As an adult I have never really been able to pinpoint when my passion for local heritage began. I assume now my subconscious recognised this in childhood.
I was a young boy immersed into three generations of the Bulmer-Long family history when I visited Heydon Hall in Norfolk.
My maternal grandparents had been in employment with the family from the mid 1930s and lived in the Dower House on the estate where my mother and aunt were also born. On Sunday family gatherings I regularly listened to the chat about the connection with the hall and the stories about the lifestyle of the inhabitants, which fascinated me even then.
My grandfather was chauffeur and gardener to the resident family. He was a practical man, having been a fireman during the Second World War. ‘There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do’ people said of him.
My grandmother was head cook and central to running domestic duties. The pinnacle of her employment was preparing a meal for Queen Mary when she visited the family.
I recall as a child being moved by the grandeur of the surroundings and the beauty of the architecture. The aesthetic care in the design of even the most utilitarian items in the house, made them worthy objet d’art.
During the 1980s I felt exposed to the modernisation of our lives. Whilst family and friends were rejoicing over the growing trends for mod cons and gadgets, I by contrast, felt a sense of loss for a time that had become unfashionable. After all society was being encouraged to reject what remained of the British Empire.
During the restoration of my first property, a Victorian terrace, I wanted the house to be a true representation of the past and reflect an era and world it was built in. I made a conscious decision to preserve and safeguard what was left of our heritage, which I sensed was undergoing a slow decay.
Visual detail and accuracy was important but I also wanted to evoke an emotional response in people that indulged them in the nostalgia of times past.