When routine filing uncovers the history of your home

On Good Friday we spent the entire day doing household admin. Going through all those piles and piles of paper that we’d moved from drawer to drawer, cupboard to table and back again (while my filing cabinet restoration project has somewhat, halted to say the least) – to see what we needed to keep, what we could shred and what we might have missed.

Here’s a snapshot of what our table looked like during this process and how much recycling we made:

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So much paper
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So much recycling

About halfway through the process we found a folder left for us which contained house documents, certificates and instruction manuals. We’d only ever glanced at it like you do, put in the pile and forgot about it while all of our work was being done. But, now, as we started to go through it we realised it contained something a bit more special…

It contained the transfer deeds for some of the previous owners of this house.

With information dating back to when it was first built.

Beautiful old documents – typed on thick cream paper, with red seals and string threading some together. I was a little over-excited to say the least.

There were some fascinating details that came through in the documents:

1972-1800 land passing hands
1972-1800 land passing hands
  • It looks like the land for our house was transferred between a few vendors between 1872 and 1885, when it was eventually sold by The Manor Park Cemetery Company (of Sebert Road) to a Cattle Dealer, Richard Mallinson from Harrow Road in Leytonstone (ironically where a friend of mine lives now) for £272
The plot that was bought in 1885 for £272
The plot that was bought in 1885 for £272
  • £272 seems to have bought him a large patch of land between Lorne Road and Tylney Road to build houses on Godwin Road. It looks like ten house were built.
  • The sales stipulations on the land state that nothing shall be erected within 10 feet of any road, no house should be built valuing less than £175 and those houses must be of the same elevation as houses in Chestnut Terrace, Chestnut Avenue.
Sales stipulations for building on the land
Sales stipulations for building on the land
  • In 1914 the owner dies and the land passes between his various sons and grandsons until our actual property is sold in 1957 for £1200 to a Printer who lived just down the road.
A mortgage taken out?
A mortgage taken out?
  • In 1962 it looks like the owner mortgaged the house (or freehold?) to the County Borough of West Ham, Essex (which Forest Gate was originally in) for the sum of £675.
Formated of the London Boroughs
Formated of the London Boroughs
  • Next set of docs shows how the property was transferred to the London Borough of Newham from the Essex County Borough of West Ham when London Boroughs were established in 1965.
1979 sale to husband and wife
1979 sale to husband and wife
  • The next sale takes place in 1979 for £16,600 to a husband and wife as joint tenants on the property (the first time I see a woman mentioned at all on the deeds)
  • The last sale we have record of is in 1993 which we think would have been for significantly more than £16,000 I expect!

I have probably misinterpreted some of the documents but I found it completely fascinating to see this little history of our home and its previous owners. Looking around now it’s crazy to think of this area as just land prime for development – where land was bought for £272 and ten homes were built that are still standing today.  I wonder what those original land owners would think of the Forest Gate boom that is happening right now!

Coming from a family of local historians this has prompted to me to start a bit of a hunt for information about Forest Gate in the times when our houses were all being built. The excellent blog E7 Now and Then will be a good place for me to start along with the trusty Google…

If anyone knows anything more about the Mallinsons, who seem to have owned the freehold on this land for over half a century, please get in touch!

 

 

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On floors, doors and skirting boards

I never thought I’d be so excited to have skirting boards. But, there you go.

Work has finished on our kitchen/diner, finally. We have a floor! Skirting boards! A new door! A roof that doesn’t leak! True progress indeed.

We wanted to keep the original floorboards in the dining room, but an old chimney hearth which we unearthed meant it was going to be extremely costly to remove and replace along with get the old boards up to scratch. So, we decided to bite the bullet and get new floorboards. My other half’s uncle – who’s renovated lots of houses –  recommended engineered floor boards, which have real wood top layer and then easy fitting underneath. Another trip to B&Q found us these. Also on recommendation we decided to lay them horizontally so they line up with our tiling, and give a sense of a wider space. We couldn’t be more happy with the result in the end:

photo-37It’s amazing what a difference having a new floor makes. For the first few days I kept forgetting and being nicely surprised every time I walked into the kitchen.

