A few weeks ago I noticed a plaque thirty feet up the rear wall of my building with the numbers ‘1836’ inscribed on it. With nerdy hastiness, I did some research into said date-plate and- shock horror- it turns out the building was indeed built way back in 1836.
Amazing, right? Well I certainly think so. Thanks to the power of the internet, it’s now easy to turn Tony Robinson for the day and research the history of your home-amazing!
But Jonathan, pray tell: how do you go about researching the history of your abode? Well loyal reader, I’m glad you asked. Below you’ll find some useful hints and tips on how to get the bits and pieces that make up your home’s history; so let’s get down to business.
So, you’ve got your house, but how do you start unearthing its dirty secrets? The first thing you should do is try determine roughly when your property was built.
Look for obvious clues that may ascertain the age of the property. Like mine, your home may have a plaque detailing its erection date. These are often located on the exterior, although in some properties they may appear indoors.
If your holiday home’s really old, there’s a chance it might be a listed building, in which case you should have a look at the National Heritage List for England, an online database listing all of the country’s designated heritage assets. If it’s on there, that’s good news, as there should be plenty of information to boot, including when it was built. If not, don’t get down; there’s another angle of attack.
If you’re struggling to determine when your property was built, it might be a good idea to speak to neighbours or other members of the community to see if they can shed light on when your home was originally constructed. You never know, some nebby-neighbour might be able to point you in the right direction, or at least provide some gossip on its previous occupants.
Unlocking your home’s history
Now that you’ve got a general idea of when your house was raised from its foundations, it’s time to start going through the history books to delve deeper into its past. Who lived there? What were their livelihoods? Was it stricken by tragedy, or at the centre of a community-wide dispute? Thanks to the internet, there are hundreds of free-resources you can use to unlock the secrets of your home’s past.
If you’d like to find out who lived in your house, the best place to start is at your local records office. Here, thousands of public archives are available to view, including electoral registers, census catalogues and Ordnance Survey Maps, all of which can be used to unearth the history of your home.
For instance, electoral registers will list every resident who was registered at your address, since records began. Just think of all the interesting folk who may have passed through the front door of your property!
Put that research to use
When you’ve completed your research and exhausted your home’s history, it’s time to share what you’ve learnt with the world. As a holiday home owner, your guests are likely to be just as interested in the history of your home as you are, so create an information pack for your property that details the ins and outs of its history.
People are always interested to hear about the history and heritage of where they’re choosing to stay, so an illustrated guide to your home, as well as the local area, would go down a treat.
To find out more about researching the history of your home, visit the English Heritage website.