Monday, 29 August 2016

This Old House is for sale!


I recently moved to Portishead to be near my son and his family. So this beautiful old townhouse in Chipping Sodbury is now for sale. You can view the estate agent details at:





Sunday, 9 March 2014

An 1833 Inventory

George Short plaque 1793

I have written before about George Short, who owned the house from 1801 to 1833. We have two plaques with his initials. The first commemorates his restoration of the workshop in 1793 – during his father’s ownership – and the second his own major restoration of the house in 1812.

George Short died in the house on Thursday 9 May 1833, aged 68, and was buried in a very prominent tomb at the entrance to Chipping Sodbury churchyard. He left the house and contents, his cordwainer’s business and some leasehold property in Yate but no will. His son, also George, applied for letters of administration and was required to submit an inventory of his father’s possessions. That inventory survives in the Gloucestershire Archives and has recently been published online at Ancestry.

Not only does the inventory give us a fascinating glimpse into George Short’s lifestyle, it also gives a description of each room, which we can compare to the house as it is today. That is what I intend to do in future blog posts.

Short George 1833 inventory 1 cropped

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Work starts at last!

It has been 21 months since I last posted to this blog. I will explain the reasons for my long absence – but not until the work is over!

Today the builders started on site. The firm we are employing are D J Melsome & Son of Bisley, near Stroud, home since 1982 to Jilly Cooper.

They have started at the top of the house and will be working their way down. The first room to be tackled is the main attic room, on the second floor, which is to become a huge master bedroom, with space for my office.


2nd Floor


This morning I took some “before” pictures to show the work involved.


The walls to be replastered and the window surround to be rebuilt.


The water tanks to be boxed in.


The crumbling inglenook chimney breast to be rebuilt.


And the elm floorboards to be restored.

At the end of the first day’s work the walls are already looking much better, having had their old lime mortar raked out.


And don’t you think the builders are impossibly neat?


I’m looking forward to putting pretty objects in the fireplace once it has been restored.

Friday, 22 April 2011

House History 3: Thomas Fereby

When William Roach sold the house to Robert Short on 2 August 1790, the sitting tenant was listed as a Mr Thomas Fereby.

Thanks to a genealogist with the delightful nom de blog Parishmouse, I now know Thomas Fereby's occupation, dates of birth and death and place of burial. I even have a mini-obituary for him, with the prospect of a fuller one to come.

Parishmouse transcribes historical books and makes them freely available online. Yesterday, the entry for Sodbury in the Universal British Directory 1791 was published. A few minutes later - thanks to Google Alerts - a link to the transcription was in my Inbox.

Listed under "Clergy" in the Directory entry I found:

Ferreby Rev. Mr. Baptist-preacher

Googling on variants of his surname, plus +baptist and +sodbury, enabled me to find the following information:

Fereby Thomas Oct 1808 obituary Monthly magazine and British register

 At Sodbury, the Rev Thomas Ferebee, aged 76 years - 52 of which he spent in the discharge of his duty, as minister of the baptist congregation in that town; and to whose sterling piety and unblemished reputation all who knew him bear ample testimony.

  • From a list of Ferebee BMDs online I have his place of burial:

Thomas Ferebee, no age, 1808, of Sodbury, Shortwood Baptist.

Ferebee, Born: 1733. Died: 1808. Obituary: Baptist Magazine 1809. Page 105.

Chipping Sodbury Baptist Church is the church where I worship, when my health permits. This morning I attended the Good Friday service there. I am so pleased to know of this connection between our house and a former minister of the church. I am hoping that the obituary in the Baptist Magazine will give me more information about him. In view of his calling, it seems entirely appropriate that his wife's name was Hannah Heaven. They married, by licence, at Chipping Sodbury on 9 May 1774.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Your Starter for 10 - Kate's Bedroom

No 10 logo

This is the bedroom which my daughter, Kate, uses when she visits from London. Sadly, I don't have a "before" picture but suffice to say that it was decorated with woodchip wallpaper, painted orange, and had an orange carpet. The beams were covered in thick black paint.

Having stripped off the wallpaper, we used traditional lime plaster to repair the damp damaged walls and finished them with Farrow & Ball's Casein Distemper in All White, which enables the lime plaster to breathe.


We carefully stripped the beams back to the old oak, using repeated applications of non-caustic paste, and then fed the beams with wax:


We removed the carpet and the rotting underlay and found layers of chipboard nailed to the floor. We were delighted to find the old elm floorboards underneath, but they were in very poor condition. We had them carefully restored and waxed by Hicraft Wooden Flooring in Bristol. We also replaced the modern double doors on the cupboard with a new single door made from tongue and groove, with black strap hinges and latch. The new door was specially made for us by K T Home Improvements.


