Wednesday, August 15, 2012

House for sale

Mary Wollstonecraft's life was changed in Newington Green, and a house that she knew there has just come up for sale. It's salutary to compare its glossy restoration to what is can be seen in her birthplace, Spitalfields. 

If you have £1.8 million to negotiate with, then have a look at the famous terrace on the west of the green. The house in question, number 55, appears to be next door to that of Rev Dr Richard Price, who entertained so many of the luminaries and radicals of the late eighteenth century. "The Village that Changed the World" says it "is considered to be the oldest surviving terrace in England ... and was restored between 1987 and 1996." (Street numbering around the green has changed at least once.) The estate agents say:
A rare opportunity to acquire this stunning Grade I listed house, offering over 3100 sq ft of sympathetically restored accommodation over five floors.... The property has been beautifully refurbished by the current owners and retains the majority of its wonderful period features, including an impressive original staircase, panelling and window shutters. Unusually for a property of this type, the house has a central staircase giving two generously proportioned rooms on each of the four floors. 
A couple of miles south is the City of London. Spitalfields has risen and fallen over the centuries; in 1759 it was still thronged with silkweavers (not least Wollstonecraft pere et fils); now it is on the up again. Wander its closely packed streets, as twilight closes in and the house lights go up, and through many of the uncurtained windows you can observe what I call Restoration dramas, people living their twenty-first century lives in old buildings on display to the world. Some are merely boring "luxury" flats with gleaming kitchens that could be anywhere, but many of these terraced houses have now been brought back to eighteenth century elegance. There are panelled parlours full of gentlemen's furniture, displayed as set pieces for the viewer's delectation, waiting for the actors to walk on. (And no, I'm not talking about Dennis Severs' House.) On Fournier Street, one of these substantial houses is for sale, for those with £2.5 million. Estate agent says: 

A simply superb four bedroomed house... boasting a unique and charming interior throughout, private garden and a location ideal for all local amenities....Reception room with fireplace and storage, dining room, kitchen with integrated appliances, excellent sized master bedroom with fitted wardrobes and stylish en suite shower room, second bedroom with modern en suite bathroom, two additional good sized bedrooms with storage space, lovely bathroom, utility room with space for appliances and a garage/store room.
Look at the photographs, both of the bones of the houses, and what has been done to them. One similarity I noticed was the interior doors. It takes an effort of will to feel one's way back into the time when Mary Wollstonecraft would have known them.


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