Building Your House 250 Years Ago

The vicarage at Hatton, 1920s.
Warwickshire County Record Office reference PH350/947

In 1751 Thomas Nelson had started building a new Vicarage at Hatton Green. It must be one of the best documented houses in the county, because a few months ago [in 1994] we were presented with a box of records which included a bundle of 160 bills which allow us to follow its construction in minute detail (Warwickshire County Record Office, CR3134/17/1-161).

Early in 1751, Nelson bought the land and almost immediately there are bills for felling timber and making a saw-pit. Later that year Job Collins, who worked extensively on Warwick Castle, delivered stones and then a large consignment of deal [sawed wood] arrived, having come from Bristol to Stratford by boat. The house was to be of bricks and these were all made on the site, after kilns had been built and coal delivered for firing them. In 1754 building was proceeding apace. Timber for the staircase, lime for mortar, sashes for the windows, tiles for the roof (not to speak of bread, cheese, mutton and ale for the workers) are all recorded. By the end of the year, floor boards were cut, hair and lime for the mortar delivered and the fitting out began in earnest. Moulds for the plasterwork were cut, the door cases fitted, guttering and spouts fixed up and a basket containing hinges, latches, locks and keys was sent down from Birmingham in July.

Don’t forget the bottle rack!

The carpenters sent in a large bill for dowelled oak flooring in the Great Parlour, as well as panelled doors, wainscot and 51 bannisters, and another for putting up the upholsterer’s bench, making a tester, a frame for the tapestry and a bottle rack. Finally, the painter and his boy arrived and spent much of 1757 at work round the house, the stables and the outbuildings.

How much did it all cost? Thomas Nelson, meticulous as always, kept a running total of all his bills, and by the end of 1757 he had laid out nearly £700. The house is still there, no longer a vicarage, but divided amongst several owners. I wonder whether the bottle rack survived. It cost 1 shilling and 4 pence.

This is an edited version of an article originally published in the Friends of the Warwickshire County Record Office Newsletter, January 1995, and is reproduced with their permission.

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