Mary and Her Family
We were honored recently to have a former inhabitant of Eagle House come to take tea with us and share her memories of a happy childhood, spent growing up here, in the mid-20th century.
Introduced to us through one of our lovely Eccleshall neighbours, we spent a fascinating afternoon, hearing her recollections and telling us how the house has changed since she lived here.
Mary lived in the house from her birth, and during the fifties and sixties until she moved out in her early twenties when she married. She lived here with her parents and 2 other siblings.
Her Aunt also lived in the flat at the top of the house for some of that period, which we now have as the Eagle’s Nest Self Catering Apartment. We were surprised to learn this, as hadn’t realized that this part of the house had been a flat so far back in time. We had presumed it had been turned into one by the previous owner to us, whose sister and her husband had lived in it.
While she lived here, the house was further divided up into a one bedroom cottage and was often rented out to various tenants. This part of Eagle House has now been incorporated into the main residence and makes up our private living quarters. We suspect this was done recently by the previous owner to us, but we are unsure if this was always separate living accommodation, going back to its original purpose as a Poor House. She told us that the cottage shared internal doors to the main house, that could be locked off, if it was being rented out.
Mary’s family owned a Pottery (since closed) that had been passed down their generations. The good Staffordshire clay soil is famous for being used in this industry and we have a large amount of it in the garden. Her parents bought the house together not long before she was born, having also considered purchasing the nearby and much larger, privately owned Johnson Hall. They employed a full time Gardener here, a Cleaner three times a week and there was a Housekeeper and Odd Job man living in the cottage to help as well. Her mum did all the cooking though and she remembers her at the Rayburn in the kitchen, behind the large wooden table or at the sink, which remains in the same position today.
The garden was a lot larger then than it is now. Land has been sold off over the years and houses built on their plots. She remembers playing hide and seek in the orchard at the bottom of the garden and a beautiful large vegetable patch which also contained 2 separate greenhouses. The garden also had many formal rose beds, her Father’s favourite and I am glad it still contains roses, fruit bushes and vegetables today, just not on such a grand scale!
There was also an outside loo in the garden and a coal house, long since removed and a arched walk way to get from the yard area to the garden. The buildings round the yard have changed since she lived there, although they seem to roughly occupy a similar foot print. One is now a single story room instead of two and the walk way is now part of the house. We have two Stone Eagles on the brick wall in this area that weren’t present when Mary lived here but the black and white railings were, along with some gates, which have been removed at some point since.
The three garages remain. Mary remembers her mother and father and her aunt having a car each and using them to drive to the nearby factory for work or to the Railway Inn, which is now a private residence.
The room that we use for our Guest Lounge, the Library, she remembers calling the Drawing room and was mostly used for best. It had a Grand Piano in the corner that her father would play when they had people round to visit and the room contained French antique furniture.
The Grand Hall remains pretty similar to when she lived here. The lovely staircase is a replica of the one she remembers, but now in a lighter wood and it also had a grand light fitting, like we do. The original black and red tiles though have been replaced and some were saved by the previous owner to us and re-laid in the back corridor. She remembers being scared of the cellar, having being told the house was once a prison (which we can find no record of) and refused to go down there. Her parents kept the cellar door covered with a curtain so it wouldn’t frighten her. We are happy to report that although we keep the door locked, nothing bad has happened to is down there yet! An old lady did get chatting to me outside the house shortly after we moved in and told me she had happy memories of playing in the cellar with her friend that lived there, as a small child. Presumably this was before Mary’s time!
Our “drawing room” she remembers has her Lounge and Dining room, the still existing folding doors making the space useful for sectioning off to keep in the heat in the winter. Only she used it the other way round to us, with the dinning table in the larger section and the Lounge area in the smaller, that was warmed by the heat form the kitchen Rayburn coming through the adjoining wall.
The house of course had no central heating in those days and was reliant on the fire places being lit to keep the house warm, which have been removed at some point in history. Due to this they had heavy curtains at all the windows and kept all the door closed.
None of the rooms had ensuites as they all do now but many of the bedrooms had a sink in the corner and they had one large family bathroom next to an airing cupboard, which is now our daughter’s bed room. The ensuites in room 1 and 3 (created by the previous owner to us, to turn the house into a Bed and Breakfast) were large walk in wardrobe type cupboards.
Mary solved the mystery of the strange door that seemed to be in between the floor levels on the stairs landing, for us. If you knock on the wall you can hear that it isn’t as solid and we have a photo of when the house was being renovated by the previous occupier to us, that shows a boarded up opening. We wondered if all the floor levels had once been in a different place but the answer is much simpler than that. Mary tells us it was a large cupboard that they would keep their suitcases in and that is now part of the ensuites.
Sadly She was unable to solve another mystery though. We have an unreadable word scratched into a first floor window pane in old fashioned looking curly writing. I liked to think it might be the name of a naughty school girl who used to live there when it was a boarding school in the Victorian era. Unfortunately, Mary has no recollection of it. Perhaps it is a more recent addition after all.
She also had no memory of the Victorian warming pan that we found stashed away in the corner of an attic when we moved in. People had probably moved onto hot water bottles by then!
Room 2 and its ensuite were 2 separate bedrooms when Mary lived here. The bedroom being changed to bathrooms by the previous owner to us and our laundry room was the cottages dinning/kitchen area. It contained a pantry with a cold slab area for storing perishable food and did not have a window like it does now as there was a chimney breast going up there. This has been removed at some point and windows added to this room and the old cottage bedroom above.
In regards to the flat, the bathroom and kitchen may have swapped places since then and there may have been one big room, rather than a separate lounge and bedroom as is it is now. The corridor also carried on here and now the lounge has been opened up instead. You can see a notch in the old ceiling beam where the corridor wall may have been.
But overall, we were happy to hear that a lot of the house is the same as it was fifty years ago. The basic lay out is the same, the lovely original windows and shutters and beautiful cornicing and plastering work to the ceilings in the now Drawing Room and Grand Hall were the same as was the landing stain glass window. Mary says her parents didn’t do any work changing the layout of the house that she can remember when they lived there but she does remember them maintaining it, especially touching up the exterior white paint work when needed.
Leaving Eagle House
Sadly Mary’s father died and her mother decided to sell Eagle House in 1969, to move to a smaller, residence locally. Mary thinks she remembers her mother saying it sold for about Nine Thousand Pounds or there abouts.
Mary kindly brought along the Sales brochure from 1969, when her mother sold Eagle House and we have framed a copy of it and placed it on the wall outside the library. It makes an interesting read and has a lovely black and white photo of the back of the house, showing the Rose beds and the extra chimneys.
She also showed us the sales brochure from when the house was on the market in 2007, that she happened to have. This has quite a few photos that revealed to us there used to be wood wall paneling in our Drawing Room and two Romanesque looking pillars in the Grand Hall. We also like the idea of the Grand Hall being used as a games room with a pool table and dart board in the picture!
We really enjoy learning about the history of our house and are very grateful to Mary for spending time with us, sharing her memories and our neighbour for introducing us. If you have any old photos, Sales brochures or information on the house, please get in touch, we would love to hear your memories too!