Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Who Lives in a House Like This?

...or rather who lived in a house like this?  

The local Historical Society provided me with some information about the Old Rectory and its inhabitants over the years. It's so interesting - well, for me, it is! - and I’ve been meaning to write about it for some time.  I finally sat down to do so and turned to the first of the census returns that they had given me, which is for 1841.  I then paid to access the UK census online and found some discrepancies in the data.  But other things about the information that I found aroused my curiosity and I started to do some detective work. 

As background, censuses have taken place in the UK every ten years since 1801 apart, that is, from 1941 when the country was in the midst of the Second World War.  I may be wrong and they may be out there somewhere, but I’ve only been able to find 1841 onwards online.  Up until that particular census, they were used principally as a head count.  But then the purpose changed slightly and people were asked to state the name, age, occupation and whether they were UK born or not for everyone resident in each house on the day of the census. 

The return for the Old Rectory for 1841 shows that it was then known as Vicarage House and that the vicar at that time was Edward Rowden, aged 60.  Further investigation revealed that Edward was born in 1781 (although the information below suggests 1780) in Cuxham, near Watlington, South Oxfordshire.  He died in 1869 at the age of 88, having been the Vicar of this parish for 64 years.  There is a board on the Church wall that lists the incumbent vicars over time.  Francis Rowden, presumably Edward's father, was vicar from 1785, which must have been when the family moved from Cuxham.  Another Edward, presumably son of the Edward in question, took over the reins after his father's 64-year stint, although the exact date of his succession isn’t clear from the board.  I don’t know anything about how this worked but it seems that the parish living was passed from father to son.

If Edward took over as vicar from his father in 1804 and if he was then the vicar for 64 years, he presumably stood down in 1868 when he was 87, a year before he died.  According to the Parish Register, the building of a new vicarage house began in 1809 and was completed in the autumn of 1810.  (Interestingly, this required a mortgage of £850, which was to be paid back over a period of 20 years.  Needless to say, rather less than we paid for it.)  

This means that this building is 50 years younger than we thought and this also brings into question the graffiti etched on the side of the house, which seems to clearly say ‘1801’.  However, if these dates from the Parish Register are correct (and presumably they are) then it means that Edward Rowden and his family were the main inhabitant of this house from when it was first built until he died in 1869.  So that's three quarters of a century sorted out!

A carte-de-visite portrait of Reverend Edward Rowden (1780-1869), photographed by "Merrick" at Joseph Langridge's photographic studio, 33 Western Road, Brighton (1862). Inscribed in ink on the reverse "Revd Edward Rowden, 81 years of age - Dec 2nd 1862." The headstone to Reverend Rowden's grave in St Michael's churchyard reads "Rev Edward Rowden M.A. For 65 years vicar of this parish. Died March 27 1869 aged 88 years.

So, turning back to the 1841 census, it shows that, on the date of the return, Edward Rowden was living here with five servants (which might explain why the place is currently covered in cobwebs and dust with only me acting as housekeeper, lady's maid, house maid, parlour maid, scullery maid, laundry maid, cook, gardener, dog groom and general hand servant!) and four other Rowdens: 25 year old John, eight year old Ellen, seven year old Elizabeth and six month old Margaret.  So were these Edward's son and daughters?  If so, why such a large age gap, 17 years, between John and Ellen?  But, most interesting, why is there no mention of Mrs Edward Rowden?  What has happened to her?  Why is this 60-year-old man left alone with such young children?  I was desperate to know more and so I turned to the 1851 and 1861 census returns.

To be continued...

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Curiouser and Curiouser

Someone asked me yesterday if we had found anything interesting in the Old Rectory since we moved in.  This reminded me that I have had this blog post in draft form for some while, awaiting photographs, and it highlights some oddities that we have discovered around the house.  The first is in the room where the computer server was when this was offices.  It is now H's 'wardrobe' but is destined to be a wet room (perhaps) in time.  It took us ages to realise that there are hinges on the windowsill and that, therefore, you can lift up the top to find this.  It must have been for a washbasin and tumblers perhaps.

The second thing is graffiti on the wall where we park the cars.  I was reversing out one evening and, with the sun in a certain direction, I could see the numbers '1801'.  I went back the next morning to investigate.  There were initials and a date.  But it is hard to see what it reads.  THARRIS?  THARRIP?  THAR RIP?  

We were clearing out a cupboard under the stairs that leads to the so-called mezzanine bedroom.  This is where the new water tank will go.  Then we discovered that there is a blocked up window in there.  At floor level.  We had thought that the wall was originally an outside wall as it is so very thick.  But we have yet to work out where the window would have been in relation to the rest of the house.  In the photo, you can just see the brick lintel for the window above the pink section where the window has been infilled.

The other oddity that we've yet to investigate is the window in one of the back bedrooms.  The suspicion is that there are shutters in the panelled area below the window that are intended to pull up on the tracks that you can see in the side of the window.  This is according to one of the window specialists who visited but a quick search of Google hasn't revealed anything about this type of shutter.  To be investigated further.

And while we're wandering around the house in this way, we have done some work on trying to complete the bathroom.  S has been working on the floor in the small lobby outside the bathroom.  The plan is to put this back to floorboard (it did have coir on it but massively stained) and then varnish it.

We'll paint the lobby off white and have bought this picture to hang there.  It is a railway poster for Bath, advertising the spa obviously.  Very apt.  We may well hang some shelves here as well.  If you remember, we didn't plan well for storage space in the bathroom.  (It was done in a rush to secure the mortgage, in our defence.)

I've also finally sanded the windows and they are ready to be painted.  A job for next weekend, I hope.

We spent the morning stacking logs, clearing one huge pile before the lumberjacks come back to do the rest.

And the good news is that the bulbs are sprouting so spring must be on its way.  Here's a picture of our most tamed flowerbed at the front of the house to the left of the gates.  A sunny spot usually.  But not today.

Finally, and in answer to the complaints from my reader that he doesn't feature enough, here's a picture of Sprocket in the windy garden.