Peter and Sue Cullimore’s Georgian home in the Montpelier area of Bristol was shortlisted for the TV history programme ‘A House Through Time’.  The BBC eventually chose a rival property near the city centre for its new four-part series in Bristol.

But despite narrowly missing out, the couple were inspired to become house history detectives themselves and then write a book about their experience. Peter and Sue re-discovered an assortment of amazing and colourful characters who’ve lived at 60 Fairfield Road over the centuries before them.

These include: a shady French aristocrat whose parents were guillotined in the Revolution; a Quaker philanthropist who twice married into slave-owning local families; an aptly named brewer, Jacob Crook, who tried to sell 60 Fairfield Road when he wasn’t the owner; the Phippen sisters, who ran early schools in Bristol for destitute girls; and a present-day mover and shaker in the city, Penny Gane, who chairs Bristol Women’s Voice.

The book, entitled ‘Saints, Crooks and Slavers’, combines the history with a step-by-step guide for readers on how to research past residents of their own home. There are tips at the end of each chapter on using property deeds, family ancestry websites, Censuses and other sources available to the public.

Peter, a retired TV journalist who worked for Radio Bristol back in the 1980s, admits it’s been a steep learning curve for him and Sue. She is a former senior lecturer in Education at the University of the West of England and compiled the research tips with advice from staff at Bristol Archives.

Peter said: “We’ve been living here for over 30 years. But just because you own or rent a house doesn’t suddenly make you an expert on its history and past residents. Yet it’s amazing what you can pick up very quickly if you put your mind to it, and with a little help from friends.”

He added: “House history detective work is time-consuming, quite addictive and can drive your family mad. But it’s the most fun I’ve ever had on a laptop!

“We hope our experience will encourage many others to delve into the secrets of their own house through time.”

‘Saints, Crooks & Slavers’ (ISBN 9781909446243) is lavishly illustrated with photos and historical maps. Published by Bristol Books it costs £12 and is available directly from Peter and Sue Cullimore by emailing petercullimore@blueyonder.co.uk or online at www.bristolbooks.org.

The book is also available from Max Minerva’s Bookshop in Westbury Park and Better Food’s outlets in St Werburgh’s, Whiteladies Road and Wapping Wharf. It will also be available to buy at Bristol Archives when it reopens later in the summer.

 

Mike Davies
Author: Mike Davies