Thursday, 28 February 2013

A glimpse back in time..

I love to live in an old house, and I say “old” loosely because for many people it has a different meaning. To me, old is anything pre 1930, but I know for many, it has to have been built at least a century before that to be classified as really old! I am always really interested to find out the history and about the lives of the people who have lived in a house before us, and love to imagine a family from a hundred years ago carrying out their day-to-day lives in what is now our home. You may recall a television series which first aired in 2011 called Marchlands.* I loved that, not only because I really enjoy a good ghost story, but mainly because of the way the story would flip between 1968, 1987 and 2010 – 3 different, unconnected families but all living in the same house. The décor, fashion, etc was of course dramatically different during each period in time, and I enjoyed the way the story would interweave from the family sitting down to breakfast in 1968, then forward in time to 1987, a different family, again having breakfast in the same room, but changed somewhat to reflect the decade, 20 years on – it was also a great dollop of nostalgia of course, having been a child of the 80’s! Watching a repeat of this series recently, lead me to imagine what it must have been like to live in our own house throughout the last century.

The husband it’s safe to say, does not share my interest and only slightly looked up from his laptop when I came in excitedly exclaiming that I’d not only found out who lived in our house, but that I’d also found photographs of some of the occupants from 100 years ago! Oh how excited was I!! (Hmmm note to self;…perhaps I should get out more!) I must get this interest from my mother, who loves nothing more than to delve in to the past, be it our family history, or indeed local history, so she was even more excited than I at my discovery, and over the last few weeks we have pieced together quite a substantial history of our house. * I’ve decided after writing this post to publish it in two parts as it’s quite long! This first post will concentrate on the people who lived here and their lives. The second one will focus more on the house itself, with some photographs, how it has changed over the years and what we hope to restore – an exciting project which we plan to do gradually (time and money permitting) over the next few years!

In 1905 a Mr John Francis, builder, submitted the plans for a "pair of villas" each a mirror image of the other. These said plans now hang in our hallway (kindly left to us by the previous owner), and I have photographed them as best I can here;

You will see the house not only had an upstairs bathroom with WC, but also a downstairs WC - pretty unusual in those days, i'm sure that most houses still had an oustide loo! The first bedroom was listed on the plans as being downstairs,I wonder why this was? Making a total of 9 bedrooms,two of which are now no longer used as such.

John planned to live in one of the houses and rent the other, our house, to his childhood friend James Bufton, his wife Mary, and their 3 sons Percy, James jnr and Vincent. The two men had grown up on neighbouring farms during the late 1800’s so had known one another from a very early age. James senior was a Ladies Tailor, and Mary a dressmaker, and together they worked from home until the early 20’s, when they expanded their business and opened up a shop in the town. They had a lodger who worked for James as an apprentice up until the War. Coincidentally, the family moved to this house from the very small street (just 10 houses) where we ourselves lived until we bought here - in fact they occupied number 8, just 4 doors away from our old house.

In 1914 Percy, their youngest son, joined the Montgomeryshire Yeomanry, and they are pictured here in the fields right behind our house, Percy being one of them, before they left for War;

Can you imagine his mother Mary, perhaps sitting in the house at the moment that photograph was being taken, and the anxiety she must have felt at the thought of her son going off to War. I can’t even imagine it! We don't know if Vincent or James joined up, we haven't found any information to date.

Percy came home on leave at Christmas 1915 and was photographed in the town wearing a German Spiked Helmet;

A month before this James senior, obviously having prospered in his business, purchased the house from John for £700! Quite a sum in those days!

During the War, Percy was photographed again home on leave with a young woman, which we must presume (from the amount of photographs she is in) was his fiancé, Eveline Lewis.

Percy and Eveline married in 1921 and had 3 children between 1922 and 1927. They all lived in the house until moving out to a neighbouring village at some point, from records we have found they were certainly living there as a family in 1924 with James and Mary. Percy served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force.

James died in 1950 age 86, and his widow Mary sold the house in 1952 to the Baptist Corporation, where the Minister of the local Baptist Church and his family lived until the mid 1960’s. Mary lived with Vincent and his his family until her death in 1955.

