Sunday, 16 March 2014

From Hall to Hovel

One interesting part of family history is discovering the places where our ancestors lived, using the census records.

A few years ago a family historian visited our village researching his Devon family who had lived in our cottage during the 19th century. He was delighted to discover the present inhabitants were fellow enthusiasts and we were similarly intrigued to hear about his family. He left copies of the census returns of our house with us, listing the people who'd lived there and he was able to take away a contemporary photograph of the 'old family home' for his records. Later he sent us a photo of our cottage taken in the 1890s, with the family dressed in their Sunday best standing outside.

One of my favourite old family photographs is this one of my great-grandparents, Thomas and Eliza (nee Roberts) Diggory in front of their home, with my grandmother, Edith Alice, aged about 14 years old. The architecture of the house has always interested me, as it's very industrial in style. So where is it?

The Wergs, near Wolverhampton?

On the 1911 census, which would be about the time this photograph was taken (if that wonderful hat of my great-grandmother's is any guide!), the family were living at The Wergs, near Wolverhampton. According to information I've come across online, it was an area which apparently attracted wealthy Black Country industrialists who made their homes there. Could it be this association which influenced the building style?

Another house, photographed below, again with my great-grandmother standing outside might be Nursery Walk, in Tettenhall, where she lived some years later. But the number on the door is 39, and her address was number 19. So where's this? The house next door has the word BREMALL carved into the lintel above the front door, though the photograph cuts off the word after it, which might have helped in its identification.

I've been lucky when visiting places where ancestors have lived to find many of them relatively unchanged, making it easier to imagine what it was like in their time. These have included a variety of housing from the lodge of big country house (Park Hall, now a hotel), to tiny workers cottages, rambling farms, a mill, a flat above old stables, a terraced house in a London street, a house in Bath and almshouses in a Suffolk village.

But whether the brick built house with the industrial style windows still exists, I haven't yet discovered. Is it, or was it, in The Wergs? Anyone recognise it? Suggestions please!