Welcome to our winter newsletter. We have been busy researching a Regency house in Shrewsbury, a moated farmhouse in Staffordshire, and a country house in south Shropshire and, as always, there are stories to tell.
Not sitting on the fence
We are always amazed at some of the disputes that end up in court, but in the context of researching the history of a house, they can be very informative, sometimes even entertaining, and often bizarre. When a Shrewsbury timber merchant purchased land on which to build his house in 1816, a hedge had been planted between his new acquisition and the property next door. For some reason Mr T decided that his boundary actually lay three feet beyond the hedge on his neighbour’s side and erected a fence there. His neighbour was understandably upset at losing a yard along the length of his land and promptly tore down the fence. After a twelve year battle his neighbour took Mr T to court for trespass and won his case. No wonder Mr T let the property.
There aren’t that many houses these days that have a moat, or even the remnants of one, since they fell out of favour about five hundred years ago. However, a Staffordshire farmhouse we have been researching is one of several where you can see the outline of a moat and part of it still exists as a pool. Although you might think of a moat as being predominantly defensive, it also afforded good protection against theft and prevented unwanted intrusion from vagrants and animals. Moats were a barrier, but one you could see over. As Sue elegantly put it ‘your site is secure but your regional overlord can see that you are not harbouring a gang of thieves or garrisoning a private army‘.
Occasionally, I come across unusual objects at the archives that are so intriguing that I have to stop and look at them even though they may not be directly relevant to my research. Opening a box deposited by a family who owned an estate in south Shropshire revealed many unusual items including a leather case containing a ticket to the 1862 International Exhibition, some children’s drawings and a ceramic sheep. Most unusual though were several small packets of tissue paper containing locks of golden hair of a most beautiful colour and texture, all at least a hundred years old.
From the archives
The Sleep Walker
Eaton, the pedestrian, is now about a prodigious task: he has undertaken to complete 2000 half miles in 2000 half hours. Among the pedestrians Eaton is denominated The Sleep Walker, as he often takes a few winks during walking and only requires, it is said, a gentle shake from his attendant to render him awake.
Norfolk Chronicle, 9 November 1816Posted in News