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Shropshire Archives is open in a phased way from 21 April 2021.

Mystery of the chimney stacks

October 24, 201911:15 amLeave a Comment

During the cataloguing of Ted Picken’s photographs, volunteer Tony Price came across the following intriguing photograph….

Picken photograph of chimney stacks PH/B/34/85/243

He writes….

“In the Ted Picken box was a large photograph of a big house, completely burnt to the ground, with only three large chimney stacks standing.(PH/B/34/85/243)  Two men are looking at the camera.  Could one be the owner?  Elsewhere in the box were several photographs of a large thatched house, being built.  It dawned on me that the crowns of the three chimney stacks and their position to each other were the same – the newly built house and the burnt down one.”

Oakhill House, Oil Mill Lane, Bucknell PH/B/34/85/246

“The photographs (PH/B/34/85/244-247) are of a newly built house.  This was probably to the design of the architect Sir Ernest Newton, who had also worked in Church Stretton and Worcestershire.  It was designed in the style of the Arts and Crafts Movement  The photographs show a newly built large thatched house backing onto Oakhill Wood.  At the time of the photograph the gardens are being planted out.  Also there are workmen posing for the camera.”

“Looking at the burnt out photograph there is no furniture or household goods.  Is it possible that the thatch caught fire before the house could be occupied?”

These fascinating images are part of a collection of over 500 photographs taken by Ted Picken, in Bucknell, which you can browse through online reference PH/B/34/85

Tony and other volunteers have been cataloguing and digitising photographs and prints for several years now. Often this involves detailed research, especially if (as in the case above) the photographs aren’t identified. Solving similar mysteries and uncovering the the stories behind the images can be very satisfying. The work of the volunteers has opened up the photograph and print collections so that you can search and view images online. You can find out more about the Picken photographs on our ‘behind the scenes’ tour on 3 December 2019.

Written by sarahd

3 thoughts on “Mystery of the chimney stacks”

  1. Simonh says:

    You wonder looking at the two pictures if the location could be found as they appear to be from two different angles, if the same building. Thatch fires were so common.

    1. Carol Small says:

      The location is OAKHILL, BUCKNELL, SY70EW.

  2. Carol Small says:

    When I bought Oakhill (April 2004) the previous owner, Mrs Withington, gave me copies of three photographs of the original house (with thatch), the burnt down house (with the three chimney stacks), and the newly rebuilt house (see These had been given to her about 1960 (when she bought Oakhill) by Mrs G. Percy Trentham, who had bought the rebuilt Oakhill in about 1930. The Trenthams were a very well known family; the daughters played double tennis at Wimbledon, and George had been elected Sheriff of London in 1940 but was killed in the blitz before he could take office.

    The house was rebuilt in 1929 (when we replaced the windows we found newspaper cuttings from October 1929 under one of the old window frames. Judging from these photos it was rebuilt almost immediately after the fire because the tree line has hardly changed and because the garden had no time to establish.

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