Next up was the skirting, door frame and finally new door to our cellar top. For the last, hmm, two or three months we have been staring at a mess of tools, buckets, recycling while we’ve been waiting to finish this stage. Et voila. Here’s to skirting boards and doors!

photo 2 photo 2

It’s mostly nice just not to constantly be sweeping up bits of food and cat biscuits out of the holes where the skirting boards where missing…

Skirting boards and door are primed and ready to be painted. I think, knowing how long this might take me, and the precision of the work, I might treat myself to a painter/decorator for this one. It will be the very final thing we need to do in the kitchen diner. Then it’s just selecting the pictures for the walls and we’re done. One whole room will be complete!

When I think of this room when we moved in – not much natural light, dark cupboards, low lights, dark floor and dark work surfaces – it was definitely a room we didn’t like spending that much time in. Now, it’s totally become what we wanted it to be – the heart of the home.

BEFORE
BEFORE
AFTER
AFTER

To say we are happy with the result is a bit of an understatement…

So, who wants to be next to come for dinner?

The (endless) finishing touches

Is it just me or can finishing touches take as long as the initial work?

It’s been two months since the major work in our kitchen and dining room renovation was finished and still I have no skirting boards, bare floorboards, no pictures on walls and we still can’t find anything. I think with the rush towards Christmas we definitely breathed a sigh of relief once January begun (and at least our bank account did too) but that also meant not as much got done. When you have someone you are paying to get stuff done it happens quickly, but when you put yourself in charge…hmm, well, not so much.

There has been some progress though. It wasn’t quite a joke about giving my Christmas houseguests paintbrushes when they walked through the door… In that lull between Christmas and New Year, we did white wash the dining room walls and our very kind Uncle painted the kitchen ceiling. We paid him in beer and leftover turkey…I think he was happy. So, this was where we left off last post:

Not bad for a day's work

The following weekend I started the undercoat for the walls. The top coat would be Blue Ground, and Farrow and Ball recommend a dark undercoat. I realised we had to try to get the undercoat and top coat done in the same weekend otherwise our room would be like a pit for a week…Ironically, when I tweeted the picture many people thought the undercoat colour was the real colour and started complimenting it! It was a very steely grey…and I think in certain rooms it could have worked, but…not in the kitchen…

Dark tones undercoat...

I think, if I remember it rightly, I got one coat done, went to see my friend’s new baby, did another coat, and then recruited my mum (thanks mum!) the next day to do the top coat. That was a fun weekend.

It was pretty scary painting over such a dark colour. On the first coat we couldn’t believe it would cover it over, but I guess they do know what they’re doing and like anything, when the second coat went on we could breath. I think it turned out okay!

photo 1I did feel a massive sense of achievement after this painting was done. And we do love the colour…

Next up was furniture and again, an offer from a kind relative bought us this rather lovely, 70s sideboard, out of storage.

photo 2

(Of course, now it is COVERED with things…post, paper, cards, fruit bowl, vase…etc..but still, it is a nice addition!)

And there have been another two additions to the house since Christmas too. These are definitely not improving the furniture and most likely will start to cost as much as home renovations themselves, but still…a house wouldn’t be complete without…

CATS!
CATS!
photo 4
Ripley (the mum) and Alaska (the baby) taking over.

Tomorrow, our builder returns to lay the dining room floor, attach skirting boards, build a new architrave and add a new door to the cellar top. I can hardly believe what it will be like for that room to be (almost) finished…

Oh, apart from the leak in the kitchen flat roof. Yes, we didn’t have floods, but the wettest winter on record has taken its toll on our brand new plastering and painting.

Damn rain.
Damn rain.

 *Moves new roof up the priority list for this year* *Forgets about new bathroom*

Sigh.

2013: A year in boxes

It was a year ago that we decided to move house.

