3 Nov 2011

Hestia says...meet the ancestors!

Tartarus and I have been interested in the history of our house since the first moment we stepped through the front door as eager house-hunters and found ourselves standing in a mosaic-tiled hallway staring, slack-jawed at the Victorian splendour of it all.

Of course, it wasn't all fabulous.  The kitchen was basically a sink on a base unit and the kitchen carpet made odd tacky sticky noises whenever we walked over it.

Still, we were not put off.  The pair of us have vivid imaginations and while he could see his beloved car and bike in a yet-to-be-built garage...I was envisaging myself sweeping down the grand staircase in the manner of Scarlet O'Hara in Gone With The Wind.

In fact, if the previous owners had left us any curtains, I would have made a frock out of them for that exact purpose.  But they did not even leave us any light-fittings when we arrived, so the frock/curtain was never made.  Pity.

Over the years we've picked up bits and pieces from people who knew the house when they were children and once, people came from Cheshire to see it.  Their great-greats used to come and stay at the house for their summer holidays.  They kindly posted us up photos of their serious-faced relatives in loose tennis dresses standing in the garden.

I treasure them.

The other night, a man appeared at the door and introduced himself to me as the great, great, great grandson of the man who built our house.  He had lots of photos of the house, might I be interested in seeing them?   Does a bear shit in the woods?

Later that evening he appeared laden down with colour photocopies of sepia-toned photographs and scratchy 70s photocopies in a folder.

Reader, I was transfixed.

Meet Mr Hunter and his wee wife:

Bearded man - Mr Hunter, the housebuilder.  Next to him stands Mrs Hunter and three of their children, plus a couple of dogs.  He loved his dogs.

This photo was taken at the back of our house.  Apart from the vast quantities of plants,
everything today is as it was back then.

Mr Hunter was a master-builder and owned large swathes of property around the town.  He was also a VERY big fan of the temperance movement.  He must be spinning in his grave every time Tartarus sways his way home from the bike club!

And there are LOADS of fantastic photos of their huge family and BEST of all there are photos of the inside of my house.  Richard, the man who owned the photos, and I walked around the house and were astonished to realise that we have put much of our furniture in the same position as the Hunters.

I am now in the process of scanning many of the images so that we have good records for the house so that if we ever sell up, the next owners will be able to meet the house's ancestors too.

And finally, my favourite image - the classic Wean And Dog pose that has graced many a chocolate box:

I went to bed that night feeling incredibly peaceful now that I know my house's family.  And now I've got names to call out when I think I see a fleeting shadow in the hall.

Here's another one for you - four sons and five daughters!  No wonder Mrs Hunter looks tired :-D


  1. Why *do* people take the light fittings ? A rockery was the dernier cri at one time ...had a resurgence in the 20s/30s and again in the 70s ...

  2. I don't know why they take them but one of them was a tiny chandelier that was SUPPOSED to have been left behind as part of the purchase agreement.

    You cannot bung up a 60 watt bulb in a hall of that splendiferousness and think that you've done the room proud. It took us another 10 years to get a good light fitting for the hall lol!

  3. Ali, how wonderful, I love it when things like this happen.

  4. Oh Ali, how fascinating. I love all that sort of stuff. My sister lives in a house that was once two cottages. The same thing happened to her, someone arrived at the door with photos from the late 1800's. There's a lovely photo of the two occupants at their front doors before the house was knocked into one. So glad you're keeping a record for future generations. Apologies if I've missed out/added an apostrophe, I've never been sure where they're supposed to go!! I'm utterly convinced I didn't learn that bit in English at school. Lesley x

  5. Oh yeah, when we bought our house, the previous folk promised to leave the cast iron wood burners, in the three giant fireplaces, of course when we moved in, there was no sign of them, it took us ages to find original ones to replace them with. We should have known better, this being France we should have got in writing.

  6. oh no - I've made everyone paranoid about apostrophes!!! Lesley - don't worry a JOT about it. I'm not sitting reading comments with a horrified look if there's a wee grammar issue. My horror is reserved for teachers' errors alone :-D

    I'm always thrilled to read the comments on m'blog; the grammar is neither here nor there!!!

    Dash - might have been friends of the removal people. Think that happens sometimes. That might have been the case for us at any rate.

