Many of the houses persisted until the 1960s when some were demolished and replaced with flats. Soon after 1945 I had the pleasure of visiting one of these survivors and a 1902 indenture of the house brought it all back. It is very detailed, starting with the front bedroom which contained, ' a stove with a broken fixed back, a cupboard at side of Fireplace with shelving', - through each room of the house, describing the Venetian blinds, the fixed ironing board, the larder with slate shelves and the wine cellar with wooden bins, a complete stable, 2 mangers, 2 hay racks, a ladder to the loft, bell pull to side gate, the conservatory with 6 shelves, trellis work to the Outside WC and mahogany shelf, Fowl house and Greenhouse.' One could almost rebuild the house from the description.

One feature of the house was surprising. The larder, which led off the kitchen was at ground level and yet had a barrel-vaulted roof as if it was in a cellar. It was very cool; a generous, walk-in larder at a temperature which one would expect to find below ground, so that the sudden change of temperature came as a surprise. Presumably the space above the vault had been filled with broken brick, or shells, or some other traditional insulation to give coolness, and the barrel-vault was necessary to hold the weight.

This was a Jane Austen house. They say that Jane Austen herself never lived in a house with a ceiling. Instead, the joists in her houses were open, exposing the floor­boards of the room above, which must have been very convenient for a novelist storing overheard conversations for future use. She would have visited plenty of houses like this and her characters would have felt at home in these rooms. The lesser houses in Pride and Prejudice could have been filmed in this house, designed to be run with one or perhaps two servants, but it is not of course Mr Bennet's house, which would have been on a vstly different scale.

The house was an excellent example of its period, modernised to an extent, but with the old doors and door frames, small cornices and original windows. There were front and back stairs, for this was a house to be run with servants, with bell-pulls in every room and an array of bells in the kitchen, each tuned to a different note. One can imagine the house full of children, one stationed by each pull, all ringing them at a signal and rushing down the stairs to hear all the bells pealing at once and the cook, driven to distraction,rushing away up the back stairs in hysterics.

PICTURE OF BELLS

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