We stayed in last New Year in our flat in Stoke Newington. We went to bed about 1am, feeling smug about the potential of not being tired and hungover on New Years Day for a change. But, living in a flat, at the front of a house, on a busy-ish street – sleep, we did not. People coming in and out drunk, people having long conversations about how and when to get a taxi right outside our window, people singing down the road. The next morning, possibly more tired than had we been out, we started the conversation. If only we could have a house, maybe we should just think about moving?

By lunchtime, we were on Right Move, looking at houses in Manor Park and Forest Gate, after having spent Christmas with my other half’s parents there, having a nice walk on Wanstead flats and thinking, could we live here? Became pleased about how much we could get for our money if we sold up in N16. Decision made, we started planning. People had said to me, it could take you a year to move. Well, it didn’t quite take that long, but it certainly did take up the whole year, in many ways. I kept thinking in January, maybe by the end of the year I might have a house, and space for a Christmas tree.

And here’s how it happened:

January:

Having made the decision to move, it was time to ready the flat to sell. A.k.a – do all those jobs you’ve been putting off for the last few years. A.k.a – find handyman to fill small hole in bedroom wall, look at the light in the bathroom, fix the cooker hood. During time he is there: cooker hood explodes, upstairs washing machine floods, water comes through ceiling; handyman is booked to return again to repaint the kitchen ceiling once the damp has dried out.

February:

Flat finally goes on the market. After panicking for weeks about whether it will sell, it sells in four days,  after an open house viewing. To a cash buyer. Stoke Newington had become ‘that’ kind of place. Go to New York; panic about finding somewhere else to live now we had sold so quickly.

March:

The house hunt in Forest Gate and Manor Park starts. Take afternoon off work and see a house on Godwin Road (with holes in many walls), house on Sebert Road (detached! With huge garden! But which needed complete gutting and starting again) and house on Durham Road (fall in love, immediately put in an offer!). Offer accepted the next day. Start planning work and picking paint colours. Think, well, that was easy. Two weeks later: house falls through after vendor pulls out. Heartbroken, we return to search. See house on Ridley Road (dank, damp and depressing), another house on Sebert Road (open house viewing, sizing up other couples like us, could be amazing, but it again needs gutting, though, I am keen). Call estate agent – house has gone for full asking price offer. Nothing else on market.

April:

Dearth of property; completion date on own sale set for 11th April. Receive kind offer of a room at both parents’ houses. Decide to pack up and do it. See house on Rosedale Road, just south of Romford Road. Could we live there? Beautiful features, needs some work but all liveable. Amazing cornicing and tiles. It’s under budget. My grandparents were born around the corner. It could be fate. We offer. Have gastro-enteritis, find out offer is accepted. Feel numb. Book survey. Pack, pack, move to temporary room in Whitta Road, Manor Park, take more boxes with us than necessary. Ten days later: receive email from old estate agent about a house back on market in Godwin Road (not the one with holes in walls) that we’d seen early in year but was under offer. Bigger house, better location, near Wanstead flats. Decide we should take a look. Other half is away, so I go alone with instructions “if you like it, offer”. Pressured viewing with two other couples. Feel nervous and excited. Love the road. House needs work but area is just perfect. Decide to offer. Go to Cornwall with friends. Offer accepted while standing in middle of a field with limited mobile reception. Jump up and down, then feel immediately guilty about Rosedale. Call other estate agent to pull out. They are sad, but happy as we have just saved the Godwin Road chain from falling through and they act for the house our vendors were buying. All is well again.

May:

Rush to get things in order for exchange at end of month. Everyone keen to move as quickly as possible. Still staying with parents. Exchange date is imminent when we hear that top of chain are now buying a different property and there is a hold up. Everyone is angry. No movement.

June:

Constant calling of agents and solicitors to find out progress. Play the waiting game. Get more angry. Go to stay with friends for a week to give parents a break. Hassle all the agents in chain to no avail. Finally we exchange contracts after everything nearly falls through on day of exchange. Completion date set for 28th June. Day of completion comes. Solicitor’s bank has error and no money leaves their account. Cry at Westfield and cancel our movers. Error is sorted by mid-afternoon, and money starts to move. Solicitor calls to say they sent the wrong amount of money. Everyone panics. Eventually, somehow we all complete at 4.45pm. We finally get keys at 5.30 but don’t get to move in that day. But, we do, finally have a house!

