Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Doorway to the Past

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Doorway to the Past

Article excerpt

Byline: By Marie Turbill Evening Gazette

Discovering that the attic of his new home was stuffed with rubbish was a headache for Tony Nicholson and his wife Gill.

For a start, there was a three-foot bird's nest so big that the rubbish from it filled eight wheelie bin bags.

But the find turned out to be just the beginning of a fascinating adventure into one woman's past.

It unlocked the secret story of her heartbreak romance, which Tony is now turning into a book.

"We had just moved in and had to have all the wood in the house treated," says the academic historian at Teesside University.

"I remember it was a wild, windy November night and the treatment guy was checking out the attic. We heard him shout 'I think you better come and have a look at this.' "

A door leading from the converted attic bedrooms to the roof void in his new home, The Cottage, on Brotton High Street, revealed piles and piles of rubbish.

"There was the biggest bird's nest I have ever seen in my life.

"It was about three-foot in diameter and there were bird skeletons and dirt."

Tony says the space was also filled with torn fabric, papers and broken glass, which had to be removed, ready for the wood treatment the following day.

"My brother-in-law came and we had to work all night bagging it up," remembers Tony.

Together they filled eight wheelie bin liners, which were put into the garage to deal with later.

"If there had been a skip in the drive that night I would have thrown the lot in," says Tony. "Thank God there wasn't."

When Tony decided to sort through the bags of papers three months later, he was stunned by what he discovered.

He says: "Almost immediately I noticed an old photo sticking out from the rubbish.

"I recognised that it was a Victorian photograph and once I had seen that one I started to notice many others."

Sifting through papers and clutter, Tony discovered more than 120 Victorian photographs.

He also found countless newspaper clippings, business records, and personal belongings including clothes, scent bottles and fans.

Most exciting for Tony was the discovery of 180 letters. …

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