department for Continuing Education in October as part of my ongoing training and development programme. The subject was Understanding Title Deeds and we worked our way through increasingly complex original deeds learning how to extract the key information without getting bogged down in the legal terminology. My favourite part was learning how to date documents using their references to saints days and regnal years. Should I ever encounter a document dated the Tuesday after the Feast of Quasimodo in the 17th year of the reign of Henry VIII, I shall know at once that it was penned on Tuesday, 10 April 1526. For this and other similar endeavours, I was pleased to receive a pass with credit.

From the archives

I came across this wonderful description of an incident that occurred during the visit of the Empress of Austria to a country house in Woore in 1881 which a guest had the wherewithal to record for posterity:

‘We had a great meet at Woore to see the Empress. Mrs Cartlick is splendid about the reception at Woore Hall where H.M. put on her habit, her manner Mrs C says was ‘most queenly’. She is still a pretty looking woman with a fine figure and an awfully tight habit, so tight, she descended the stairs at Woore Hall sideways, she could not walk straight in her habit.

She was I hear very civil to Margaret in the hunting field whose horse she slightly cannoned when at Wrinehill and took 1st opportunity to come up to apologise, talking English perfectly. The funniest thing was her enormous orange fan which she used out hunting, when at a check. Where she kept it I don’t know. She gave £200 to the United Hunt races near Whitchurch yesterday and was present galloping about with her fan up.’

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

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