July:

Moving day, but no sign of movers. Swear we are never moving again. Eventually move in 2 days before we go on holiday. Call electrician friend who comes day before we go to look at electrics – find out we need to rewire. Start process of drawing all over the walls night before we go away. Rewire started while in France! Rest of month taken with rewire, dust and more dust. Oh, and a bit of gardening.

August:

Still rewiring. Get the garden in order. Hmm. It was sunny…? Discover lovely restaurants in Wanstead, just a short bus ride away – Tapas, Pub and Italian (actually owned by our electrician’s dad, who sadly recently retired and sold the restaurant).

September:

Rewiring finally finishes! And clean up begins. Forest Tavern opens to much delight. Friends decide they will also try to move to Forest Gate. Remove horrible en-suite bathroom. Decide to redo kitchen. Finally put clothes away, but still have hundreds of boxes as yet unpacked.

October:

Quiet in the house. Move all the boxes to another room, and make a spare room for our first overnight guest. Take up carpet and discover nice floorboards! Duct tape up the holes in her ceiling. Guest comes and loves the house. Phew! Get call from our builder – he’s ready earlier than planned and can start work on the kitchen at beginning of November. Panic buy floor tiles and take trip to Ikea to decide on kitchen.

November:

See great, free, firework display at Wanstead flats. Try to meet up with other friends who moved to the area from Dalston. Fail. Too many people and rain. Work starts on lounge. Give up all living space downstairs and decamp to our bedroom. Lament decision to do kitchen and lounge at same time. Go on holiday! Return to no kitchen. Eat many excellent meals at Forest Tavern and Siam Cafe and have many curries delivered from Sagor in Manor Park (now, also, sadly closed). Have breakfast with a colleague who tells me ‘Everyone is moving to Forest Gate’. Honestly, nobody had heard of it a year ago.

December:

Kitchen starts to take shape. Lounge is painted, orange! Move back into the downstairs of house. Buy A CHRISTMAS TREE from The Old Slate Yard just down the road. Spend happy day decorating tree. Think back to January and feel pleased. Panic about finishing kitchen and diner by Christmas. We are cooking for 11. Have final day with builder where our glass splash-backs don’t fit, and when trying to trim one, it smashes.  He looks like he might cry. We raise a glass to great progress and not worrying about splash-backs. We move yet more boxes and make up the spare room again for Christmas guests. More holes are covered, but this time with pictures. Sofas are moved around. A shower is made in the downstairs bathroom out of a painting pole! Guests arrive, love house. Phew. Diner remains unpainted for Christmas day but we decorate with paper chains and garlands and nobody cares. Oven works, there is a lot of wine and we christen our kitchen and new house with our family. Card is put through door from someone desperate to move to Forest Gate. Friends are still trying to find a house here. Go on weekly run on Wanstead Flats and feel lucky. Paint the dining room on New Years Eve, but don’t mind.

Feel so pleased we made the decision to move when we did.

Resolve that by next Christmas we will have unpacked the rest of the boxes.

Open wine. Rest.

Happy New Year Forest Gaters!

A sigh of relief

We made it to Christmas – and an almost complete kitchen and lounge.

We served Christmas dinner in an unpainted, but newly plastered, room  – but made it work, with the help of paper chains and garlands!

photo 3

Kitchen revamped from dark:

IMG_1590

To light:

photo 1
Ikea kitchen done good
photo 2
Just missing skirting boards and something for the far wall
photo 1
Painted glass splash backs will eventually match the colour of the dining room walls

Lounge gone from dull:

Living room (sans much furniture)

To bold (and Christmassy):

photo 1
We’re loving the Orangery.

Someone said to me, when you’re living through all the mess of your renovation you can’t see the end, but once it’s done, you start to forget it quicker than you thought possible. Obviously at the time I didn’t believe it could be true, but, remarkably, it was. We finished the last bit of work almost a week ago (placing the splash backs, moving furniture back into the living room, rearranging furniture from various parts of the house) but I am now already completely in love with our new rooms. The kitchen is so light and airy, and seems bigger than ever.

