ID: PH01_RYH / Elaine Barker

TitleResearching the History of Your House
AbstractThe following article was written for Peldon Parish Magazine

I'm sure many of you, like me, were riveted by the David Olusoga series called A House Through Time where he researched the lives of the people who lived in a particular house in Liverpool. My interest in the history of houses I have lived in actually started much longer ago with the Julie Myerson book entitled The Story of Everyone Who Lived in Our House. And now that fascination has extended to the houses in Peldon.

In Peldon we have over 30 listed buildings and many more old houses of interest. We have photos of houses that are no longer standing, in most cases replaced by a modern house. In old photos and censuses we find some houses used to be divided into two or three homes and physical clues may still exist such as the outline of a front door long since blocked up as at Games Farm.

Recently, I had the privilege of borrowing documents for Honeysuckle Cottage; wills, indentures and a bond, the earliest from 1790, and it made me wonder how many more local residents have documents, old photos and possibly previous occupants' research on their homes.

I started with the British Listed Buildings website. Grade 2 listed Honeysuckle Cottage is described as

Mid C18 cottage. Timber framed and plastered, with weatherboarded front. Redplain tile gambrel roof. One storey and attics. Two window range C18 doublehung, vertical sliding sashes with glazing bars. Three catslide dormers, with horizontal sliding sashes with glazing bars. End chimney stacks in red brick.

To my excitement the cottage's documents listed (possibly all of) the previous owners. I learned that prior to the 1925 Property Act the length of time one had to go back to get a good "root" of title to unregistered land was 125 years which explained why past occupiers were listed in all the house documents.

George Browne, a yeoman, is the earliest occupant of Honeysuckle Cottage mentioned. There is a George Brown listed as Churchwarden of St Mary's, Peldon, in 1704. It is likely this is him and he must have been born mid to late 1600s. It is even possible that he was in fact responsible for building the cottage. The cottage was clearly handed down through the family for in an 1892 document it is written

All that messuage or tenement with the yard garden hereditaments and appurtenances thereto belonging situate in Peldon aforesaid formerly in the occupation of William Browne or his assigns afterwards of Samuel Browne since of Mary Browne Widow then of Simon Ruse afterwards of Sarah Peachey and William Smith and was until recently in the occupation of the said Sarah Wright

Once I had their names, I was able to find details of some of the cottage's occupants using the Ancestry website. (Mersea Library offers the use of their computers and free access to Ancestry and Find My Past websites. A Family History group meets twice a month at the library on a Thursday morning and help is offered to anyone who wishes to learn how to use these websites).

The censuses, taken every ten years from 1841 to 1911 and also the register taken in 1939 give much valuable detail, often age, occupation, relation to each other and where they were born. The later censuses provide more information whereas the 1841 census gives the minimum. I found references to twentieth century owners of the cottage from newspaper cuttings from the 1930s and 40s. Copies of the Parish Magazines of Peldon and the Wigboroughs published in the 1970s and 80s were also a source of information in more recent times.

The documents from Honeysuckle Cottage have fascinating details.

From an 1814 will we learn Samuel Bullock, a wealthy landowner, leaves money to enable his workers' wives to buy black clothes to attend his funeral and leaves two shillings to each widow in the village to be distributed at his funeral.

In 1871 we find John Peachey selling the cottage in an auction at The Plough Inn, Peldon, on 4th August 1871 for £84.

In 1892 Joshua Cudmore of Peldon buys the cottage for £85. Joshua died in 1936 aged 80 but the house was to remain in his family's possession until his daughter-in-law, sold the house in 1970. The house was in his family's hands for 78 years.

In 1970 Ronald Frederick Avis and Jean May Avis bought the cottage on 27th February 1970 for £3,500.

With all the documents and a bit of additional research I do believe we have the names and, in some cases, details of everyone who has lived in this cottage over a period of approximately 350 years!

We don't all live in old or listed buildings but however recently-built your house is there is interesting information to be found. Many of our modern houses replace former buildings and allotments; some have been built on 'manorial waste' and house names have often changed with each incoming resident. Some names such as Haxells, Ransomes, and Harveys are those of previous owners while others reflect a former use such as Mill Cottage and Chapelfield (built on the site of the Wesleyan Chapel using the former building's bricks).

The owners of Whittakers, a 70s bungalow, kindly lent me a photo album put together by previous occupants, showing the derelict cottage, also called Whittakers, which stood there until the 1970s before being demolished. Every stage of building the current bungalow and laying out its garden in the 1970s was recorded in photographs. This has been followed by more recent photos as the bungalow was altered, necessitating the current owners to take temporary accommodation in a caravan in the garden for the duration of the building works.

So may I encourage you to have a look at your house documents and photos and put together a history of your house?

If anyone would like me to help do get in touch!

Elaine Barker
Peldon History Group

Honeysuckle Cottage, Peldon - The History of a House can be found on the Mersea Museum website. See PH01_HSC

AuthorElaine Barker
SourceMersea Museum