When I first cast my eye over the entry for Accession 13610 'Zurich Financial Services deeds and other papers relating to Evesham' I didn't expect to get drawn into the remnants of a family dispute.
I opened the first un-prepossessing box of deeds and the first deed was for a bargain and sale for 17th July 1637 and mentioned a property in the occupation of one Alyce. That's my daughter's name. That's a good omen.
'…in the possession or occupation of one Thomas Kinge deceased and late in the tenure or occupation of one Alyce Tolley..'
On the West side lay the property of Peter Ffrensham and to the East, a property occupied by Anne Clemens.
And so I plodded, slowly getting to grips with the rusty land law floating around in my brain that hadn't been tinkered with for nigh-on 20 years, trying to root out clauses and the little clues that make out one transaction from another.
The property passed between bookseller to apothecary, apothecary to bookseller until 1739, when 'Joseph Preedy hath bought and purchased of …Thomas Lingen …half part of a messuage or Tenement with it's appurtenances scituate [sic] in the Bridge Street in Evesham now in the possession use or occupation of Thomas Andrews Apothecary and before then in the possession of Ann Ballard widow deceased who was the Grandmother of Ann Lingen Wife of the above-bounden Thomas Lingen'.
In a bond of 25 August 1739 between Thomas Lingen and Joseph Preedy was detailed a claim by George Ballard:
'George Ballard doth pretend to have or claim some right or title to the said premisses'
And there in the midst of an inheritance wrangle, someone's family tree was neatly laid out and their disagreement condensed to a single legal document.
Intrigued as to why this property was so hotly contested, I wanted to find what was left of the plot. It looked promising. The Worcestershire Pevsner mentioned ' a good late C18 group' on Bridge Street and 'more C16-C17 timber-framed remnants behind No.64…with probably medieval buttressing'. I might even get to have a look at this property.
The trade directories didn’t glean much. I scoured for entries for 55 Bridge Street. Littlebury's Directory of the County of Worcester, 1879 shows that were a number of milliners, a Mrs Emma Harwood ran a Berlin wool depot and Mrs Eliza Mace had a cane and rush working business. There were two chemists, one Richard Loxley Dingley 9pharmaceutical) and Thos. New (dispensing and family) and booksellers, shoemakers, banks, auctioneers. But nothings for number 55. The list of residents didn't include a 55 Bridge Street either.
So I asked Andie in the Historic Environment Record to have a look for 55 Bridge Street and to see what description there might be. There seemed to be a plot clearly marked in the OS first edition.
But there was - nothing. Number 51, but not 55. As a last resort, he looked at street view and there it was, the subject for all the argy-bargy between George and his sister Ann: a pound shop. A 1980s brick-built pound shop.
I wonder if George Ballard would still contest the ownership now. I think he probably would.