This April we are once again blogging along with the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our team of one-place studiers will be sharing some of the treasures to be found for a one-place study, particularly around the theme of Visualisation, our Shared Endeavour for 2016.

Take a look around your place and find the biggest fanciest residence there. You'll probably be able to discover a lot about the past owners of that residence, whether they were officially Lords or not! Whether there by chance of birth, hard work or shrewd investment, the families associated with prominent properties most likely left quite a trail of physical treasures for you to discover.

Biographical dictionaries will give you a feel for the individuals involved. You'll probably find a documented family tree already out there. There may be books written about the family. Family papers or property papers may have been deposited with local archives, and there's bound to be many incidental documents mentioning the family or property held at archives even if there was never a bulk deposit. Is that property open for visitors? Go check out the paintings and stroll the gardens. Did Country Life or similar publications ever run a feature on the manor?

But maybe you're thinking that's not challenging enough. All the hard work researching these "lords" has already been done! That's where your one-place studier's inclinations to look at ALL the residents of your place come into their own. These prominent manors were mini communities in their own right, employing a lot of local residents, putting on activities and entertainments for the village, providing prizes for schoolchildren and gifts for the less-fortunate. How much can you discover about the impact of the manor on your place? You can piece together a mini one-place study for that single property, including both the Lords and the wider community their manor created.

The census is a good place to start. Look for employees living in the house on census nights, and other residents of your place with occupations that strongly suggest only one local employer (domestic gardener? chauffeur? they'll work for the Big House). Newspapers may confirm relationships, and court cases often mention in passing that Alfred Dickens was working as usual on the Ascott estate when he saw the defendant pass by at 11 o'clock.

You may want to look further afield as well. Wealthy families often had more than one property or spent extended periods of time elsewhere, so there may be records or other items of interest held at these associated properties rather than your primary one of interest. Employees of the family may have moved from one property to another seasonally or permanently. In my case, the Rothschilds who owned Ascott in Wing also owned Gunnersbury in West London. This is now in public hands and used as a local museum amongst other things, and when I visited in 2013 what did I see hanging on the wall there?

The household staff of Gunnersbury in 1914 - some of those names and faces are very familiar!
The household staff of Gunnersbury in 1914 - some of those names and faces are very familiar!

Alex Coles

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