  7. Wow that's great to find a bit of history pertinent to your life today :D We have the deeds of our house back to the builder who built our house and the one next door for his brother in 1905. There have been 15 owners since then :D Not got much in the way of photos though - you have a wonderful selection here :D

  8. Ali, This is an amazing story. Sounds like a plot for a new book. Now you have some characters, I'm sure you could invent the rest.

  9. What a lovely thing to happen.
    And how amazing that you have your furniture in similar spots!
    I love those photos. xx
    PS. Thanks for popping over to my blog, I appreciate the comment!

  10. funny how bored i get when shown contemporary pictures of complete strangers while going all gaga when it's old dead strangers in sepia!

    and also, kitchen CARPET!? gack!

    i once lived with a guy whose father put wall to wall carpeting in the bathroom (3 boys lived there, can you imagine?!) but i've never heard of kitchen carpet and now after the nightmares you've given me, i hope i never will again.

    lovely story. post more pictures, please!

  11. Oh goody. now you can identify the ghosts and ghoulies drifting about chez Hestia.

    Doesn't that make you feel better.

    Does Sonshine know he's sharing his room with the ghost of a wean and a dog?

    Does he sleep well?

    Does he ask for his Uncle Hunter?

    Do you sleep well, knowing what you do?

  12. TSB - there's no ghosties and ghouls - other than Tartarus after a hard night at the Bike Club, just the odd moment when you think you spot someone out of the corner of your eye.... but that's in all likelihood my uncontrollable hair :-)

    Polish Chick - might load up another couple of images :-)

    Pastcaring - it's quite strange, unless you stop to think that really, there only ARE a few places in the room that one can plonk down a table or a big bookcase lol!

    Wally - am in the bowels of Nanowrimo as we speak. And not doing very well - didn't write anything yesterday! Now I've got twice as much to write today!

    Emma - got lots of photos and will now have to painstakingly name all the people in each photo, so that the next owners of the house will know who the ghosts are too!

    They had four boys and three girls (not got photo in front of me to check), but they didn't all live to adulthood. And one son was killed in the Boer War and Mr Hunter paid for stone to be shipped out to Johannesburg for his son's grave. And we've got a photo of that too!

  13. I love stuff like this.Any chance we could see some of the interior photos.
    We had a lady come to the pub who lived here as a child 60 years ago,got some great photos and stories:)

  14. The interior photos are photocopies from the 70s of the original sepia-toned images, so not as nice to look at.

    But I might load some up at some point. Man, those victorians liked their rooms gloomy!

    Ali x

  15. Oh this is wonderful. Just wonderful.

  16. oooh how very exciting...don't you just love those old photos, quite amazing....I too want to see the inside, you could do matching ones with how it is now.....pleeeeeease!!xx

  17. YaH - I can't do photos of the inside of the house or Tartarus will go utterly ballistic! I will do one of Sonshine's bedroom as it is now and as it was then as I don't think I'll get into trouble for showing a LEGO strewn bedroom :-)

    Siobhan - thanks! They're a bit super aren't they?!

    Ali x

  18. That's amazing! You're so lucky to have those photos.

  19. Thanks Patience! They're amazing, aren't they ;-)

    Ali x

  20. Oh Ali, how fantastic to have and know all that history.

    I really believe that rather than a house being part of our history, for the most part we are part of its. I am glad you have a more solid knowledge of who was there before you!

  21. LM - it feels great. And I sent Tartarus a couple of the other images and now he wants to put something back into the garden that he took out of it - a quartz arch that is clearly part of the original design.

    He's really quite sentimental for a bad-tempered old git.

    Ali x

  22. Have you thought about trying to recreate some of these poses with your own (thankfully smaller!) family? You could make up a collection of 'then and nows' to wow the next generation with. Our house is boringly modern so I can only imagine how lovely it is to see some of the people from another age who walked in your hall and snored in your bedrooms. xxx

  23. That's a good idea, Mrs E! Tartarus and I are very good at the solomn we've-been-sucking-lemons look :-D

    Ali x

  24. Great photos. Everyone looks so self-possessed. With old houses like yours, you are not the owner. You are the current custondian of a home. I lived for eight years in a house built in 1675 and I loved the feeling of being part of a lineage.

  25. Looby - that's exactly how it feels! We're just custodians of the house until the next custodians come along!

    1675? Were there ghosts?!

    Ali x


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