Under the floorboards at Kingston Lacy

Nancy Grace, Archaeologist Nancy Grace Archaeologist
The house at Kingston Lacy

The archaeologists who help look after and discover the stories of the places we care for have a real knack for solving mysteries. Here Nancy Grace turns detective to uncover the local people who helped remodel the magnificent Italianate mansion at Kingston Lacy in the 1800s.

I headed for Kingston Lacy with a mission to check under the floorboards in the house.

A condition survey was being carried out by on the plaster ceiling above the marble staircase.

It was while looking under the floor in the third Tented Room above the ceiling that Douglas from Clivedon Conservation had spotted some writing on one of the joists of the superstructure, but he had not had time follow it up further.

So as well as looking between the joists for objects lost or hidden in the cracks between the boards, I had a look at the faces of the joists to see if I could find more writing.

Tricky conditions

It was difficult to get the right lighting and angle to make out the words, especially as not all the boards had been lifted.

But with the help of torches and various settings on my camera I could make out one full name, a part name and even a date.

The surname 'Game' to go with the first name James
The name 'Game' written on a floorboard at Kingston Lacy
The surname 'Game' to go with the first name James

The complete name was James Game, followed by the name Isaac and something illegible (presumably a surname) and the date November 25th 1837. William John Bankes commissioned Charles Barry in 1835 to remodel Kingston Hall. This work was completed circa 1841, so the 1837 date fits with work being carried out in the house.

With access to the 1840 census I thought I would look up James Game to see if I could find him in the area or on the estate.

It was exciting to find someone of this name living at Hillbutts, a small group of dwellings beside the boundary of the parkland around Kingston Lacy house. But best of all, his occupation was listed as a joiner.

Unsure of Isaac’s surname I asked for help from our blog readers. I wanted to see if we could find Isaac on the census as well.  

A hard to make out name on a floorboard at Kingston Lacy
The name 'Mitchell' on a floorboard at Kingston Lacy
A hard to make out name on a floorboard at Kingston Lacy

Team work 

With some fresh eyes and a consensus of Mitchell I found an Isaac Mitchell on the 1841 and subsequent censuses in Shapwick.

Isaac (54 years old) is listed as a carpenter on all the census I looked at and on the 1851 one, which was clearer to read, he is married to a lady called Love (52 years old) and his son Dennis (23 years old) is also listed as a carpenter. 

I could even see that his mother-in-law, called Hester Jefferies, also lived with them  and was an amazing 95 years old.