(And it was fab to christen the space on Christmas Day with so many people in it. 11 to be exact. And no major breakages.)

We are particularly happy with our table. We’ve always wanted a farmhouse feel to our kitchen (even in East London!) and found a table on ebay that we liked and then found the maker and his entire range online. They makes tables to order from reclaimed wood, with any changes you want (painted legs, drawers added etc). Much discussion has been had about where our table might have come from – the latest theory is we think it’s made from old scaffolding planks. Who knows? But either way, we totally love it:

photo 2

Things to finish off now are: paint the dining room walls, fit new skirting boards in both rooms, fit the window sill in the kitchen, stain and polish the floors and rehang the original doors. But, that’s nothing compared with how far we’ve come, so we aren’t too daunted.

And in the meantime, we have our feet up for a few days. With a functioning kitchen, a warm lounge, and dust free (ish) spaces to enjoy.

Until January, at least.

Downstairs transformation begins

Two weeks ago we had a surprise call from our friend who was scheduled to do work on our house. He had finished a job early and was ready to start, a whole month earlier than planned.

This was obviously great news. But, inevitably panic ensued. For the week before he started suddenly we had to:

  • Pick a kitchen
  • Plan a kitchen layout
  • Order a kitchen
  • Find and buy floor tiles
  • Make final paint decisions
  • Buy paint
  • Try not to have heart palpitations

Needless to say it was a pretty stressful week, but with much help from relatives – and lifts to B&Q and Ikea – we got there. Work started on Tuesday, and while we’re waiting for delivery of the kitchen, it was decided to start on the lounge first.

Here’s how it was looking as you know:

I almost miss this now
I almost miss this now

And, here’s this week’s progress, click one of the images to load the gallery:

The lounge is totally out of action now, and with the kitchen about to be started, we have had to decamp upstairs.

View from the bed
View from the bed

It’s weird. It feels like we’re living in a cheap hotel room. It’s not normal (in my opinion) to have so many electronics in the bedroom. Though, there is the added bonus of watching Newsnight in bed. Oh the luxury.

Next week work on the kitchen begins. The upstairs is filling up with different pieces of furniture moved from different rooms downstairs, and I’m now about to dismantle the kitchen and pack away all the things only recently unpacked.

But, with the help of Ikea, B&Q and the excellent Kristian – we should be on the road to revamp shortly. 6 weeks till Christmas…when we are hosting 9 other people and ourselves.

*heart races* *breathes deeply*

It will be fine. Honest. I’m the picture of calm.

The spare room exists…

While there hasn’t been much building work progress, as I mentioned in my last post, we have been continuing to find things to go in the house – to try to make it liveable for the time being. So, when a close friend who is also doing some decorating, offered us a double bed for our spare room, we jumped at the chance to take it off their hands.

As we are likely to have family staying with us over Christmas, we knew we had to get the spare rooms in some sort of order soonish, so getting this bed gave us a reason to finish clearing all the boxes and rubbish out of there.

A few weeks back, my other half organised a junk clearance company to come and collect all the building materials and things we’d ripped out during the rewire and plumbing work we’d had done. They were fantastic and I jumped up and down in the new spaces we had that were finally clear.  So after a quick hoover, and moving of some doors from the room (we have four original doors which need to be stripped and rehung at somepoint which are stashed away now), we were then ready for our new delivery.

So, here’s the spare room progression from moving in to now.

The week we moved in.
The week we moved in.
Have I made any progress? 8 weeks in.
Have I made any progress? 8 weeks in.
Remains of the old built in wardrobe
No boxes but, the remains of the old built in wardrobe
What a difference a bed makes!
What a difference a bed makes. 12 weeks after moving in we have a workable spare room.

We still need to repair a wall, revamp a window, paint, and decide on what to do about the floor but, for now – it’s starting to look like a room. And cosy! I even picked up a cute clock just in Ikea at the weekend which I thought gave it a homely feel.

So. Now. Who wants to be the first guest?