Newsletter – May 2010

Pinch me

We received some press attention recently in conjunction with our client Hadley Park House, a premier Shropshire hotel and restaurant. Owner Mark Lewis had placed a copy of our house history booklet in each of the guest bedrooms only to find they were disappearing like hot cakes! Apparently guests found the history of the building so interesting they had taken the books away as souvenirs leaving Mark needing to order a new supply. We were also delighted to learn that the hotel is naming its new suite of rooms after Alfred Mulliner, a former owner of the property.

No cudgelling on Sundays

I came across another of those parish indictments while researching a property in Gloucestershire recently. In this case the Court of Quarter Sessions issued a summons against the entire population of a parish for ‘keeping an unlawful revel’ on St Bartholomew’s Day 24 August 1709 which happened to fall on a Sunday. The charge was that ‘several idle dissolute and ill-disposed persons have on that pretence assembled together and have been guilty of very great anomalies in excessive drinking, wrestling, cudgel playing and other unlawful sports and practices to the great profanation of the Lord’s day’. Those responsible were bound over to keep the peace by the local Justices and notice of the order was pinned to the church door for all to see. Naming and shaming was the order of the day.

Every picture tells a story

The same property gave me the opportunity of visiting the private archives of the Berkeley Castle estate by kind permission of their archivist. It felt very atmospheric to sit in the cool basement within the castle’s massive thick walls surrounded by stacks of documents and boxed records and I was delighted to discover a collection of deeds for the property that filled in some of the gaps in its history. The principal treasure though was to find a wonderful painting of the house by a former owner that revealed some architectural alterations, the layout of the former front garden and some amazing topiary. It’s moments like these that are the house historian’s dream.

18th century house insurance

One of the more unusual archive resources we use are fire insurance records, some dating back to the late 18th century. As well as naming the owner and occupier of a property, they list houses, stables, barns, malthouses, warehouses and other outbuildings in considerable detail giving construction materials and insured value. They can also reveal some interesting features of a property not mentioned elsewhere. For example I discovered that one Shrewsbury house I was researching had a vault underneath the stable and warehouse that had a stove and contained a stock of wine and liquors. Another Shropshire property still has the insurance company’s fire mark above the front door. Its owner insured the building in 1802 recording that the barn was thatched (now tiled), while its tenant insured his cattle, horses, pigs and stock of grain and hay in the same building.

Channel bound

We’ve recently invested in a channel-binding machine and can now produce smart bound house history books for our clients. We’ve also teamed up with a local foil printer who can inscribe the book title on the cover in your chosen typeface, layout and colour. The book covers are available in black and burgundy and look very smart. The new books will be on display on our stand at the summer shows we are attending.

Summer shows

We had a great time at the Malvern Spring Gardening Show earlier this month and secured some new properties to research in the area. The weather wasn’t kind with a keen north wind blowing through our marquee, however seven layers of clothing and a continuous supply of hot drinks from the neighbouring stand who had their own kettle helped to keep us warm. I love meeting people at shows and talking to them about their houses. My stand always generates a lot of interest and provided some relief from all the plants. Many thanks to my associate Sue for her help on the stand.

Our next shows are in August in Shropshire: Burwarton Show on 5 August and Shrewsbury Flower Show on 13-14 August.

Building Beginnings blog

We are finally joining the blogosphere with our new blog. We’ll be creating articles, news, and tips and of course you’ll be able to ask a question or leave a comment. And we’ll provide a synopsis in our newsletter of the top items. We look forward to being in more regular touch.

From the archives – ‘Corset Demonstration’

Not a revolt against restrictive clothing but an ad by R Maddox & Co of Shrewsbury in the Ludlow and Church Stretton Chronicle on 4 February 1911:

‘So successful was the Corset Demonstration held in our Showroom last February that we have arranged for another. The expert Corsetière will explain in detail the Art of Correct Corseting; how to select the Corset; how to lace the Corset; and many other points of the utmost importance to every woman who desires a good figure, consistent with the laws of health. 

W B Reduso Model No. 772

Specially constructed for stout figures. It does not force or compress the figure unnaturally. No attachments, belts or straps, but by means of a scientific placing of the gores alone it makes a permanent Reduction of ONE TO FIVE INCHES. In white 12/11 and 21/-.’

Snappy product name! What could W B stand for?

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