Newsletter – October 2011

We’ve had a busy summer meeting lots of people at shows and other events, visiting new clients, and researching some fascinating properties. Our new photo books are proving very popular, the latest being a golden wedding anniversary gift – truly special.

We had a great time at the Burwarton Show and Shrewsbury Flower Shows where in addition to winnng new business we were able to provide advice on a range of topics and help people get started on researching their house history. I was delighted when one of my clients started selling my services to two couples who were visiting my stand, quite the best sort of testimonial one could hope for. Quote of the show for me was ‘There’s been a house on our land since the Iron Age’.

19th century house portrait

If Miss Smith could be time-travelled from 1850 to 2011 I would be able to give her plenty of work. Her exquisite pen and ink drawing of a beautiful 400-year old Herefordshire house was undoubtedly much admired in its day and I was delighted to find a photograph of it in the archives and present it to my client, the present owner of the property. Miss Smith’s accurate representation of the architectural features revealed how some parts of the house used to look and were a great asset to our research.

Another furniture sale

I love the sales of furniture and household effects that were so common in the Victorian/Edwardian eras. They are the closest one can get to visualising how a house used to look, and the latest one I have been looking at is no disappointment. I wish I could have seen the antique furniture, Persian rugs, rare Flemish tapestry, Elizabethan bedstead, and Broadwood grand piano in place, not to mention the full-sized billiard table, four archery bows, carriage foot warmer, pleasure caravan for double or single horse, and Thames punt that were also no longer required. Not only had the catalogue listing all these delights survived, but also the sale book recording the bids for each lot (£26 for the pleasure caravan, £6 10s for the punt).

House of heritage

Another property we have been researching this summer was owned by 10 generations of the same family over a period of 350 years, then 5 generations of another family for the next 130 years – quite remarkable. A probate inventory from 1575 enabled us to identify rooms in the house that are still there today, and imagine what it would have looked like with its painted cloths and hangings adorning the walls. The family’s estates were sequestrated after the Civil War and the weary owner left a most unusual will in which he expounded on the ‘controversies guiles and differences between me and my son John’ which had added to all his troubles. Later, the house had a spell as a vicarage, and then provided stabling for Captain, Bowler, Dragon, Smiler, Jolly, Boxer, Diamond and a roan called Bluebell while it was run as a tenanted farm.

Top tweets

We’d love you to follow us on Twitter. Here’s a flavour of what you’ll see:

  • 1909 house contents included a stuffed kingfisher and a parrot cage, but no dead parrot. Shame .
  • Extraordinary coincidence of two strangers striking up a conversation and discovering they are both my clients.
  • New piece of evidence required six page rewrite of current project, but well worth it for the end result.
  • How many tenants today would be able to produce two capons, two hens, and a strike of oats in addition to their annual rent?

Blogging news

We’ve talked about whinibles, house names, ships’ timbers and tea with the Drapers. You can read about these and other stories on our blog.

From the archives – ‘Straw poll’

In 1713 a Shropshire man left his three daughters three cottages in his will without saying who was to get which property. Articles of agreement were drawn up between the daughters, their husbands, and three partitioners, ‘honest and indifferent persons’, to make a fair partition between them. The names of the cottages were written on three pieces of paper, ‘made into three small rolls, put into a bonnet, shaken in the presence of the parties’ then each party drew their lot.

The catch seems to be that they didn’t have a straw poll to decide who should draw first.

Jill Ming

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