Found Objects #4



When we were ripping up the carpet in Mark’s future study there were a couple of loose floorboards where an electrician had lifted them to wire the house. A few pages of The Guardian newspaper were placed in there and we are fairly confident that we can date the wiring to that time: the summer of 1960.

IMG_0874It would make sense. The Fraser family had lived in the house for a year or so and would have been making improvements. I assume there was electricity in the house before 1960 but it looks as if the house was re-wired at that time. That makes the house’s wiring completely out of date, though we assumed that anyway.


I would say that the carpet also dated from 1960 – the rubber backing had completely disintegrated and turned into a yellow dust. Oliver assisted. We were very pleased to discover the original red hearth tiles underneath.




House History #4: Martha Baxter


Martha Baxter owned and lived in this house from 1935 to at least 1945.

Born Martha Garratt in 1870 in the Parish of St Margaret, Leicester, she was the fifth child of John Garratt, a railway engine driver, and his wife Mary. In 1871, when Martha was six months old, the family were living at 25 Gartree Street, Leicester, a working-class neighbourhood in the centre of town. At the age of ten she was a student living with her family at 131 Kent Street. By 1891 she had become a teacher and living with her family at 90 Melbourne Road. Ten years later in the 1901 census she is thirty and still living with her parents and sister at 60 Melbourne Road. Her occupation then is listed as an Elementary School Teacher.

In 1902 she marries Campbell Hossack Baxter, a dentist from Grimsby, Lincolnshire four years her junior. They have three children: Campbell John Baxter, born 1903; Margaret Jean Baxter, born 1908; and Philip William Graham born in 1910. In 1911 the family are living in Leicester in a 10-room house opposite Victoria Park at 164 London Road with two servants, Amelia Ellerby and Eveline Grey.

The next twenty years are difficult to piece together, however by the early 1930s Martha and Campbell have moved to the village of Rothley just outside of Leicester. They live in a house called Glen Mona on Swithland Lane.  In 1932, Martha’s husband dies at the age of 58. He leaves an estate worth almost £14,000.


On the 18th May 1935, the 65 year-old widow Martha Baxter purchases this house for £1000. She lives here for at least 10 years from 1935 to 1945. During those years her son, Philip William Graham Baxter, a doctor, marries in 1939 and is part of the Royal Army Medical Corps; her other son Campbell John goes to war (as far as I can tell at this point in the research); and her daughter Margaret Jean, after having lived in London in the 1930s, marries George F Pine (a Royal Navy seaman, later Captain) in 1939.

In 1945 Martha sells the house to her daughter-in-law Mary Elizabeth Baxter, the wife of her son Campbell John Baxter, for £1500. The reason for selling the house to her daughter-in-law rather than her son seems to be that Campbell John was a prisoner of war in Germany at this time, however I need to confirm that.

I don’t know whether Martha continued to live here with her son and daughter-in-law, she was 75 by then. Her son was to die here at the house seven years later. At some point Martha moves to London, living at 29 Sunnydale Gardens, Mill Hill, Edgeware NW7. Martha dies in 1963 at the age of 93, in Hendon, Middlesex.  She left effects of £3822. The executor of her will was her widowed daughter Margaret Jean Pine.

Found Objects #3 – Sodium Amytal

IMG_1366A vintage bottle of Sodium Amytal, a barbiturate  now banned in the UK. When legal, prescribed for insomnia and anxiety. Also employed as the original “truth serum”. A high potential for dependence and addiction…

Found under a scrap of vintage floral carpet hidden in a corner of the coal store…

Hypotheses welcome…

Oliver, Ruby and Rose

Some readers may have come here from The Oliver and Ruby Chronicles featuring Miss Rose, so here are some pictures of the trio to show how they have made themselves at home during the last few months.

Moving day was fairly traumatic for them (and us!). It was the first time that they had moved house as adult cats, and being entirely indoor pets it must have been like their entire world had transformed. Back in Liverpool they were coaxed into the lounge and then shut in while the movers took all the furniture away. Then they had two and a half hours in their travel cages in the car to Leicester. Following this they were shut in the cold, strange old kitchen here in the new house while we directed the moving men for the rest of the afternoon. We didn’t have much time to reassure them and at one point we went back into the kitchen to check how they were going when we realised Oliver had disappeared. Rose had decided to climb back into her travel cage (smart girl), while Ruby was catatonic (!) hiding behind the pantry door but Oliver was nowhere to be seen. We wondered how he had managed to escape. Has he squeezed through a door or a window? There was a cat flap on the kitchen door but we were fairly certain it was locked but what if he managed to get through? He would be wandering Leicester scared and alone! After some minutes of panic we discovered that he was still in the kitchen, hiding in the cat litter which has a cover. Poor boy. If that wasn’t enough, when the movers left and the house was contained we opened the kitchen door for Oliver to follow us upstairs to our new home he ran and took cover. Rose and Ruby were willing to trust us and come out but Oliver made a beeline for the nearest rolled up piece of old carpet and hid, just like when he was a kitten. In the end we had to put him back in his travel cage and carry him upstairs to the third floor and re-release him. It was the most traumatic day of the dear boy’s life.

