No two days in the life of a house detective are the same, and that’s one of many reasons why I love my work. Each new project brings delights – access to interesting and occasionally extraordinary buildings, discovering previously unknown villages and settlements, meeting new people who share an interest in the history of their house, and discovering what they know about their property. That sets the challenge for the next phase of discussing what they would like to find out and mapping out a research plan.
When the research begins there are the visits to the archives, which always generate a frisson of excitement as the first documents arrive to be examined, and I begin constructing the historical evidence of the property’s history. Each new record contributes to the story and raises more questions: was there a connection between successive owners of the property, what caused the rise or fall in the property’s social status, how and why did those tenants end up so far from their original settlement? In searching for clues I may uncover new sources to explore if, for instance, the people connected to the property followed a particular trade or profession.
Questions emerge that require further research, breakthroughs are made in understanding why a particular sequence of events might have occurred, and new insights made into where the next set of clues might be found. Piecing together the story, asking questions and overcoming obstacles are all in a day’s work.
As the story comes together, there’s the fun of planning the structure and content of the history, writing the text and incorporating the images in the book format the client has chosen. Delivering the finished book to my clients is always a pleasure – by this time I feel I know their house well and can share their enjoyment of experiencing its past.