An Valuable Addition to the TRH Team

This article is based on an interview with Nick Tyson who has recently joined our website team to increase our capability in the area of House Histories, with his specialist expertise in the area of historic buildings. The interview covers Nick’s unique experience in this topic as the Curator of a Heritage Centre. the challenges involved in this kind of research and the main contributions he can make to our website venture.

What can you tell us about the Heritage Centre?

I am Curator at The Regency Town House Heritage Centre in Brighton & Hove, (www.rth.org.uk). House history has been the major theme of my work there for several decades; the main objective has been to share with local residents the history of the houses they occupy

What were the other phases of your career before you took on this role?

I had a varied career in a number of sectors, including roles in the Ceramics, Biochemistry, Genetics and IT sectors

What are the best parts of the job?

For me, the best parts of the job are, firstly the quiet moments in an archive, or during a site survey when new discoveries are made. It is also very satisfying to reveal a house history to occupants. Finally there is the buzz I get from planning and developing new projects

What has gone well and what have been the particular challenges?

Raising interest in house history and recruiting volunteers to process documentation has progressed very well.  Finding the funds to support work is often more challenging, as is designing website functionality when the data sets for an area become varied and very large.

What are the particular skills and behaviours that are needed to achieve success in your side of House History Research?

I think it’s a great help to be enthusiastic about the work. Patience and persistence are useful too, along with a bit of lateral thinking every now and again.  Because a lot of my work is based on fabric analysis, a strong working understanding of historic building materials and methods is required.

How difficult is it to meet the expectations of those who want their houses researched?

Some clients welcome all information that can be found about a building and have budgets, requirements and timetables that are easy to work with.  Others want only certain pieces of information and are not interested in the wider picture.  Occasionally, a client can have an interest in a building with very ancient origins and this might involve working with deeds and other records written in Latin, old French and old English, which slows the research effort and pushes up cost.  Similarly, if it is necessary to conduct detailed empirical work, timeframes and costs can quickly escalate, which is not to everyone’s taste!

What are the most popular misconceptions around House History Research?

That a brief read about the local history of an area will reveal all that’s to be known and that the work can be conducted quickly.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to research their house?

Think about what you really want, or need, to know.  Are you just interested in the people associated with the property?  Do you want the social history context that aligns with their occupation?  What is the timeframe that’s of interest to you, perhaps it’s just the Edwardian inhabitants?  Do you need information about how the site has changed structurally and functionally through time?  The better you can set out what seem to be your objectives and the needs for them, the easier it is to define a way forward.

What made you agree to join the Tring Rural History team?

I received a thoughtful invitation from Clive Reedman, with whom I have worked before and the venture seemed an interesting one. I know that the volunteers and village inhabitants are interested to develop the buildings side of house histories as well as researching past occupants. I also know that there are some interesting buildings in the three villages which I am looking forward to investigating.

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