News - Building Beginnings

Newsletter – July 2016

Welcome to our summer newsletter. We will be exhibiting at the Shrewsbury Flower Show on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th August so please come and visit us if you are in the area.

BlacksmithChanging occupations

We like to include an area overview in our house histories to give clients a perspective on how their hamlet, village or town has changed through the years. One aspect which is very revealing is the nature of people’s occupations as recorded in local directories, the census, and other sources. As you might expect, farming was the predominant occupation in rural communities, but how many of these occupations would you find in your village these days: blacksmith, wheelwright, saddler, dressmaker, tailor, shoemaker, draper, carpenter, mason, plumber, butcher, baker, grocer, post office and stationer? Add in a few pubs and alehouses, a schoolmaster/mistress, parish priest and the local squire and you have an example of the occupations of a typical Victorian Shropshire village.

Changing attitudes

Occasionally I discover that someone associated with the property I am researching suffered from some form of mental illness, crudely defined in the language of the time as ‘lunacy’. In one case that occurred in 1811, no fewer than seventeen ‘good and lawful men of the county’ gave oath that the lady in question ‘does not enjoy lucid intervals and therefore is not sufficient for the government of herself and her property‘. Three commissioners sat in judgment of their evidence in a Writ de Lunatico Inquirendo and appointed her nephew as ‘committee of her estate’ to manage her property and legal affairs. Because this was a wealthy family, the lady was not consigned to an asylum, but lived in her own property with a special nurse to care for her. Her brother in his will made particular provision ‘for the servant who attends upon my sister provided my wife approves of her conduct‘.

Identifying ‘EW’

When someone went to the trouble of engraving their initials on a stone tablet in 1688 and affixing it to the side of their house, it is inevitable that later occupants of the property would want to know who it was. While their identity may have been local knowledge and in living memory in the late 17th century, it certainly wasn’t by the early 21st century, and so it was with great excitement that I discovered who they were.

Edward White was the mystery man whose grandfather purchased the house in 1654. The property passed to his son Thomas who died there in 1668 leaving his wife, very conveniently for us, to prepare a probate inventory that described all the rooms in the house and their contents. Next in line was grandson Edward who perhaps wanted to upgrade his inheritance or at least make some significant changes to it and thought it worth recording the fact for posterity. I’m glad he did.

From the archives

At least our referendum question was easy to understand.
The Scotsman, 29 July 1895

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