House History #1

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About a week after we moved in we received a large manila envelope through the letterbox. It was from our solicitors and contained a huge pile of documents¬† – all the historic deeds, indentures, conveyances and mortgages for the house. With most properties these have been lost or discarded. Changes to the way that property was registered in this country meant that you no longer had to physically hold “the deeds” to prove your ownership as everything was registered electronically. Our solicitor wrote that they held no legal value but might be of interest for “novelty value”.

For an avid ‘house genealogist’ like me they were pure gold. In our last house I had to rely on census data and the odd local directory to try to piece together its history and even then the trail goes very cold after 1911 (census data, collected once every 10 years, is not made public until 100 years after the date of the census). For an Edwardian house this means that there is very little information to go on. With the original deeds, however, you have the entire history of the property laid out as it records every transfer of ownership.

The early documents were all hand written on parchment in beautiful script – signed by the parties to the contract, sealed with red wax seals, and ‘delivered’ with stamps attached. Some also have silk ribbon bindings. They are so gorgeous I am tempted to frame them. Most importantly though, they give me names and dates.

The first important date is the year of the construction of the house: 1905.

The first name I want to share is not the name of an owner but the name of the house itself:

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Mostyn. If these documents had been destroyed the house would have lost its name forever.

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