Keen to find out more about your house history?

I have been contacted by a number of people who are asking about their #Sticklepath House. I recommend the book “Tracing Your House History: A Guide For Family Historians” (Tracing Your Ancestors) by @GillBlanchard

For those willing to splash out a bit more there is the Zoom House History Show and follow up lectures (it looks like the 15th May show will be recorded for those signing up who can’t make it on the day). Watch out for free zoom lectures too! IF you are on Twitter join #househistoryhour on Thursdays 7-8pm.

Higher Coombe Head

YOUR HOUSE – There is so much to explore. What can you learn from the construction – bricks and mortar, granite, or wattle and daub. What are the windows like? Some old ones in Sticklepath slide sideways to open. Thatch or slate? What gutters are there? (It is unusual to have gutters with thatch but several Sticklepath houses have them). What evidence is there of extensions or other changes? Can you find old photographs or postcards showing your house? Are there some in your family album if you have lived there for a while, that show old decor or changes to the rooms? What are the names of people who have lived in the house? What can you find out about them? Is your house shown on old maps or can you start to date when the house was built from maps?

Trying to find your house site on old maps is a good place to start – try the National Library of Scotland Ordnance survey 25 inch to mile and other maps on that site. They make great illustrations for your file too:

Satellite images too can be useful, from the same website or Google maps etc.

Try a simple Google search using your house name and Sticklepath. You may be lucky! If your house is listed some details will be found online. In any case reading about those listed houses (the ones in our Sticklepath!) and the conservation area character appraisal 2017 can add other background.

Do you have your house deeds? If so go through each document to see what names and dates and changes to the building/garden you can find. If you don’t have the deeds, try to locate them, ask the previous owners. Try putting your house name into Devon Archive search or The National Archive Discovery search – you never know if something might pop up. A key part of deeds are the Wills or administration of those owners who died and state in their Will what is to happen to the property. IF you don’t have access to the deeds but have names of owners, search the above archives online or for the Wills and Probate of known owners Note there are tabs for different dates and for soldier’s wills (small charge).

You can research previous owners or occupiers lives through the census records or newspapers. What was their occupation? Did they have servants? Reports of funerals or obituaries can be especially helpful. There are many free genealogy sites, see Cyndi’s list for example. Some allow you to see there is a document but charge for seeing them. Make a note of the reference. Libraries often have free access to subscription genealogy websites. (During lockdown some were giving access at home if you had a library card).


House sale details – modern ones may still be found online. Again photos and plans can be useful images in your ‘report’. Auction details in old newspapers may be found, both for the building and lists of furniture for example. Planning documents can also be interesting and provide more details.

The Experts recommend starting from today and documenting who lives there now. Perhaps make a note of who was there on census night 2021! How long have you lived there? Where did you or your family come from and why? Are there any particular features of your house? Photograph and explain them. Or make a note to try to find out about them later if you are not sure what their origins were – showing photographs to interested people might get you answers. Photos of your rooms and garden today will certainly be interesting in 5, 10, 50, 100 years! Perhaps keep a piece of wallpaper if you change it or make a note of any structural changes you make or have made for future reference.

The Heritage

You can work backwards through the 1939 register and census records 1911 backwards every 10 years. (Check for the 1921 census in a year’s time!) The house may not be named though so occupier’s names may be needed. You also need to know which Parish to search, and can find helpful links on Genuki – Sampford Courtenay for most of Sticklepath, South Tawton for those on the Exeter side of the bridge, Belstone Parish for those up Skaigh Valley. The Sampford Courtenay enumerator for Sticklepath seems to have largely kept his papers in the order he visited the houses. This is not true for all. Trade Directories can also state names and addresses (look under Sampford Courtenay or the Parish as above).

Chat to current neighbours and long standing members of the community. Do they know who lived there before you? What do they remember about them? Would your close neighbours be willing to let you look at their house deeds? Deeds often note information about party walls, access rights and names of then current neighbours.

After lockdown, chat to members of Sticklepath Heritage Group who may have more ideas. Many Sticklepath houses were photographed in 1983 and the photos are in the Village Hall archive. There is also a roll of wallpaper on which most house names were written in that year, with a list of who people at that time remembered to have lived there.

Searching Google for ‘How to’ and ‘House History’ reveals many websites. For example:

Please do contact me to see if I have anything about your house – (giving as much detail as you can), and I would love to hear about your progress too!

Please follow the SticklepathOne facebook page to know when more blog posts appear that may help with knowledge of Sticklepath History!

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