Property blog: The house historian

Melanie Backe-Hansen specialises in the history of period properties – she can tell you who used to live there and how it has changed throughout the years. Her new blog delves into the details of how fascinating this job can be, and she also has advice for those who want to find out more about the history of their own house…

Have you ever wondered who lived in your house before you? Perhaps wondered when it was built or why it has an odd design? Have you ever been tempted to look into the history of your house? Researching the history of houses can be one of the most thrilling ventures – but of course I would say that because it’s what I do every day!

But it’s not only uncovering mysteries but bringing life to one of our most treasured possessions – our home. We seem to have long had a close connection with houses – from the saying ‘An Englishman’s home is his castle’ to our obsession with DIY – knowing the history is another element of this. Whether you live in a Victorian terrace, a medieval hall house or a grand stately home, knowing the history behind its nooks and crannies can offer something much more.

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It’s difficult to explain why we feel the way we do about our homes. Whether it was the first house you lived in with your partner or the country home that has been in the family for generations, homes provoke an emotional attachment that is irrefutable.

My daily adventures through old books, maps, microfilm readers and dusty documents allow me to put the scattered pieces of the story of a house together. There have been some fantastic discoveries as well as frustrating dead-ends, but whatever the house, there will always be a story to tell. Whether your house was formerly home to a famous resident, the old village shop or has been in the same family for hundreds of years!

You can gain a greater understanding of your house, but also the potential to add to the emotional connection with your home can be greatly enhanced by discovering the people who have lived there before you. Was it was once a work mans cottage, the home of a gentleman or something much grander? Whatever it was, knowing the history of your home can offer irreplaceable insight, by telling the story of the lives of the people who have also called it home – not only for you, but also for those who come along after you.

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