You're not getting rid of it are you?: Penny Jackson fell for the sense of nostalgia in her Victorian house, and got the restoration bug

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The Independent Online
SHORTLY after moving into our Victorian house, I spent the best part of three weeks up a ladder with a garden spray can, watering the ceiling mouldings. At least, that's what we hoped was under the formless lump. So what joy when our tentative pickings at the sodden mass revealed a cornice of which far grander houses would have been proud.

As we painstakingly scraped the paint away from each petal and leaf with the bits of wood we used as tools - anything metal left scars - even the backache became bearable.

Like just about everyone these days who lives in a house of this era, those are the sort of period details we cherish. It isn't only the space that is so appealing, but the effort that obviously went into making the place attractive to Victorian eyes. And, for me, that's what preservation is all about. If a craftsman 120 years ago used his creative skills to carve something beautiful out of a practical object, then surely the least I can do is to care for it.

I'm not at all sure that I even like some of the fancy bits and bobs for themselves. In a moment of madness I once stuck a ceiling rose where, I am sure, none had been before, and hated it. Every time I went into the room it seemed to shout 'fraud'.

I would search high and low for a missing fingerplate or door knob or shutter latch. But install them from scratch? Never. I will hang on to my garden railings for dear life, not because they look anything great but because an old photograph shows a horse tied up to them.

I refuse to get rid of a fleur-de-lis metal grille over a kitchen window because it is a reminder that once a scullery maid might have spent her time there polishing silver and peering into the garden. Or the attic room door, a miserably thin construction with a hole in it that would have alerted Them Upstairs that Downstairs was burning her candle until all hours.

And as for the bedroom fireplaces, I was relieved to see they had not survived. I didn't have to agonise about them and I'm as susceptible as anyone to remarks such as 'Oh isn't it lovely. You're not going to get rid of it are you?' That's why I have a completely useless and ugly cast-iron stove sitting in the hall.

I suppose it all comes down to feelings of nostalgia. I know we should turn our large attic space into an extra room; goodness knows we could do with the space. But I would miss terribly the musty warm smell that evokes such clear memories of childhood holidays. Anyway, what on earth would happen to that mangle propped up in the corner?

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