Luckily cats are very adaptable and it only took a few days for them to become accustomed to their new spaces. At first when Mark got home from work he had to make sure he called out so the cats would realise who was coming up the stairs but after a while they got used to the new spaces, smells and noises.


A few weeks later, this is the cats back in their “room of terror”.IMG_0787

Ruby on the banister. IMG_4610

Ruby in a more subdued mood.IMG_1265

Oliver and Ruby with their new water fountain.IMG_1156

A stand-off over the new mouse/bird hybrid toy, later to become known as Frankenmouse.IMG_0928

Oliver discovering the sink in the bedroom (!).IMG_0707

Ruby making her thoughts known about the new plans.IMG_1143

Rosie behind the blue curtains.IMG_1058

Rosie behind the gingham curtains.IMG_4613

Rosie on the damask bedspread.IMG_0629

The trio on the oriel window ledge before the tree was cut down.IMG_0763

Oliver making do with the lack of space in the kitchen/lounge/dining room.IMG_0852

Ruby in the old kitchen.Photo on 09-02-2014 at 15.33 #4

Oliver relaxing.IMG_0906

Oliver watching the fireworks (brave boy).IMG_0816

Ruby on the wardrobe boxes.IMG_0953

Oliver waiting for his steam bath in the bathroom.IMG_0743

Ruby investigating new boxes.Photo on 07-02-2014 at 20.04 #2

Rosie finally remembering, after four months, that it was OK to sit on the couch with me.Photo on 28-01-2014 at 16.59

Ruby being dramatic against the evening sky.IMG_0804

Rosie being beautiful.IMG_0999

Rosie being beautiful.IMG_1204

Oliver checking plans.IMG_0624

A ladybird in the light shade.IMG_0713

Oliver and Ruby passing the time.

Found Objects #2 – The Airing Cupboard

IMG_1371In the main bathroom, the one we currently don’t use, there is a large airing cupboard.

IMG_4634It has original hexagonal Bakelite handles.


IMG_2727In the bottom half of the cupboard is the hot water cylinder and a tangle of copper pipes.

2013-09-23 13.21.47In the top half was loads of stuff that the house clearers had obviously missed because the cupboard was so high. There were orange chenille bedspreads, old curtains, an unused insulating cover for the hot water tank, everything just pushed into the cupboard with no organisation. I think it was probably the last refuge for things that the previous owner thought “might come in handy one day” or “are too good to throw away”.

2013-09-23 13.21.53There was also an old enamel shaving bowl with razors and other bits and pieces. There was even a gaudy roll of yellow toilet paper.

2013-09-23 13.33.35There were also one or two things that provided a little too much information about the previous occupants but still had a retro curiosity value. A bit like the contents of an accidental time capsule. I bagged everything up and threw it all away.

2013-09-23 13.34.18One thing I couldn’t throw away though was a boxed, unopened vintage bottle of Head and Shoulders shampoo. It still had the original price sticker of 55p and apart from being a bit dusty, would be a perfect specimen for a collector of such things, if they exist.

IMG_1369A ‘remarkable shampoo’. Judging by the typography and the hairstyles, I would date this bottle to the late 1970s.

Found Objects #1 Park Drive Cigarettes

IMG_1159I discovered this empty cigarette packet under the floorboards in the hallway on the first floor after I had ripped up the 1960s lime green carpet. The floorboards were loose where wiring had been installed sometime around 1960 and I date this packet from that time (even though it looks older). Gallaher’s Park Drive was the choice of ‘working men’ so I gather this was probably a packet discarded by the electrician as he was doing the electrical work.

Well, well, well

We passed a renovation milestone today – the first builder made a site visit in order to tender for the work! I liked JB and he spent two hours here discussing the house and the project with me. He was very observant and conscious of the need to work around us: containing the cats, the fact that we are living in the house and that our possessions are spread throughout. He also thought we should salvage and sell the Edwardian handmade terracotta quarry tiles in the kitchen and breakfast room as he had just bought hundreds of them for another project at £2 each!  We probably have eight hundred of them downstairs and instead of ignoring the fact that they weren’t on our ‘salvage list’, technically meaning they would be his to dispose of, he suggested we reclaim them.

2014-02-04 15.57.17

JB’s observant nature continued outside and he was keen to see what was under this slab. He asked if he could go and get his crowbar. I was as curious as he to see what was there.

2014-02-04 15.50.26It was a well! Well, technically it’s called a cistern, as a well accesses groundwater.  The cistern is a beehive-shaped underground tank built of brick and lined with cement and was designed to collect and store rainwater from the roof of the house. This would then be used for tasks such as the laundry because the rain water was much softer compared to hard, high mineral content groundwater. The water would usually be accessed by a hand-operated pump but ours has long since gone.

2014-02-04 15.50.50

JB did some measurements. The cistern is about six feet deep and four feet wide and had about five feet of water in it. It’s a lovely feature but unfortunately sits right on the edge of where our new foundations need to be built (just by that row of bricks to the left of JB). Our architect wants to keep the tank as the water can be used for the garden but I am in favour of the lowest cost option, which may be to fill it in with concrete. Given the rain we get here, combined with our aversion to gardening, I think we would hardly ever use the water stored here! We shall wait and see.