Subject Researching House History
Vicky Manners
February 17, 2016


Vicki Manners, an archivist and document conservator at the Bedfordshire Archives and Records Seervice (BARS), also had a long-standing interest in buildings, their style of construction, and their history. Using her researches on a previous Sharnbrook home (Walnut Cottage, 117 High Street) she illustrated the many documentary sources which could reveal so much about previous owners and residents and the changing economy and society in which they had lived. Her recommendation to would-be researchers was to begin with current information title deeds and estate agent documents and work systematically back through time.

Historical mapping (Ordnance Survey and Inclosure maps) reveal land changes and early ownership. The 1925 Valuation Act Maps and accompanying field books have much detail. Earlier title deeds may have been disposed of under a 30 year retention rule but early Manorial documents are worth checking. Occupancy can be discovered from Census Returns, Land Tax Records, and Register of Electors but it is useful to supplement these by searching local directories for people, their occupations, and workplaces. Photography may be available in newspaper archives , postcard collections, and by searching published  journals and histories. Architectural drawings exist in local archives according to planning law requirements over the past 100 years. Wills & Probate records are worth considering, as are Parish records which routinely give address details in relation to Births, Marriages, and Deaths as well as earlier social legislation. Finally, antique shops, second hand bookshops, and their modern equivalent (e-Bay) are a good source of historic printed material.