There are old beams throughout the properties, but all (yes, all) are boxed in. As such, we couldn’t tell what the beams look like or even the condition of them – it would not be unusual for these beams to suffer from woodworm or even worse.
So we decided to take some of the cladding off in one of the cottages. The beams aren’t particularly unusual – rough sawn on one side and curved on the other. Presumably the curved shape is the natural shape of the tree.
The beam had been coated in multiple coats of paint, probably distemper (a paint usually based on lime or chalk). Much of it was flaking and loose. A slight circular depression in the beam was a hole that had been drilled through the beam – probably 12mm across – that had been stuffed with newspaper and painted over. We pulled the newspaper out and gently attempted to unravel it. Unfortunately, it was very fragile and most of it disintegrated. However, we were lucky and we manage to salvage a very small piece with a date – 1858!
Further investigation, revealed a much larger rectangular depression similar to the round one we found above. This one was a slot that had been cut right through the beam. Both sides were stuffed with newspaper and painted over. However, in the middle of slot behind the stuffed newspaper was half a broadsheet from the Leeds Murcury – also dated 1859!
From the census records of 1851 and 1861, we know that David Hobson was living in this property with his family, so we had hazard a guess at who bought the newspaper originally.