Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Further House Research

Follow on from this post, I've found some time to do more research on the previous owners and occupiers of my house.

I've done a couple of sessions of research at both the Local Studies Library at Nottingham's Central Library and the Nottinghamshire Archives. I should pay tribute at this stage to the staff at both these institutions - they've been very patient with my odd demands and seemed to take a genuine interest in what I was trying to research.  

From the last update you'll see that I was only able to examine the Electoral Register from 1932 onwards at the Central Library - for a variety of reasons including damage during World War Two, the City's records are incomplete. Bizarrely therefore I had to go to the County Council Archives (which is located in the City boundaries) to examine the City's Electoral Register records. (Given the records are all on Microfiche I'm not sure why they can't simply be given a copy but there we go).

The set-up at the Archives is great - useful opening hours including Saturday morning and very helpful staff. Many of the records in wanted were in open access but I believe you have to request some things from the "stacks" which are delivered on a timetable throughout the day.

I previously knew from the earliest records in the Library that from the early 1930s my house was occupied by the Bonnallo family.  From the records at the Archives I was able to track this backwards to when the house was built.  

The house first appears in the register for 1912 - confirming once and for all that the house is Edwardian rather than Victorian.  Of course the architectural styles are naturally somewhat fluid but it's good to have clarity on the date at least.  Interestingly, this is ten years or so before the covenants that appear in my deeds that set me off on this research in the first place.  

The first resident listed in the Register is Raynor Thomas.  (The microfiches from this time period are very poor or I'd show an image of it).  Looks like Mr Thomas lived there until around 1920 when James William Board moved in.  

1920 Electoral Register
He was joined by his wife in 1924;

1924 Register
And then in 1925 we find our old friends the Bonnallos in residence.  

The Bonallos arrive in 1925
Their son, Leonard, comes of age in 1926 meaning that he'd be 105 years old now, potentially his descendants still live in Nottingham.  

How different would being 18 be in 1926?
As we know from my previous work, this family lived in my house until well into the 1970s, followed by a series of shorter term residents.  

Look clear enough, doesn't it....?

But prior to this visit I'd done some work back in Central Library using their collection of Street Directories.  These are a kind of precursor to the Yellow Pages / Thomson Local (as an aside, is anyone else still mildly astonished when one of those books arrives through the letterbox at home? In my house it has an extraordinarily short existence before hitting the recycling box - it's almost as if the companies behind them haven't quite heard of the internet...) but included private residents too if they paid the subscription fee. You can see some digital examples here if you're interested.  

The Central Library has a good collection of these, albeit stored away from open access so you have to request the librarians to get them for you. They are very accommodating however and even procured me a special pillow to rest the volumes on to protect the original bindings.
The story that the Directories told was interesting but also contradictory to the Electoral Register - the plot thickens!

The records from the early 1920s broadly match - in 1922 Kelly's Directory has James William Board listed.  

Apologies for the poor quality - it's an illicit camera phone photo
And thereafter we have some interesting detail with the Bonnallo family appearing in yet another spelling variant of Brownallo in 1928;

Misprint, mistake or variable Anglicising of Italian name?
Thereafter we see Bonnallo in place as expected and the Directories tended to drift into obscurity shortly after.  

But it's what we see in the years before 1922 that's most interesting.  

In 1913/14 when the Register shows Raynor Thomas we have Mrs Clara Hodges in the Directory;

Note the neighbour's job
In 1916 when Raynor Thomas is still registered to vote, there is a Percy Lord (a "Grocers' Assistant" - love the implications of being an assistant to multiple grocers...) listed as trading from this address;

Apologies again for v poor quality image
And the records show that his wife (?) joined the family firm a few years later in 1920.  

So, we have one person registered to vote and a series of other people living and trading from the house.  I need to refresh my memory of the voting rules at this time - I think you could be registered if you owned a property but not actually live there and live there but own insufficient property to qualify to vote.  

The interesting thing of course is that the 1920 deeds show the guy selling on to James Board being a William Richmond so at that time you've got Raynor Thomas living there and registered to vote whilst the house is owned by someone else.  The deeds for the next door house show the same William Richmond selling the house at the same sort of time - looks like he owned a chunk of the whole street for 10 or so years after building them: renting them out until subsequently selling out.  There's also a character called James Bell mentioned in the deeds who is involved in some way too.  

All very confusing and lots of avenues to continue researching.  

Next time out I'm planning to explore;

- Getting to the bottom of the early years of the residents including looking at the voting rights at the time.  I want to know who the Lord family were in particular.  
- The collection of local plans and maps in the Archives - hopefully showing the construction of the houses up my street from the main road - I can imagine it winding slowly upwards and away and the city developed
- The will for the Mortgagee of my property (Mary Jackson) in the 1920s (as per my first post) to see if I can find out any more about her.  
- See if I can trace the Bonnallo descendants who might still be living in Nottingham.  

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