Welcome to our winter newsletter.
We had a great time at the Shrewsbury Flower Show in the summer and heard some fascinating stories about people’s houses. Two sisters whose grandmother lived in a tiny thatched cottage told me that it had been struck by lightning setting the roof on fire. Their grandmother was only 10 and as the family huddled on the stairs during the storm she was struck on the shoulder. The lightning burnt an imprint of her vest strap into her skin and she was unconscious for two days. Fortunately she made a full recovery and the upside of this near tragedy was that she was completely fearless for the rest of her life.
We love a mystery and welcome a challenge, but what do you do when a cottage evidently built in the 17th century doesn’t appear on maps until the mid-19th century? Furthermore, it had three rooms and no other buildings around it except barns, yet two families each with at least five children gave variations on this property’s address at exactly the same time. Curiouser and curiouser. Despite these drawbacks we still managed to write a 68-page book about the property and remain vigilant for future clues we can pass on to our client.
If you live on or near a farm, you can find out a lot about it in the National Farm Survey that was carried out in 1941-43 to assess how the country could improve its food production. It is remarkably detailed, listing all the crops grown, numbers of cows, sheep, horses, poultry and so on. Dig a bit deeper and things start to get personal with information about the farmer including the surveyor’s opinion of his or her abilities. These comments can get quite sharp. I have seen ‘lacking in experience’, ‘lazy’ and even ‘incompetent’.
Fortunately, the farm we are researching at the moment received a more positive accolade: ‘Excellent farmer. Grows a lot of very good potatoes.’
I enjoyed an excellent day at the inaugural conference of the Society of One-Place Studies of which I am now a member. This is the home of local historians who focus on a place rather than individual families and they proved to be an interesting group. The theme was World War One and I learned about the 1909 horse census which requisitioned 135,000 horses from farms and families across the country at the outbreak of war. On a lighter note we heard about the estate owner who appeared before a tribunal to prevent his chauffeur being called up (he was not successful). After the war memorial committees were set up across the country to plan how to commemorate those in their community who had died. In 1988 an inventory of war memorials put the number at over 62,000 across the UK.
Shropshire superstition from Salopian Shreds & Patches 1875.
‘I well remember laying hold of my mother’s russet gown. We had to pass through a small wood when, lo, silence was broken by the insolent chatter of a magpie. My poor terrified mother instantly wet the tip of her forefinger and made the sign of the cross upon her left shoe, requesting me to do the same. She said crossing the foot with spittle would prevent the chatter of the magpie bringing us bad luck.’This entry was posted in News