Discover a time capsule of interwar life at the Worksop home of the Straw family who decided to leave their house unchanged for many decades. Opening the door of 7 Blyth Grove is like taking the time machine back to the 1920s. The house is a treasure chest of fascinating objects, fashions and memories from interwar Britain.
When William Straw Jr died in 1990, he left the contents of his house to the National Trust, despite being too frugal to pay for membership while he was alive. Staggered by the material they found, the Trust purchased the property, opting to display the house as they found it.
This peculiar story began when William Straw Sr, the owner of the local grocery shop, moved his family into the house in 1923. His wife, Florence, by now in her fifties, had looked forward to running her own house for years. She oversaw a programme of improvements that made the house the height of fashion. The electrical system was modernised, an up-to-date bathroom and kitchen installed, and the house was decorated throughout with new carpets, wallpaper and paint. However, upon William Sr’s death nine years later, the family took the eccentric decision to keep the house as it was.
They left his coats hanging in the corridor, and is pipes and tobacco were not moved from the fireplace in the dining room. The 1932 calendar next to the fireplace was never replaced with a new one. Florence now spent a lot of her time in the sitting room, and after she died in 1939, that room was left largely undisturbed. The curtains were drawn and rarely opened again. Her Bible remains on the table, and her music scores still sit on the piano stool.
The couple’s two bachelor sons, William Jr and Walter, lived in the house together for the next 50 years. Averse to change, very little was altered in the time that they occupied it, and they were loath to throw anything away. Piles of papers and correspondence litter the house, and the two spare bedrooms contain many artefacts and trinkets including a Second World War ARP helmet and a foot-operated vacuum cleaner.
The brothers had a life of regular routine, with Walter looking after the grocery shop while William stayed at home and maintained the house. On an evening, each would retire to his chair by the fire to discuss the day’s events and read the paper.
It is impossible to tour the house without feeling a desire to meet the family. Did Florence’s grief over the loss of her husband kick-start the process by which the house was preserved? Were the boys trying to create the shrine to their father and mother? Did they always intend to create a historical record for future generations, befitting their interest in local history? There are clues scattered around the house in abundance to help historians try to get the bottom of the puzzle of why this became the house that time forgot.
Mr Straw’s House, 7 Blyth Grove, Worksop, Nottinghamshire S81 0JG, 01909 482380