Sunday, 14 July 2013

HOUSE HISTORY


Once upon a time, in 1886 to be precise, Mousehold Heath, a large scrubby heathland in Norwich, was given to the people and a new house was built for the Park Keeper or Ranger. (Those were the days!) It was called Ranger's House and was quite grand. The land was by this time in the charge of the Mousehold Heath Conservators whose job was to maintain and preserve the Heath. The Ranger, who by the early 1900s was my great grandfather Benjamin Burdett, had to be resident within the bounds of the Heath so that he could patrol it and supervise its use, prevent damage and ensure that "the Heath was available for orderly enjoyment by the people of Norwich."


He was a kind-hearted man, a Quaker, and Granny said that during WW1 he turned a blind eye to young soldiers from the nearby barracks playing cards for money in the long grass, though this was illegal at the time. There would be no fun for them soon enough.
He made a garden at the back...


...and generations of his family were photographed around his happy home.

1900s

1910s - 20s

1930s

His tenure spanned 30 years and he was the longest serving Ranger. I recently found a reference to him in the memoirs of an old Norwich resident - to her and her childhood friends he was "Mussel Man", "Mousehold Man" in Norfolk dialect. I never met him (he died in 1949) and I didn't visit Ranger's House until 2008 when the house, having been empty and neglected for several years, had been bought by an enthusiastic local man with a view to saving it for the city. He hoped he could raise funds to renovate it and turn it into a local and natural history study centre for Mousehold Heath. A huge task.
   

A favourite photograph, above, shows my Granny and her brothers on the front porch with their cycles, in the early 1920s. The view below shows the house with this porch as I first saw it in 2008.
     
2008

Last week we were in Norwich once more and, sadly, there is no happy ending for the house yet. I found a link which shows the devastation vandals have left inside - here.

2013

I believe Ranger's House has recently been sold again at auction - as far as I know I'm the only family member left who cares about what happens next.

                                                         ***

41 comments:

  1. if I had the money Nilly, I'd send it to you so you could buy the house and live there, happily ever after.
    Failing that, I'd buy it- how wonderful to live in a Mousehold Household
    xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are a sweetie! I can't help wondering how the new owners will keep the vandals out...

      Delete
    2. I Live right near there, if you would like me to keep you updated on the progress of it I can, you can contact me via Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/rwarvill

      Delete
  2. This is a sad post the way a once loved family home - no doubt filled with both laughter and sadness - has now fallen into neglect.
    I sometimes wonder about my own home, what will it be like in the future, and will the garden on which we have lavished so much love, attention and care be still here in 100 years time?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes - especially sad if the house is part of the area's history. For me it is the slipping into obscurity of my family's modest history. Maybe a descendant will come across this blog post one day, floating around in internet-land.

      Delete
  3. Nilly, what a story. That house is crying out for a happy ending. Any idea of who has bought it and their future plans?

    Fast forward 90 odd years and that could be you with the bicycle and the boys. And to think you always say you don't think you are interesting? I beg to differ! So there!

    LLX

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've no idea who has bought it - hopefully they will think of a way to keep vandals away, even if it means clearing away trees so that the house is visible from the road.

      Delete
  4. It was a beautiful, obviously very happy house and home. That houses such as this fall into neglect is sad enough, but I can't think why anyone would cause such wilful damage. It's such a shame.

    Like lettice leaf says, let's hope the house ultimately has a happy ending.

    Your family looked very happy there - good on the Mousehold Ranger.
    Axxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish I'd met him! He used to write to my mother up until the end of his life & after his death she would sometimes get out his last letter & read it to me as I sat on her knee. So much more time to think in those days!

      Delete
  5. Ah me Nilly such a poignant tale. Perhaps you will get a chance to help the old house if you can find out more.
    Beautiful family pictures.

    Jean xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes - I haven't given up hope. Every so often I google names & come up with the latest news.

      Delete
  6. What a sad tale. Surely someone will see its potential and bring it back to life ... M x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sadly it's not a great time for enterprise, otherwise it would make a perfect tea room.

      Delete
  7. So many interesting details on that house. Looks like it would take a small(?)
    fortune to restore it. Fingers crossed though......

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It sold for a low price this time so here's hoping the buyers can invest more in it.

      Delete
  8. ~ Here Here!!! some one out there must see just how wonderful this house is..And invest money and time and energy to bring it back to life, once more! the pictures here are amazing, Nilly! Love the one with the lady and the old dog! thanks for sharing this with us all.....hugs Maria x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's my great granny Harriet - thank you, Maria, for your kind comments as always!

      Delete
  9. What a fascinating story and such lovely photographs. Such a shame that vandals have been inside. Let's hope the new owner can restore it to its former glory.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes - as I said in a reply above - it would make a super tea-shop as the Heath is always full of walkers and joggers.

      Delete
  10. Thank you for sharing this tale. Wonderful photographs, so evocative of the times. I really do hope that it will have a happy ending. Lizzie x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe I'll be able to share some good news about the poor old house soon.

