A Checkered Past & A Secret Room
In the 1990s, bachelor brothers William and Walter Straw left their time capsule of a house to the National Trust which I visited five years ago. This is all I remembered about Worksop when browsing properties for sale in Nottinghamshire and I spotted an interesting Grade 2 listed house. Worksop may be somewhat in the doldrums nowadays but the magnificent Clumber Park sits on the outskirts and Sherwood Forest is nearby. Numerous smart buildings remind us of Worksop's prosperous industrial past including the magnificent train station which looks like a large Jacobean mansion. Older people recall twenty-five pubs on the high street alone stuffed with miners drinking beers after their shifts.
I like houses many people would describe as 'quirky', a word I hear too often in relation to my taste. Recalling my parents' house hunting days, any time something old and higgledy-piggledy presented itself, I felt immediately at home and this notion of the best kind of house prevailed. Unfortunately, my parents always preferred a modern cuboid perhaps due to their own post-war childhoods in drafty old houses.
This house in Worksop, situated on the hill where a Medieval castle once stood, was built over two hundred years ago. During the Napoleonic Wars, the house was a newly built Volunteer Inn, i.e. a recruiting station where young men, plied with drink would sign on the dotted line and be packed off as cannon fodder. In a later guise, it housed a mechanic who owned the garage next door, currently 'Wagz', the poodle parlour.
In the house's paperwork, there is a document from 1935 pertaining to a 'right of light', the conclusion of a dispute said mechanic had with the aforementioned Straw brothers who had a grocery shop on the high street. The document, in curly handwriting, took some time to decipher. The mechanic's plan to build a wall was thwarted because it would cast a shadow upon the land to the rear of their shop where much of their produce was grown.
Following the mechanic's ownership, the house was, at some time, the home of 'Ben and Liam, the twins', (I saw this written in daubed paint under a few layers of wallpaper). For a decade I heard it was owned by a fellow who dreamed it would be his marital home, only he never married, it remained empty and he continued to live with his parents. In recent years, a tenant rented it with the intention to grow naughty plants which fortunately brought the price down and frightened off the faint hearted buyer. Ventilation holes had been sawn into the floors and ceiling and the carpets were moist and speckled with fertilizer. Being a seasoned fixer-upper, it didn't daunt me too much.
Much progress was made in just two weeks at the house last month. All work had to be squashed into the daylight hours because the electric company had taken away the metre due to misuse. To decontaminate fully meant all carpets, wallpaper and festering furniture had to be stripped out and disposed of. Two rooms are now in a basically finished state. Here are the before and afters - please excuse my last minute pics as I left the house on a grey day...