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House Histories: The Secrets Behind Your Front Door [Hardcover]

Melanie Backe-Hansen
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
Price: 13.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

22 Jun 2011
Britain's leading house historian uncovers the hidden stories and secrets of ordinary and extraordinary houses across the country. The wide range of houses, from workers' cottages to aristocratic mansions, offers a unique insight into our social and architectural history. Tudor farmhouses, Georgian town houses, modernist twentieth-century designs and converted factories all have a tale to tell. Melanie Backe-Hansen digs into the past of homes once occupied by famous figures such as H.G. Wells and Benjamin Disraeli, 'Miss Moneypenny' and the Second World War SOE recruits. Details of the daily lives of ordinary people emerge from the railway and fishermen's cottages or silk weavers' terraces in which they lived. From Hampstead Garden Suburb to the slum clearances of Manchester's Hulme, the reader is taken through the centuries of change experienced by each house, exploring past occupants and architectural alterations. Entries are illustrated with a range of historic maps, photographs, prints, archive records and contemporary images. As a nation we are obsessed by property: prices, interior design and restoration, and the creation of a home. Now there is another avenue to explore: your house's history. House Histories helps readers get started by outlining the main research sources and how to use them.

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House Histories: The Secrets Behind Your Front Door + Historic Streets & Squares: The Secrets On Your Doorstep
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (22 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752457535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752457536
  • Product Dimensions: 27 x 20 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 88,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


Melanie Backe-Hansen is apparently the first House Historian to be employed by an estate agent. The majority of properties on the market might not have any significant history ( as in age and interesting former occupants), but in the case of the prestigious Chesterton and Humberts, who deal with many of the older type of property, it is such a good idea that one can't help wondering why nobody thought of it before. In light of the general rise in interest of the general public with all things historic in recent years, a book about her work would be the inevitable result, sooner or later. The jacket cover features the very attractive front door of an (unnamed) property in Bath, a lovely photograph, as they all are, and1is a very competetive price for such a well presented book. I found it to be an interesting and enjoyable read. On opening the book, the temptatuion to check the Contents list immediately to see if any of the properties featured are in your patch, is overwhelming, and I gave in right away. I was pleased to see several in mine (the West Country). This prompted me to check the locations of the rest, and I discovered that the majority were in and around London, there were a few in the Midlands, only one in Wales and none at all from North of the border. Presumably Chesterton and umberts have no offices there. The introduction gives lots of useful information, tips and advice for the novice House historian, before it launches into the first of ninety properties - you certainly get your money's worth. Most are dealt with in easily digested, one ot two page chunks, with many small photographs of diagrams, drawings, deeds and census pages, and other relevant documents which surfaced during the enquiry. There were a few reproductions of original photographs, and additional nuggets of information that put the building or the street in its context socially, then and now, and the people who inhabited them. Details such as their names and ages of wives and husbands and their children, bring the histories of the houses to life. If you want to know more, the Further Reading list at the end of the book is very complete at almost five pages long. There is also a complete list of all illustrations and where they may be found, should you wish to view them yourself. To conclude, House Histories would be a god addition to a library or reading room, and would make a lovely gift. --Journal of the Open History Society

About the Author

MELANIE BACKE-HANSEN is the first House Historian to be employed by an Estate Agent (Chesterton Humberts). She writes a regular column for various magazines and newspapers. Melanie has also featured on numerous TV and radio programmes. This is her first book. She lives in London. Have a look at her blog, The House Historian at http://property-blog.chestertonhumberts.com/ The blog won the 2009 Prime Location Best Newcomer award

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well researched and insightful book 10 Nov 2011
By Mike
House Histories is a pleasure to read with a wealth of history and background information behind each property. This book details the changes of ownership, occupations and human histories to give an engaging and insightful view behind a broad selection of properties and their former occupants.

Well worth a read and an inspiration to find out more about the life and times of houses in our local area.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really Interesting Read 10 Nov 2011
House Histories is a fantastic book. It isn't a book about buildings, but about the people who lived within them, the fascinating lives of all the many and different people who have called the houses in the book home.

I was fascinated by stories of the individuals and families who lived inside each of the houses. There is such a wide selection of houses, from little cottages to big homes, you get such an interesting cross section of life in the UK across the centuries. It really made me interested in finding out who had lived in my own home before me!

This isn't a book about architectural history, it's about human history, who people were and how they lived. Really fun book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Super book that works on many levels. 22 Aug 2012
If you like history or architecture or you're maybe a little bit nosey about celebrities - even dead ones - you'll love this book. Melanie Backe-Hansen, who researched most of this on behalf of a posh London estate agent (an obvious innovation you'd think, but a great idea nonetheless), has produced a handsome and fascinating book which gives the histories of several dozen dwellings around the country. They range from cottages though country manors to swanky terraced properties in London's grandest squares. And in date from medieval times right up to inter-war Gropius (I'm not a fan, just pointing out range!). The book is beautifully produced in three column format and extremely rich in pictures: interior and exterior photos; portraits; documents; and best of all from my point of view - sections of lovely old maps. If you fancy having a go yourself at the house history thing, the opening chapter gives an excellent introduction to how you can go about it, what documents you need, where and how to find them, etc. I really enjoyed this book and I'm certain I'll return to it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and delightful book 7 Aug 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this book as a birthday present for my mother and the report back has been excellent; the information is well researched and beautifully illustrated. As well as including properties close to my parental home the book also features lovely and interesting houses throughout the UK.

I can highly recommend this book to anyone even moderately interested in residential architecture and social history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasure to own & a mine of information 6 Aug 2012
Having always been fascinated by the social history of the houses we live in (I write as someone who was determined to buy our current , little old brickmakers house because of the marks of the hobnail boots in some of the bricks around the fireplace...) this book went straight on to my 2011 Christmas list. It is a great book to dip into for pleasure, or read with greater concentration to help you learn more about the homes we sometimes take for granted. They have stories to tell, and Melanie Backe-Hanson offers many wonderful houses the opportunity to shine. There is also a fabulous reading list at the back which really helps you focus on particular areas of interest, something I have used in my researches into homes in Islington.

Would heartily recommend this to anyone interested in social history and it would be a great addition to any reference library.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written with real visual appeal 2 Aug 2012
Bought this book some time ago and I have already read it twice. Fascinating and intriguing secrets to be had behind our front doors. Each chapter is more intriguing than the last and gives our humble homes real personality.
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