Wanted: footman with archery skills
There are no end of interesting old houses in the West Midlands and it is my great pleasure to investigate some of their histories for my clients. A recent commission was a late-17th century timber-framed Shropshire farmhouse which was part of a large estate. There were two farms in the tiny settlement and I had to be sure I was researching the right one when finding out about the people who lived in the house. One early tenant had an unusual clause in their lease which required them to be able to supply ‘an able footman with bows and arrows’ if their landlord, the estate owner, was called to serve in the war. Presumably this would have involved more than simply presenting the weapons on a silver salver, and sadly I did not discover whether they were ever called upon to stand and deliver.
I am now considerably better educated in the manufacture of malt than I was three months ago as a result of researching the history of a Knighton malthouse. As this was a town property and street numbers only began to be recorded from the late 19th century, ensuring I had the right house was a real challenge and inevitably resulted in me finding out quite a lot about the surrounding properties as well. I traced the owners of the property back through five generations of the same wealthy and influential family. A later 19th century owner was threatened with litigation by his sisters over a row over their father’s legacy. He managed to avoid a lawsuit by rapidly disposing of the property and handing over the cash to his siblings. One of the property’s tenants used part of the building to store some of their products, including Lawe’s Turnip manure – well sealed I hope.
It surely cannot have escaped your notice that 2009 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin who was born in Shropshire and went to Shrewsbury School (and may even have inscribed his name in the stonework there). Shropshire is also celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of William Penny Brookes in Much Wenlock who inspired the founding of the modern Olympic Games (more on this in three years time no doubt). But did you also know it is the 300th anniversary of the first large-scale production of cast iron pioneered by Abraham Darby at Coalbrookdale? All this I learned at a very enjoyable historical Shropshire training and awareness seminar held in the fabulous Much Wenlock guildhall earlier this year.
Building Beginnings will have a stand at several Shropshire shows this year including:
- 20 June – Church Stretton Summerfest
- 18 July – Newport Show
- 6 August – Burwarton Show
- 15/16 August – Shrewsbury Flower Show
Come and see us!
From the archives – ‘The slim woman is winning’
Pressure on women to strive for a sylph-like figure is nothing new. Here’s an advertisement from a 1911 edition of Penny Illustrated which doesn’t beat about the bush:
‘The day of the slim woman’s triumph has arrived. “The thinner one is the more stylish,” say the dressmakers. This would have been sad news for the fat woman a year ago. She would have had to try dieting or exercise. Nowadays, however, the woman who is too fat for the fashions goes to a chemist and gets a bottle of Marmola Prescription Tablets one of which she takes after each meal and at bedtime, and so reduces her superfluous flesh quickly. The tablets are perfectly harmless and one bottle is frequently enough to start a person losing fat at the rate of 12 or 14 ounces a day.’
Do you want chips with that?
Have a great summer.