How to Research the History of Your House Part 1
Airfare Daily Deals eCigarettes Eyeglasses Hotels Jewelry Online Backup Online Dating Online Printing Online Tickets Skin Care Textbook Rentals Vitamins Web Hosting Weddings
Find thousands of shopping-related forums
SEARCH

How to Research the History of Your House Part 1

This guide offers useful techniques for anyone who wishes to research the history of their house, street or other aspects of local architecture. The guide outlines the major types of collections available and highlights sources that will help you uncover the fascinating history of architecture.

This guide offers useful techniques for anyone who wishes to research the history of their house, street or other aspects of local architecture.  The guide outlines the major types of collections available and highlights sources that will help you uncover the fascinating history of architecture.  Of course, the nature and availability of source material varies enormously and it is impossible to anticipate everyone's needs.  I have used resources within my own locality (North East England) as a case study.  Hopefully, this will provide generic advice that should be useful to everyone researching the history of their house. 

Good starting points are:

  • Talk to any friends, relatives or neighbours who have memories of your house. Gather as much first-hand information as you can, together with any surviving documents or photographs.
  • Examine your house in detail. Take note of any distinguishing features such as decorative door or window fittings, distinctive fireplaces, coal-hatches or ash-bins. Try to determine if any rebuilding or refurbishment has taken place. Have any extensions been added? These can often be identified if the brick or stonework differs from the rest of the house.
  • Read books on the history of housing to help you categorise your house. Pay particular attention to any stylistic features – are they classical, gothic etc? In Britain, notable publications include Stefan Muthesius’ The English Terraced House (1982) and M.J. Daunton’s House and Home in the Victorian City: working class housing 1850-1914 (1983).
  • If your house is a vernacular building, a useful source is R. W. Brunskill’s Traditional Buildings of Britain: an introduction to vernacular architecture and its revival (2004).
  • Consult historic street directories to determine roughly when your house or street was built. Historic maps can also be used in this way.
  • Once you have a rough date of construction, it may be productive to examine the minute books of your local Borough Council’s building committee.
  • Architectural plans are often preserved in the local archives, and should reveal which builder was responsible for erecting your street and which architect, if any, designed it. For example, the Tyne and Wear Archives in Newcastle have a collection of street plans. These provide detailed technical drawings of street layouts and individual houses, as well as documenting the various architects, builders and tradesmen responsible for construction.

A Gothic terrace

A classical terrace

For those interested in other aspects of local architecture, including public, commercial and religious buildings, there is a vast range of sources available in repositories such as:

  • Local libraries
  • Art Galleries
  • Museums
  • Local history societies (e.g. Sunderland Antiquarian Society)

A classical doorcase with anthemion and palmette frieze

Need an answer?
Get insightful answers from community-recommended
experts
in Architecture on Knoji.
Would you recommend this author as an expert in Architecture?
You have 0 recommendations remaining to grant today.
Comments (15)
Ranked #11 in Architecture

This is a very much needed know-how for me, looking forward to the next issue. Thanks a lot Michael, this is very helpful in my coverage of religious structures and now I can add heritage buildings within my reach.

thanks, Michail for sharing this with us..promoted

Ranked #1 in Architecture

I shouldn't think you need any help, Ron. Your articles are already excellent, but thanks for the kind words. The next part will look at primary sources.

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Thanks, Francina.

Excellent, highly valuable information.

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Thanks, James.

This is one of the most outstanding pieces of work that I have come across. I will return with a vote.

Such wise points. But here in my country, there are no many houses that grand or with distinct architecture. There all just plain. :-)

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Thanks for your encouraging comment, Martin.

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Thanks, Sir Guims. There are always reasons for aesthetic trends. If the houses in your area are all post-war, they might be in line with Modernist ideas of simplicity or functionalism.

What a fun adventure you have initiated here with your great article.This would be an exciting activity to take on. Voted up.

great and interesting reading.

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Thanks, Roberta. I see it as the architectural equivalent of researching one's family tree, which is a very widespread practice in Britain at the moment.

Very informative, useful, and educational presentation.thanks

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Thanks, Abdel

ARTICLE DETAILS
RELATED ARTICLES
ARTICLE KEYWORDS