Posted by Caroline on June 15, 1997 at 15:12:56:
In reply to Re: Old Houses, Bulldogs and Movies posted by kathleen (elder) on June 15, 1997 at 08:18:27
Caroline, what did you do for your project? And what were the results (i.e., a paper, a grade, a degree, a consulting fee, or just a fun way to spend several months)?
Kathleen, my project was my undergraduate dissertation and I needed it to be eligible for my finals It looked at some of the aspects of the historical geography of a group of villages in west Surrey( The other end from Highbury - see, no Jane Austen connection!) The three villages were less than five miles apart from each other , yet they were very different in their size, shape, appearance, economic function, history and level of apparent affluence. I was asking things like
"Why does this village consist of a huge medieval barn, a tudor house and a Georgian mansion but no houses other than a post-WWII housing estate, whilst another is a cluster of medieval cottages surrounded by outlying tudor farmsteads, and the third an orderly progression of earliest buildings right up to the later half of the twentieth century?" and "Why has this quarry been used for centuries but none of the stones turn up in the buildings?" "What did they grow in this field, and have they always done so?" "What was the effect of major social changes e.g. the dissolution of the monastries by HenryVIII, on this particular corner of the world?"
The fun part was the preparatory legwork, the locating and dating of the old buildings. I managed to have a good look at the outsides and insides of fifty buildings, mostly small houses. Others I did more superficially, usually because I didn't manage to contact the owner . People were very kind and accomodating.
Having dated the constructions, and verified as far as possible with old Ordnance Survey maps (1867 onwards) original Geological Survey maps (hand painted, and stored in London), I looked at old wills and some things called Hearth Tax returns (Hearth Tax, like Window Tax, was levied according to how many you had, so they said quite a bit about how many rooms a house had). I also looked at Probate Inventories, which are lists of peoples possessions and their value when they died. They sometimes gave addresses of houses, or listed what was in which barn, in quite a lot of detail. They also give details of crops, farming practices etc, in fact, an absolute overload of information. It is quite a feeling to read a will or probate inventory that is on a three hundred year old piece of paper, not being able to touch it because there is an old biddy hovering at your back to make sure you do not!
I'm not pretending to be an expert in old houses. I have never used what I know to earn any money, except as a Geography teacher. But the fascination of old buildings has stuck with me, and I have dibbled about in this field, just for the heck of it, in most of the places I have lived. I have had the priveliege of doing some work like this in Brittany, in Southern Germany, in Cyprus and, of course, I keep my eyes open now I am in Canada, too!
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