With a new oak bed, rattan lamps and bespoke artwork from May Queen Designs, today this is my favourite room:


Your Starter for 10 - The Outside

No 10

I recently dug out the estate agent's details from when we bought the house back in late 2004. Looking at the photographs, I realised that, although our big restoration project has yet to begin, we have actually made considerable progress during the past 6 years. So I thought I'd document what we started with and how far we have come.

This is how the outside of the house looked in 2004:

House 2004

During the past two years we have repainted the whole of the ground floor, using Farrow & Ball's House White (a pale yellowish off-white) to replace the black and white paint. We've also removed the ugly fake burglar alarm box which sat between the two windows on the first floor. The front door was repainted in blue, as suggested by my mother - thanks Mum, a good choice - and the black 1970s door furniture replaced with brass.

This is how the front of the house looks today:

The concrete render on the back and side of the house was in very poor condition. It had cracked and damp had penetrated and was dissolving the lime mortar which holds the stone walls together.

Render 2

The walls were sodden with damp and plants were growing on them underneath the render. The stone was beginning to crack and spall. We removed the render from the worst places and repaired and repainted the window frames, which were flaking and rotting:


Finally we removed the gates to the driveway, which dated back to the 1970s and were on their last legs:

Old gates 2

We replaced them with custom made gates from Country Style Supplies in Wickwar, once again painted in Farrow and Ball's House White:


All the work was done by an excellent local firm called K T Home Improvements.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

1751 Indenture

Back in December, Marian Pierre-Louis posted a comment on House History 1: 1690-1790 saying: "Any chance you could scan one of the old deeds and post it as a blog post? I would love to see what it looks like!"

Now that I have my new Flip-Pal scanner, I have been able to do just that. I took an original document measuring 20" x 24" and made 53 separate, overlapping scans. I then used the EasyStitch software, bundled with the Flip-Pal, to reassemble them into one large image. I am very pleased with the final result.

1751 Indenture 10 Horse Street cropped

This is the earliest deed that we possess. It dates from 1751 and it  is an indenture. An indenture was a legal contract which was written in duplicate on one sheet of paper. The copies were then separated by cutting along a wavy, indented line. Each party to the contract was given one half. The authenticity of the contract could be confirmed at a later date by fitting the two parts back together. You can see the wavy line at the top of the image.

I am sure that lawyers back then were paid by the yard, as the indenture contains an awful lot of legal padding around the "meat" of the contract. For that reason, I have not bothered to transcribe the whole thing but just extracted the following sections of interest:

This Indenture made the Fifth day of December in the Four and Twentieth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Second by the Grace of God of Great Britain France and Ireland King Defender of the Faith and so forth and in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Fifty One Between Jeremiah Russell of Yate and Arthur Walter of Old Sodbury both in the County of Gloucester Gentlemen Devised In Trust named in the last Will and Testament of Nicholas White late of Rodford in the Parish of Westerleigh in the said County of Gloucester mason deceased and Elizabeth White Widow Relict and Executrix of the said Nicholas White deceased of the one part and John Boddily of Chipping Sodbury in the said County of Gloucester Innholder of the other part Witnesseth that the said Jeremiah Russell Arthur Walter and Elizabeth White for and in Consideration of the Sum of Fifty Eight Pounds of Good and Lawfull money of Great Britain to her the said Elizabeth White in hand by the said John Boddily ... hath Granted Bargained Sold Aliend Remitted Released Conveyed and Confirmed ... unto the said John Bodilly ... All That Messuage Cottage Tenement or Dwellinghouse with the appurtenances wherein one Henry Wickham formerly dwelt and since in the Possession of John Clark but now of James Taylor as Tenant thereof Situate lying and being in Chipping Sodbury aforesaid in a Street there called Horse Street between a Tenement heretofore or late of Ann Somers on the Northside and a Tenement formerly of Henry Crew and since of Sicilly Wickham but now of Sarah Smith on the Southside which said Messuage Cottage Tenement or Dwellinghouse was some time since built and Erected by one Francis Cross and afterwards bought and Purchased in Fee by the said Nicholas White of and from David Clark and Mary his Wife who had before purchased the same of one John Clark and was then or heretofore called the Smith's Shop ...

1751 Indenture 10 Horse Street Elizabeth White signature

At the bottom of the indenture are the signatures and seals of Jeremiah Russell, Arthur Walter and Elizabeth White. It is interesting to see that Elizabeth, the widow of a property-owning craftsman, was able to sign her own name.