News - Building Beginnings

Newsletter – November 2016

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.

seat-and-hedgeNot 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.

moatResearching moats

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‘.

‘Hairlooms’

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 1816

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