I like to browse through Google maps to see if the old houses in which my ancestors lived are still standing. It is especially neat when I have an old photo taken of those people, or that location. Being able to actually see the old buildings gives one a better perspective of what it might have been like to live there…and then.
We are fortunate that so many of our ancestors came from the British Isles and that so many of the old homes have not been demolished. I have found some old family homes in England and Scotland although further back than 200 years some are now in ruins. Other houses and places of employment were lost during the blitzes of WWII, so unless some family photo is found we will never know what those buildings looked like.
Google maps gives us an opportunity to not only see the street on a map but also to look at it from a bird’s eye view on a satellite image. And then to have the street view as well and the ability to rotate the images to look at the neighbourhood in three dimensions is a real plus.
The house pictured below is located at 23 Priory Terrace, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England. My great-grandaunt, Emma Jane (Pearson) Wray lived here for many years. The left postcard photo was taken in 1909, with Emma standing out front; the right side is a capture from Google street view in 2016. The early picture was taken by James Pearson, one of Emma’s nephews who had stayed with her.
Emma Jane is listed on the 1911 English census at the address along with three lodgers: Mrs. Mary Beatrice Morgan and her sister, Miss Sarah Grace Purton, in one apartment, and Miss Mary Burns, renting a single room. The residence was called Moorhouse at the time, which name can be read on the pillar of the fence next to the entrance, and Emma’s occupation was indicated as “Board Residents & Apartments Occupied.” Boy, she must still have rattled around in the place, even with her renters. She did like to have company, though, and many nephews and nieces apparently came to visit from time-to-time.
Emma and my grandfather kept in touch over the years after he immigrated to Canada in 1907 and until her death in 1951. She remembered him, and his children in her will which I wrote about here in December 2016 (three posts: What can you find out from a will?). She sent my grandfather another picture taken in 1920. On the back she noted a bit of family and house history – that the house had been renamed Greystoke Lodge after WWI – also indicating that she had lived at this location in 1907. Not much appears to have changed in the interim decade between when the two photos were taken.
From the outside, the building appears to have had little done to it, other than vegetation being striped away. Many buildings in the UK are listed as Heritage structures which prevents major changes from being made, at least on the street side. The one on Priory Terrace owned by Aunt Emma does not, but it has been preserved very well, along with several others on the street. You can search the protected buildings at the Historic England website to see if any ancestral homes have heritage status. They say on their home page that, “Nearly 400,000 of the most important historic places in England are listed. The List includes buildings, battlefields, monuments, parks, gardens, shipwrecks and more. Listing makes sure their value is protected.”
I was interested in seeing whether the house had been sold recently and whether any other photos were available. Luck was with me when I searched for 23 Priory Terrace and came on the Rightmove website. Not only were there photos from a 2014 listing, there was also a floorplan and a recent history on when it had been sold. The single side of the duplex is about 3,100 square feet in size over three floors. It had fetched £420,000 in 2003 and £650,000 in 2013. It’s current valuation, according to a list on Zoopla is £837,000.
The three Victorian-style duplexes on the street were built toward the end of the 19th century. Ordnance maps show vacant land in 1885 and constructed houses in 1904. Each of the duplex residences have different styles of gabled structures projecting from the river sides. The 1904 map shows the various shapes and sizes of the buildings although from the front they look the same.
From Google maps you can see the houses on Priory Terrace from above, from the street and in three dimensions in oblique views. You can rotate the views as well to see the buildings from all angles, which is really outstanding.
The webpage showing the 2014 listing information also had copies of photos taken of the interior of the home at the time it was put up for sale. The ground floor looks like it has 10 to 12-foot cove ceilings; the first floor appears to have 8 to 9-foot ceilings with cove mouldings. Great care was obviously taken to preserve the original style. The kitchen/dining room was very tastefully modernized. I suspect the house may not have originally had the 4 ½ bathrooms and ensuites. The rear yard has been expertly landscaped.
The mycounciltax.org.uk website show current property taxes are £2,149 per year. On the 192.com website there was even information about nearby services, schools and crime statistics. There had been 19 crimes with 0.1 miles, the most common being for “anti-social behaviour.”
It’s amazing what you can find out from a click of the mouse. From many different online sources we can see today what the home looks like, outside and in. We can also find out a great deal of information about its value. Personal correspondence from an early owner tells us more about the history of the home.