Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Unearthing the past - and Monsters

Today has been an historic day, but not like that.

Keen to find out as much as possible about The Lodge’s past I called to make an appointment with the local Records Office and found that they could sort me out today, rather than wait 48 hours as I thought they might.
Digging around online has turned up little information over the last couple of weeks and I’m still waiting to hear back from the secretary of the local history group in the actual village, so Dawn and I figured proper documents would be the way to go.

And boy, were we wrong.

I was greeted at the Records Office by a young man who was almost as sickeningly helpful as such people are when faced with perma-smiley George Clarke offof the telly – he already had a Tithe Map out and a selection of catalogues for me to pour through. Except The Lodge wasn’t on the Tithe Map (the one it should have been on doesn’t exist) and the catalogues held no references to the property at all.
There were lots of references to the estate’s manor house and quite a few other prominent buildings on the land, but not one mention of ours. Not even close. And “unnamed building/not described” didn’t help either.
Also, the theory is that most of the records for this particular parish are missing, presumed swiped in days of yore by previous landowners or other dastardly ruffians. There are still quite a lot, but nowhere near as many as neighbouring parishes.

So, with the able assistance of my bearded manservant, I broke out the microfiche files for the censuses and went digging around in there instead.
And there were no direct references to The Lodge there either. Bugger.
There was something similar with the word ‘House’ instead of ‘Lodge’ and a Keeper’s Lodge – ours is a former gamekeeper’s lodge – but nothing exact. Now I know that names morph gently into others over the years and sometimes get lost in translation, so all I can do is assume that ours is one of those, because both were listed on the same census.

That being the case, it seems that the alpha male occupants of The Lodge in the late 1800s were probably labourers, and the families were pretty large considering the size of the property. Sadly, three of the five children recorded as living at the ‘House’ in 1881 were “imbeciles from birth”. They didn’t pull their punches, these Victorians.

Microfichery - I wasn't supposed to take photos but I live life on the edge, me

This tends to fit in with most of the more minor properties around and about at the time - agricultural labourer and 'unemployed' being the main job titles - and there were a hell of a lot of servants for the lord of the manor nearby, most of who travelled from right across the country to answer to his beck and call.

Overall, my general feeling is that The Lodge didn’t play a particularly important role on the estate during the era – to the point where it was barely acknowledged, and it was likely inhabited by manual workers such as agricultural labourers, dress makers and their numerous offspring. At Keeper’s Lodge there’s reference to a 55-year-old Thomas Wilson who was a ‘Deer Park Keeper’ in 1891, so he’s the best bet so far given what we know about The Lodge. Nothing concrete, though.
Still, I didn’t go through all of the microfiches so there might be more to find, but to be honest I didn’t really know what I was doing and I was a bit demoralised by that point.

Disappointed with the uncertainty of my meagre findings, I decided after two-and-a-half hours of being out of my depth that not only had my parking ticket expired, but my mother-in-law (who is deeply involved in local history where we live now) might have more hope of getting some real results if I could persuade her to drive for an hour to get there.

There's also the hope that the local history people could deliver the goods, and there's still whatever our solicitor might unearth from the current estate owners. All is not lost.

So with my tail between my legs, and armed
with only a photocopy of the 1884 OS map and a bag of beefy Monster Munch, I went home.

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