Friday, 4 September 2015

The story of one house in Lausanne Road number 43 ............ who went before us

The story of one house in Lausanne Road over a century and a half, and of one family who lived there in the 1950s.*

Lausanne Road, circa 1955
Now I was surprised just how little I knew of our house in Lausanne Road.

But then there is no reason why I should.

We moved in when I was two and left before my fourteenth birthday.

Back then I took the place for granted and in the acres of time since then I haven’t given the  place much thought.

But given that I have been drawn back to where I grew up its history and especially those who lived there have begun to interest me.

It was built in the mid to the late 1870s at a time when the area was being developed for the “middling people.” These were the professional classes many of whom may have worked in the city and were drawn to an area which was quickly being built up during the 1860s.

The area had once been market gardens and most of the houses had long gardens which in our case still had a fine collection of apple and pear trees which were still offering up shedfuls of fruit when were there in the 1950s.

All of which would have been known and enjoyed by Miss Jeannie Jeffery whose story tells us a lot about this bit of south east London in the last decades of the 19th and the first few of the next century.

Now I don’t know if she was the first resident of our house but she was there by 1881 and described herself  as “Owner of House Property” which is just about all we do know about her, save that she was born in 1848, her father was a journalist and she died in 1912.

But there is one other detail and that is that in the April of 1888 she married Joseph Henry Wills.  She was 39 and he 34 and Mr Wills was well known to Miss Jeffery because his father and brother had been living in her house as “boarders” and I guess as these things do Henry and Jeannie fell in love.

He was a sea captain as was his father and brother which put them in the same social grouping of many of the others on Lausanne Road.

Their story was pieced together by that mix of documents which reveal the stories of families and their homes.

Lausanne Road, 1872 before our house was built
It began with the census records supported by the street directories and was confirmed by the electoral rolls, all of which are available on line or at the local studies centre.

Each has something to offer.  The census offers a detailed snap shot of who lived in Lausanne Road every ten decade while the directories listing the householder and often their occupation were issued each year as were the electoral rolls.

And these have offered up something of the house’s history from Miss Jeffery to when we left and if I was really minded should take the story pretty much up today.

Armed with the names it is possible to draw out the individual stories looking for the records of births , deaths and marriages and following up on the lives of just one of the occupants through newspaper reports, gravestones and military records.

Of course the real prize are the deeds which will not only chronicle each of the owners of the property but also the original landowner and in some cases legal settlements which are as good as a will.

But these for most of us are locked away in the safe of a building society rarely seen and rarely consulted.

Still there is enough on Lausanne Road to take me on a journey and amongst the personal possessions is the surveyor’s report commissioned by dad in 1951 which describes each room and the war damage to the roof.

So I suspect Lausaane Road will no longer sit in the shadows.

Picture; Lausanne Road circa 1955 from the collection of Andrew Simpson and  Lausanne Road, 1872 OS London, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

*The story of one house in Lausanne Road,

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