House History - it's more recent than you think!
You may think it’s not for you, but you can still make use of the History Centre, even if you don’t have ancestors that come from Wiltshire. If you are a Wiltshire resident, we have information that can be of use to you relating to where you live. Even if your house is relatively modern (for example the 1960s) we will have maps showing what the site originally looked like and the names of former occupiers. I’d like to take you through just some of the sources we hold to detail what may be available about your house.
We hold building applications from the late 19th century up until the council re-organisation of the 1970s (after this date the council’s area offices should hold copies on microfiche). These applications were for new builds and when converting or changing existing buildings.
Each district council required specifications for every new housing development and surveyors’ maps and plans are available at the History Centre. They show the scale of the new housing development and also give the size of plots, road names etc. We do not have a set for every area but take a look, you may be lucky!
We also hold some ‘New Houses’ ledgers which the district councils used for their stock of council houses. They date back to the 1930s and give the name of the builder, date construction began, the type of house, and change in street name or numbering. Often the names of the first tenant and date they were due to move in are also listed. Again, as is often the case, not every ledger has survived, but they are worth considering. Rate/Valuation books also contain the name of the owner and/or occupier and the rateable value of the house. These date up to the 1960s.
Newspapers can be an interesting source of information. Many new housing estates were advertised in the local paper and, if you know the date your house was built, you can find out how it was portrayed when first sold. Our newspapers are available to view on microfilm but they are very popular; please call us to book before you visit.
The electoral register is an invaluable source for tracing the names of former occupiers after the last available census (currently 1911). The registers can be searched by address and at present are available up to 2012. Town street directories can be found in the Local Studies library and date from the late 19th century to the 1960s (we also hold old telephone directories pretty much to date). They are another way of tracing occupiers and also for taking a look at the shops and other amenities available in Wiltshire towns, a snapshot in time...
Talking of snapshots, old photographs can give a fascinating insight into how an area has changed over the years. Our Wiltshire Historic Photographic and Print Collection is available online and contains thousands of images dating right up to the present day. You can search by place, street or person.
Our Community History project is also ongoing and aims to trace the history of each Wiltshire parish, giving an idea of how your locality has changed over the years. It also includes useful information, such as which newspapers give best coverage for your parish.
My aim has been to show that there’s something here at the History Centre for everyone, and I hope that you’ll visit us soon. Of course, if your house is much older then we have additional material which you will find useful, such as census returns, sales particulars, tithe maps, Inland Revenue 1910 valuation maps, deeds and wills. We have produced a beginner’s guide to house history to help guide you through these additional sources.
If you are planning a visit, give us a call and we can pre-order the material for you to have it ready and waiting, and don't forget your digital camera - many items are too large or tightly bound to photocopy (charge for a daily licence is £6).
My aim has been to show that there’s something here at the History Centre for everyone, and I hope that you’ll visit us soon.
Happy house hunting!
Local Studies Assistant