Newsletter – December 2013

Welcome to our winter newsletter.

Not a happy bunny

We were intrigued to discover that a Staffordshire farm we researched occupied land that had once been a manorial deer park. Delving deep into early 18th century estate records revealed references to seventy brace of deer and the pales used to create the fenced enclosure (palisade) that had kept them in the park. There were also extensive timber sales from the park which brought the manor considerable income – one sale of 162 trees netted just under £60,000 in today’s money. When the park timber was valued in 1710 it was estimated to be worth £156,000. A nearby wood, also owned by our client, was the subject of a heated debate about the number of rabbits there and the general lack of game by the purchaser of the sporting rights. He felt aggrieved that his £60 a year had bought him very little and calculated that the rabbits had cost him £1 apiece.

Ploughman’s Drops

It’s not every day you encounter an ‘invincible’ and ‘miraculous’ cure for a wide range of ailments, so to find that the inventor of such a potion called Ploughman’s Drops built the Shropshire house we have been researching made for an interesting diversion. Following the death of Dr Smith in 1835, a twelve month public argument ensued between his son-in-law and nephew over who had been left the recipe and was entitled to sell the potion. The row was aired in the pages of the Salopian Journal under headlines such as ‘Deceit Exposed’ and ‘Falsehood Manifested and Truth Perfected’, with insults and accusations traded between the two parties. There was evidently a great fortune to be made because a testimonial from a grateful sufferer of scrofula had purchased 21 bottles of Ploughman’s Drops to effect his cure. As well as causing a serious rift within the family the fight must have provided the village with plenty of gossip as they pored over the column inches in the local newspaper. It was a pleasure to join them 180 years later.

Darbyville

Researching a property in Coalbrookdale recently, we encountered a good deal of Darby family references as the town was home for eight generations of the family for more than 300 years. The first Abraham Darby founded the Coalbrookdale Company ironworks in 1717 and it was his grandson, Abraham Darby III, who built the famous cast iron bridge across the river Severn that has given its name to the area. One of the delights of this research was reading AD III’s cash book which included expenses for building the iron bridge. Thomas Pritchard, who designed the bridge, submitted a bill for his drawings, for example, another man was paid £14 13s 9d for the use of his trow, there were wages for the workmen, ropes – and a bill for ales for them all.

Where do you think you live?

I received some very positive feedback from people who attended my talk at Shropshire Archives on 7 November. Modelling the title after the family history series Who do you think you are? my introduction to discovering the history of your house explained some of the resources available in archives and online. Shropshire Archives put out lots of original documents, books and maps, so that people could appreciate the variety, quality and sheer delight of having access to such a variety of material. My talk had another beneficial effect on one couple who committed to presenting their property’s deeds to the Archives for safe-keeping and preservation.

Blogging news

This autumn we’ve discussed some unusual terms in manorial records, delicious architecture, and what to expect when you visit the archives.

Do you know your biscot from your borchalpening when it comes to manor records?

Exploring architectural exuberance in Eureka, California.

Celebrating our wonderful archives.

From the archives

Discovered written in a child’s hand in the blank pages of an 1830s parish rate book at Shropshire Archives:

The Ox’s Socks
Just look at this ox!
He is mending his socks.
What a terrible hole he has got!
But he is content
If his whole day’s thus spent
so long as his supper is hot.

We wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

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