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!