Get out of jail free
It’s not every day you get to work in a former prison cell when browsing through microfilmed parish records at a county record office, but such was the case at Denbigh Record Office in Ruthin. The staff assured me that I wouldn’t be locked in but nevertheless I kept a nervous eye on the door while I was working and felt an unusual appreciation of fresh air and freedom as I left the archive later than afternoon. The property I was researching was a medieval hall house dating back more than five centuries. It was once owned by a descendant of one of the Welsh princes and eventually came into the hands of an Owestry mayor in whose family it remained for 150 years. One of its tenants broke the law in marrying his deceased wife’s sister. He didn’t go to jail, but died young leaving his twice-widowed wife with five children.
All in a day’s work
I recently spent an enjoyable afternoon with a client going through the deeds of their cottage dating back three centuries. We discovered that during this time the property had been given by a father to his daughter and son-in-law on their marriage, bequeathed by a man to his great-niece and nephew, used as collateral for a mortgage of four times its value, the date the cottage had been extended and divided in two, and how it acquired its present name. Not bad for an afternoon’s work. A few weeks later I took my client to the record office for some on-the-spot research and her first experience of using an archive prior to her looking into some of the wider history of the area on her own.
Going back to your roots
We’ve been very pleased with our new website and have been improving the home page to guide visitors to pages relevant to their particular needs. This led us to consider how house history is a contributory element of ancestral tourism – particularly for people who are seeking the homes of their forebears. What a great feeling it would be to find your ancestor’s actual house and either visit it yourself or, if that’s not possible, obtain a photograph of the place and its surroundings. I was lucky enough to experience this myself when I met someone at a local history study day in Oxford a few years ago who turned out not only to be a distant cousin but actually lived in my 3 x great-grandfather’s house. Humble his home may have been, but I was chuffed to bits to be invited to visit and duly have my photo taken outside. I’d love to help someone else enjoy a similar experience.
I was delighted when a new client announced that they had been introduced to my business through Prince Charles. HRH was presenting a programme about the composer Sir Hubert Parry whose family lived at Highnam Court in Gloucestershire. This led my clients to look up the property’s website where they discovered the Highnam Court Spring Fair and a link to our website as one of their exhibitors. That’s the first time I have got an order from a show before it has actually taken place. The fair itself was great even though the second day had to be cancelled due to severe weather.
We liked Highnam Court so much we are going back there to have a stand at the Gloucestershire Motor Show on 9-10 June. No, we are not diversifying into cars but offering an alternative to those members of the family not perhaps as taken with camshafts and carburetors as with shopping and who may be on the lookout for great gift ideas – which is where we come in. We will also be at Shrewsbury Flower Show on 10-11 August in our usual place in the Home and Craft marquee. Do come along and say hello.
We’d love you to follow us on Twitter. Here’s a flavour of what you’ll see:
- 1700: Richard Warrington came to his death by blows and wounds given him within this manor by a mare of the value of 40s.
- Apposite name found in old deed: the Reverend Churchman .
- Waifs and strays: waifs – ownerless property; strays – ownerless animals. Both defaulted to the lord of the manor if unclaimed.
- ‘Other’ seems an odd name to give a child, but it occurs through several generations of the same family.
- Love the way the Victorians punctuate their newspaper reports of meetings (laughter and applause). Very realistic (hear, hear).
We’ve been discussing house heirlooms, a day in the life of a house detective, and what your neighbours can tell you about your house. See our blog for details.
From the archives
15 March 1930
Free to Ladies!
IRREGULARITIES etc removed by an up-to-date and certain method WITHOUT MEDICINE or pills. It is speedy and simple and a scientific system which has been practised with wonderful results; does not interfere with household duties. Medical SCIENCE knows NO better CURE. I have received letters of thanks daily that they have derived the greatest benefits.
Send NO MONEY but write for full particulars and testimonials.
Mrs L A Stakman Morris, London