News - Building Beginnings

Newsletter – October 2009

Flowering nicely thank you

I had a great time this summer exhibiting at several Shropshire shows. Particularly good were the Burwarton Show and the Shrewsbury Flower Show where I met loads of people and secured a good number of orders. I love meeting people at shows and hearing interesting stories about their houses. This year I received several enquiries asking whether it was possible to research the history of a building which no longer exists. The answer is yes, definitely, and I hope I’ll have the opportunity to do this soon.

A night out

I came close to being locked in the car park overnight at Lancashire Record Office in Preston last month and am still recovering from the experience. You might ask what I was doing in Lancashire which cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered as the West Midlands, my normal operating area. However a delightful client based in Shrewsbury asked if I would research her Formby property and, always interested in a new challenge, I agreed. The sign on the car park gate did indeed warn that the gates would be shut at 5pm, however I did think that as the record office also shut at 5pm, when I left, that they might allow visitors time to get down the stairs, get into their vehicles and leave the premises. This was not the case however, and one gate was already closed by the time I got there and I managed to squeeze out just in time.

Eat up your spuds

I would imagine that your average tenancy agreement these days would not include some of the terms I encountered in an 1833 version while researching the history of a Shropshire farm. The tenant in question was required to keep a dog for the landlord, deliver two waggon loads of coal to his home each year, and not to plant more potatoes than his family and their farm labourers could eat themselves. This clause in particular seems rather extreme if taken literally: ‘The tenant to eat and consume in a proper manner all the hay, straw and fodder and to spend the manure arising thereby in a husbandry-like manner on the land’. Would you like ketchup with that?

Planning horror

Researching the history of a Victorian house in Kidderminster recently revealed a ghastly planning atrocity committed in the 1970s when the ring road was driven through the centre of the town. The development blighted many of its small streets and would have made life insufferable for its residents, many of whom lost their homes as a consequence. One of the most poignant documents I have ever seen in my research was a photograph album showing the proposed route of the ring road marked on sections of a Kidderminster town map in black felt pen with photographs of all the houses which were to be demolished to make way for the new road. The ring road was presumably built to relieve congestion in the town centre but one cannot help wondering if the continuous traffic circling the town day and night is any improvement.

From the archives – ‘What do you want in your Autumn Suit?’

According to The Shropshire Magazine in October 1951, autumn was the time for women to consider this important aspect of their wardrobe:

‘A garment of weather and crease resisting quality, of freedom for walking, of undeniable fitness for casual motoring, for country week-end visits, for any lunch date but the smartest, for winter evening meetings when you would appear not over feminine?

Perhaps you want your suit exclusively for travelling – to be a good ambassador of British tailoring. There must be pleats for freedom but let the line stay slim.

If you want a change, your suit can nip in tightly at the waist and the front has this glove-like fit emphasised with a military placing of buttons. Or the shoulders drop into melon sleeves and the line above the slim waist is bloused and rounded. The waist is high, perhaps belted under the armpit, or low and very sleek in a jacket with a cocoon effect back and almost fitting front.

For adding changes to a last season’s purchase, consider the question of a stole, for these are used everywhere with great effect, or wear a dark velvet stock instead of a blouse. The dateless, classic quality sounds a little dull, but it is yet the smartest way for many a woman to dress for many an occasion.’

A good ambassador of British tailoring’ – belted under the armpit? We’ve come a long way in the last 60 years.

Have a great autumn.

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