The parental home is finally empty and ready to go on the market.
"The Cottage" has been empty for seven years. Just weeks after Mum died in 2010, Dad developed rapid onset dementia and was considered a danger to himself. He was taken away to live in secure accommodation and never returned. At first we had grand plans to do up the house and sell it on but were advised by the experts to leave well alone. Unrestored - totally original - houses are a rarity and apparently in high demand. My brother had toyed with the idea of moving in and restoring it himself but on reflection the task was just too daunting.
So, after an initial declutter, for seven years we left it as it was, using it as storage for our out of season stock and for items too heavy to cart to the charity shop - "The Cottage" is directly over the road from Stonecroft - we can see it from the bedroom window. Dad died two years ago and sorting out his estate took an age (I did it myself, saving thousands of pounds but almost sacrificing my sanity).
The bulk of the paperwork was completed just as the festival season kicked off so any house plans got put on the back burner until that and the Autumn fair season were over.
Last week with just one local fair left to trade at until next Spring we got the estate agent round to value the property and we agreed to have the house completely empty and ready for sale by the end of this week.
My bother & I had already taken the bits and bobs we wanted and I was determined not to hold on to things just for the sake of it. I have memories, I don't need stuff. Call me rash but I've donated everything from Moorcroft vases, a complete Edwardian Minton Greek Key dining service, a collection of wooden writing slopes, hallmarked silver cutlery, Staffordshire flat backs and a plethora of dainty Victorian china to Cats Protection and the Salvation Army. My brother even gave away his huge childhood collection of 1970s Action Men. Yesterday I had the mother of all fires and burnt almost every scrap of paperwork my family have hoarded for over a century.
You know what? Finally, after seven long & stressful years, a huge weight of responsibility has been lifted from my shoulders and I feel f*cking fantastic!
My parents bought "The Cottage" in 1971 for £5,500. The original owner, a wealthy widow who owned a timber yard in the town centre, had died several years previously and the house, still full of her belongings, had been unoccupied for years. Her only remaining relative, a distant cousin, was furious that she'd only left him the house in her will with no mention of her alleged fortune. In his anger he ripped the place apart, smashing furniture and tearing up carpets in a vain attempt to discover the cash. It was never found. My brother and I spent hours hunting for it as children - many of the floors lift up to reveal secret boxes built into the floorboards. Maybe it's still there, stashed away somewhere safe.
My money is on it being somewhere in the huge cellar which extends under the house and beyond, as far as the boundary hedge in the front garden. Not that you'll catch me in there, there's too many spiders.
So feast your eyes on "The Cottage" in all its originality. We've already been approached by several interested parties wanting to do a deal but, to be honest, I'd rather leave it in the hands of the professionals. I don't want people haggling over our childhood.
The garden occupies an area of over a quarter of an acre but we've sectioned a portion of it off which we'll sell at a later date.
I'm an architectural salvage nut and absolutely love the original outside toilet - it's even got Walsall stamped on the cistern. I was terrified to use it as a child!
According to the original plans this little room that leads off the scullery is the china pantry. There's a bell push in the back lounge that the lady of the house used to press to summons the maid from here.
Now its empty this is my favourite room, the epitome of the Arts and Crafts aesthetic the architect was striving for when he designed and had the house built in 1910. There are two neighbouring houses in the avenue built in an identical style but the bloke who owns the house next door knocked this wood panelled part of his lounge down and had steps built leading to a full-sized cinema room in the cellar. I've got a terrible feeling the buyers of The Cottage will do the same. At least I've have this photo for posterity.
|Other than the carpet & the switch everything here is original, including the brocade seat pads and the brass lantern|
Mum & Dad weren't really into DIY (or housework!) although the breakfast room had a bit of a face lift in the 1980s. We've rescued the stained glass windows from the summer house, that'll be a future project.
The Anaglypta on the boxroom wall is original to the house - as are the coat hooks . This room used to be piled to the ceiling with bags of Mum's clothes. The first time I saw the floor was a few years ago.
The psychedelic wallpaper in the bathroom (and the separate loo) was an addition when we moved in. I wonder if looking at it every day subconsciously influenced my love of 1970s prints?
The pedestal sink, towel rail and the pink opaque glass light shade (in the sink) are all original to the house. Dad had central heating installed after I left home, I grew up without it - and was probably the healthiest child at school, I never had a day off sick.
This was Mum & Dad's bedroom.
This was my bedroom until I left home and Mum took it over.
The view from my old bedroom window.
This was my brother's bedroom. It had a face-lift in 1980s. The toy cupboard is original and empty for the first time in 46 years!
What a physically and emotionally draining week. I've got rid of so much stuff - but I've also uncovered a few interesting bits which I'll share next time.
We've dropped off the keys at the estate agent and spent this afternoon in 'Spoons - being all grown-up doesn't mean we can't have some fun.