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Remember When: A digital glimpse into life from a bygone age
LIFE on an English country estate in the 1700s is being revealed to the world through a digital archive.
More than 6,000 housekeepers’ receipts, workers’ timesheets as well as 18th century maps of Cheshire have been scanned, and reveal how things have changed around Arley Hall and Gardens during the past 300 years.
Historian Charles Foster headed the team who assembled the records and built the website.
“I’m hoping there will be historians all over the world who will be interested in these records because they are unique to England,” he said.
Charles, 81, is married to Jane, sister of the current Lord Ashbrook, whose ancestors have lived at Arley for 500 years.
His interest in documenting Arley’s history began many years ago when Jane’s mum opened a cupboard and revealed 800 medieval documents.
He has since sifted through more than 10,000 records collected from the hall and the John Rylands Library in Manchester to put together the archive.
Among the archives on the new website is a 1744 map of Arley, which shows a moat around the hall, a road cutting through the estate and no sign of the award-winning gardens the place is known for today.
A further plan of the estate from 1786 shows the elegant park known to today’s visitors starting to appear, along with the first walled garden.
The archives also reveal the eating habits of the Warburton family thanks to receipts from the housekeeper, Elizabeth Whitaker, who had a range of recipes, even featuring one for turtles that included using their blood and fins.
It also details the clothes that were bought, tools used in the gardens and on the estate, and the money spent on the care of the horses.
On the business side it details the rents and taxes paid and the invoices for building and milling.
Estate employee timesheets record the variety of jobs that had to be done, such as picking up stones from fields after they had been ploughed.
The website went live at a party at Arley Hall, which also saw the launch of Charles’ new book The Fabric of Society and How it Creates Wealth, which he co-wrote with Professor E Jones.