Percy died just 6 years later aged 70, and he and Eveline are buried in a village churchyard in the parish of where they must have moved on to in later life, just a few miles away from here.

They had occupied our house for almost half a century, through two Wold Wars and seen the world change dramatically in that time. All of the other families since, have stayed no more than 15 years. Hopefully we will stay for longer. I love it. It’s somewhere I feel I belong, and I hope that we will be as happy as obviously James and his family were!


  1. You have been busy!!!! I love this sort of history. You've been lucky to trace so many photos and images. Sadly I'll never be able to do this for our house... we are the first owners! Jx

  2. Marina, what an interesting post. I love the history of the old houses and have done a fair share of researching our Cottage, but I can't find my paperwork. I know it's here somewhere so I WILL find it again. Isn't it fun knowing about the earlier families in your home. I look forward to the continuing story..Happy Thursday..Judy

  3. Crikey you have been busy! I love house history. Ours is thirty years old so that wouldn't take long. When I was a teenager my Dad did up our house and found someone's application for apprenticeship at Devonport Backyard behind a mantle piece, they probably assumed it had been posted and why they never heard anything. Looking foward to the next installment . Sue x

  4. Oh my goodness, this is fascinating and exactly what I want to do. We bought our house is Sept and it is 1920s. Desperate to find out the history of ours, where does one start?! The library?
    Lovely post and not at all boring my dear.
    Have a lush weekendx x x x x

  5. That's so interesting! How do you even go about starting to find all of this information out?!! You've managed to piece together so much about the lives of this family, which is fascinating. Can't wait to hear more! L xxx

  6. Lovely post Marina. I love finding out about local history. We moved into our house from new 30 years ago but - it was built with a few others on land that belonged to the local Manor house which is directly backing onto ours and is over 500 years old. I included a bit of its history in a post last year, always meaning to write further. You have jogged my memory! Have a good weekend
    Patricia x

  7. What an amazing thing to have the history of your house, as many do not. The renderings are certainly very special.
    blessings, jill

  8. A really interesting post, how lovely to have the plans for the house framed and hanging in your home.
    A great way to feel part of history.
    Lisa x

  9. Ooooh this is so interesting! I love history! Love old pictures too:) I think that's nice they had the house so long, not many people actually stay long in houses anymore I think. Can't really tell myself, but does Eveline have some sort of animal round her neck?!
    Our house was only built in the 1930s and from what we know only two others have lived here. The first family was a couple with a daughter who had down syndrome and they stayed put here for ages, then the second was an old lady who stayed here for ages too. I remember looking round the house when my mum had put an offer in (I was about 6 or 7) and everything was just so old and dainty and the house was falling to pieces. I remember going into the (then) smallest bedroom (now our bathroom) and looking at those glass lady figurines on the window-ledge. And in our front room there was a really old antique hat stand in the corner of the room by the door.
    I always find it so weird that someone else has lived here before us and they had the house styled completely different to how we have it styled, and they probably had their sofa in a different place to us.
    Even though no one has died in my house (that we know of anyway!!) me, my mum and brother think there's a ghost. I think I've thought this all the time anyway but recently my mum and brother have started to think so too. Last year there was a bang in the kitchen (only me and my mum were in - in the front room), my mum went in the kitchen and the bunch of bananas were on the other side of the kitchen when they were in the fruit bowl before!! Weird stuff always happens in my house - mainly in my brother's room, his is the ex-bathroom so who knows what happened in there in the past!!
    I really want to do a family history because I'm so interested in what happened in the past but I don't think my mum or gran want to because I can tell they already keep secrets from us about certain family members!
    I also loved Marchlands, it was amazing! Loving the new follow on series of it too:)
    Also if you like storylines that jump back and forth in time, I don't know if you've heard of her, but Diane Chamberlain writes a lot of books that change year each chapter, she's my favourite author:)
    Hope you're well and it's not too cold where you are, freezing in Southport xxx


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