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Archive: March 2016

  • Newsletter – March 2016 – our 10th birthday

    Welcome to our spring newsletter. This is a very special time for us as we celebrate ten years of house history research.

    Now we are 10

    Ten years is a long time in any occupation and we feel justified in blowing our own trumpet this issue as we celebrate our first decade at Building Beginnings. It’s been a wonderful journey during which we’ve worked on many houses, discovered untold stories, solved mysteries and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It’s a huge benefit to provide a service that gives such pleasure to our clients. Thank you to all of you.

    My special thanks to Sue O’Dowd, architectural historian extraordinaire, who has worked on many projects with me and unravelled the former configurations of clients’ houses to their evident delight. An expert eye for detail, Sue has spotted many features in houses that their occupants have never noticed, which contribute to discovering the age of a building and how it developed through time.

    Over the last ten years we have researched the history of over a hundred properties in eight counties across the West Midlands. From cottages to mansions, shops, B&Bs, inns, hotels, and many farms, Tudor to Edwardian, all have revealed stories of their past and been a delight to investigate. Our house histories have been surprise gifts at many special birthdays and anniversaries, for Christmas, and just for the love of the house. Innate curiousity is our bread and butter, and we love it.

    A fowl story

    A man who had stolen six hens and a cockerel from my client’s farm in 1927 was asking for trouble when he tried to sell them in a country pub and came face to face with the law. Spotting the writhing bag containing the poultry at the culprit’s feet, the constable demanded an immediate interview and, despite repeated denials of guilt, the man was arrested and charged with the crime. His guilt was compounded by further thefts of fowl in the district and the ability of his victims to recognise their hens. The thief was found guilty and sentenced to two months with hard labour.

    House of inheritance

    It’s always a special thrill to discover a house that has been home to the same family for generations – eight in the case of a Worcestershire cottage I researched recently. My client had understood their property dated from the early 19th century, so my discovery of a continuous chain of residents back to 1663 came as something of a shock, albeit a pleasant one. This was possible thanks to a wonderful collection of manorial records at Worcestershire Archives. Finding an old photograph showing the property before it was rendered was the icing on the cake.


    From the archives

    I pity the person who had to prepare an inventory for a house sale and list the contents in sufficient detail that they could be individually identified. These examples are from a 13-bedroom mansion in Shropshire:

    A set of six Venetian glass goblets with gilt edges, richly decorated with engraved gilt husk and floral garlands, on hexagonal tapering stems.

    A 23″ early Victorian walnut music Canterbury with raised fretted back, undertray, corkscrew turned columns, adjustable pierced fretted divisions and long drawer under.

    A 16″ oval brass Adam-design coal scuttle with ring handles, husk festoon floral and ribbon embossed decoration on feet, with metal liner.

    A 24″ Chippendale mahogany oval wine cooler with brass bands, lion mask and ring handles, on stand with square tapering legs and castors.

    A pair of silver marrow scoops and three silver lobster picks – 6ozs 5dwts.

    A pair of fur foot warmers.

    Shropshire Archives, 1952

    Here’s to the next ten years.

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