      Delete
  11. Anonymous18 July, 2013

    This house is also close to my partners heart as he is from Norwich and he as a boy on Mousehold road just round the corner from Mousehold Heath and the Rangers house where he as a boy spent many happy hours playing on the heath and near the house and at that time there was of course another ranger living there who was also apparently friendly and kindhearted just like your great great grandfather.

    The building is indeed very beautiful in its structure and set in lovely surroundings it just needs someone with imagination and of course money to do something good for it - A Lottery grant comes to mind!!

    How Very very sad that the city of Norwich and its people let such a wonderful old beautiful looking place fall into this state allowing local history and all its memories to die along with it. Shame on Norwich City Council !!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder if that's my lovely friend Lynn?
      I hope your partner used to "enjoy the Heath in an orderly manner" - that's what the Mousehold Heath Conservators ordered!

      Delete
  12. What a lovely post although sad, it was wonderful to look at the photographs of all the people that shared a bit of the houses's history. I'm with ted and bunny, if we could we'd make sure you found your way to live in it so it came full circle. I hope the people who eventually own it bring it back to life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I keep seeing it now as a tea shop for the Heath rather than a home. I do hope that the vandal problem is overcome.

      Delete
  13. THis is a wonderful post Nilly. I hope so much that the house has been bought by someone who will care enough to restore it. Although it is derelict, it does look structurally good...let's hope eh ? Your family photos and the accompanying story is beautiful. Jx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let's hope so Janice - I'm going to keep my eye on the story - many locals really love the place.

      Delete
  14. I think that posts such as this one are so valuable as they keep the past alive. Good karma in the house, surely, and I am hopeful for it's future. Do follow progress and keep us informed, Tilly!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for looking! I do hope this lovely house, part of Norwich's history, is not demolished.

      Delete
  15. Hello there ,lovely to find this when I was doing some World War 1 research. We used to use the Rangers House as a meeting place until Paul, the owner became ill and now we meet at the Heath House PH.. Weare the Mousehold Heath Defenders and together with the Mousehold Heath Conservators , are putting on a fete in July 2014 to raise funds for an information plaque about St Williams Chapel. It will be based on the Fountain Ground just across the Road from the Rangers House. . As it is the Centenary of the start of the Great War next year we have a loose World War 1 theme. We intend to dress in the costume of the time and your photographs are very helpful .
    We have a facebook page Mousehold Fayre and the Defenders have a website
    http://mouseholdheathdefenders.webeden.co.uk/.lease get in touch if you are interested. Clare C

    ReplyDelete
  16. Our family lived in this house for 23 years, so sad to see it like this. So many memories of growing up there and playing in the woods.
    I hope its saved before its too late.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi, there is someone now living in the rangers house and he has a very tall fence going round his property. he is now trying to block a public right of way which leads from the heathgate area through the woods to mousehold avenue. he is blocking it with bits of chopped down trees even though this is outside of his fenced off area. i have been told by council grounds maintenance men and a mousehold defender/conservator that he isnt allowed to do this. he is saying that one guy from the council highways said he could?! how can i find info on this to prove to him that he cannot stop people walking through that woodland area?

    ReplyDelete
  18. Anonymous20 July, 2016

    Hi,

    I'm a digital writer for the EDP and Norwich Evening News.

    I'm keen to write a piece on the former Ranger's House and its history. If anyone has any information on the property or any old photos, feel free to drop me an email:

    courtney.pochin@archant.co.uk

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I lived nearby and as a young child have happy memories playing on the heath and remember the ranger walking around the heath later years one of my friends lived there with her parents and brother / sister happy times .
    Yes it very sad to see the house empty but I visited it on 9/9/16 some one has done a lot work doing it up . On a sad note I do remember a car left for days outside the rangers house rumour had it there was a dead body in the boot if so why was it left so long there , why did the ranger not report it . This was late 70 s

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for these memories!

      Delete
    2. My pleasure. Thankyou for sharing your family history as above love the photos. Paul

      Delete
    3. My pleasure. Thankyou for sharing your family history as above love the photos.

      Delete
    4. My pleasure. Thankyou for sharing your family history as above love the photos.

      Delete
  20. We moved into the Rangers House when I was one, and I left home when I was 20, amazing memories growing up there with my brother and sisters ands our friends.
    I remember my dad who sadly passed away while we were living there had an amazing garden full of fruit trees and plants.
    We sat often in the front porch and remember particularly watching thunderstorms sitting on the bench.
    Very sad to see the house has been vandalised.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very interesting and moving to read your memories Kevin. Thank you.

      Delete
  21. The blog are the best that is extremely useful to keep.
    I can share the ideas of the future as this is really what I was looking for,
    I am very comfortable and pleased to come here. Thank you very much.
    ตารางคะแนนพรีเมียร์ลีก

    ReplyDelete