A House in North London – Part 1

This is a three part, true story that I posted some years back. Writing this had a very real effect on me, even forty years after the events. I have re-worked it, filling in some of the details I originally left out.

House sml

It was 1969 and Jim and I, having just got married, managed to find an unfurnished flat, in a very nice part of London.  We had by far, the best flat in the house. It was the ground floor flat and had a patio that we were told was for our sole use.  We were both on good salaries so the cost was not a problem, though we did have a problem.

We were continually being harassed by the landlord, to swap flats with a couple that lived right at the top of the house.   Their flat was much smaller and we were happy where we were, so we told him so, each time he asked.  It wasn’t long before this couple were not only using our patio and invading our privacy, but hanging their washing on our personal washing line, meaning that we had to dry our washing inside.  It was far from a friendly house.  Still, we were out most evenings so that was no real problem to us.  The main problem was that we had to share our bathroom and toilet with other tenants.  This was NOT good!

After about a year of sharing a bathroom, and the harassment from the landlord, we had had enough.  With the help of my brother, we found another flat and moved out of our first home.  As this story unfolds you will see how, such a minor decision can drastically change the rest of your lives.

The story begins…..

We arrived at what would be our second home.  It was a very large, rambling house in North London.  The front garden was seriously overgrown.  It was obvious that nobody lived here.   We went up the steps and turned the key in the lock.  The door opened into a large, but dim hallway with a flight of stairs on the left, leading to the first floor.

A business acquaintance of my brother owned the house.  He was a property developer and was happy to leave it empty.  As a favour to my brother, he had let us rent it, as long as we didn’t pester him for things, and took it ‘as is’.  “The first floor flat”, we were told.  I have no idea why that was stipulated, as the whole house was empty, but we accepted the offer.

We made our way up the two flights of stairs to the first floor.  At the top was a very large landing area with a banister railing around it.  If you looked over the bannister and down the stair well you could see the dingy ground floor hallway.  A huge chest of drawers stood to one side of the landing.  We opened the first door on the left.   It was a large kitchen.  In the centre of the room was a table and chairs.  We glanced around the kitchen, in amazement. It was as if whoever lived here had just popped out for a few minutes and would be back.  They had left everything, including the washing up.  There were cups and plates still on the table, spilled sugar where they had made their tea.  Food scraps, packets, jars and tins of food.  Everywhere you looked there were signs of the people who lived there, but when?  Why did whoever they were, leave in such a strange hurry?  It looked as if they had been sitting down eating their breakfast or tea, and suddenly got up and left the house.

Each room we entered was the same.  Clothing, belongings and furniture filled the rooms.   It was all very old.  The furnishings looked almost Victorian.  The kitchen was the most up to date and I would say it looked like 1950’s furniture.

We went back out to the landing and the large chest of drawers.  We opened the drawers one by one, and was surprised to find they were all full of belongings.   I opened one of the drawers and laying right on top was a beautiful pair of white, leather gloves.  As I picked one up to look closer I noticed the other glove was only half made and still had the needle and thread attached.  They were beautifully stitched.  Not something you would have seen worn since the 1930/40’s.  Who would have been making these and not have finished them?  Why would they be left behind?  Again it looked like somebody had just laid them in the drawer to finish later.  Why didn’t she?  So many questions.

There was a beautiful, large garden to be seen through the back window, but for now we had looked at what we came to see.  The rest of this huge house we would investigate another time.  After we had moved in.

What other strange things awaited us?  What was in the downstairs part of the house, that appeared to be ‘out of bounds’?


  • Rebecca @ FreakyFrugalite.com

    How intriguing! I am going to find it very hard to wait for the rest of the story. You should write a book of your memoirs, Babs. 🙂

    • I won’t leave it too long between the parts. I did start a book, but then decided Mo’s life was far more interesting 🙂

  • Awww Mondays

    Oh this is going to be a great story. This second house has me intrigued already. I just can’t bring myself to call it a home. A house is more fitting at this point.

    Have a terrific day Babs. 🙂

    • Ha ha! A house was more fitting at the end of the story too 😉

  • First, I have to say that I have a Jim, too. : )

    What an intriguing story. I can’t wait to read the rest. Also, your description of the house is masterful. I could visualize the exterior, as well as the rooms you described.

    • Glad you’re enjoying it. I’ll post the next part soon 🙂

  • This is a fascinating tale, Babs! What an odd place! It seems that people just up and leaving was perhaps connected to the war. I’m really eager to find out what happened next! You are so good at building suspense!

    • Unfortunately people had nowhere to run to, during the war. You lived where you lived and took your chances in the underground stations during air raids. By the foodstuff left behind, this house had definitely been lived in, in relatively recent years.

  • Eric and Flynn

    I remember reading this before, but I’m darned if I can remember the rest of it now! I don’t comment often but I have followed you for several years now, originally on Suki’s blog.

    • I’m glad you can’t remember it 🙂

      I remember you well. How are your babies doing? Still sleeping in the hay?

      • Eric and Flynn

        Yes, still sleeping in the hay and taking their walks around the fields with me. They are 12 now and celebrating their 6th blogoversary on Friday. Come and visit them sometime:

  • Count me among those eagerly awaiting the next installment. I find it very strange that the people just left all their stuff as it was. It’s like they just vanished – and then there’s the mysterious downstairs. Fascinating!

    • It was all very strange with a lot of stranger things to come 🙂

  • Wendy

    Okay you got us all waiting with bated breath…and we couldn’t turn the page! don’t leave us breathless too long.

  • Oooh, I think I remember this one, but I don’t remember all the details. I love the mystery of it… I echo everyone else’s sentiments – don’t make us wait too long!

    • Have you been reading my blog that long? I posted this in 2008. No I won’t wait too long to post the rest 🙂

  • New here, and how very interesting!!


    • Hello Pearl and welcome to my blog. It gets even more interesting as the story unfolds 🙂

  • Ron

    Ooooo, Babs…this story sounds sooooooooo intriguing!

    ” laying right on top was a beautiful pair of white, leather gloves. As I picked one up to look closer I noticed the other glove was only half made and still had the needle and thread attached. Who would have been making these and not have finished them?”

    I got chills when I read that!

    You have me TOTALLY anticipating what’s next. Can’t wait to read more. This sounds almost like a ghost story!

    X to you and Mo!

    • It was definitely a very strange house. I would love to know the history of it ….. I think.

  • Ivanhoe

    It kind of sounds familiar, but of course I forgot what comes next. Will be awaiting part 2.
    Hugs from Ohio,

    • It was four years ago, so I expect anyone who’s read it to have forgotten most of it 🙂

  • Ah intrigue! I haven’t read it before, nor will I dig around for the rest of it. I’ll wait it out until you post the rest!

    • You’d have to wait it out anyway. The old posts were lost forever 😉

      • Right, from the infamous blog crash? So would that make this that meagre silver lining that was imperceptible at the time?

        • It certainly would! I have dozens of posts waiting to be revamped 😉

  • Oh c’mon, Babs! You cannot leave me hanging like this! What the heck is going ON in that 2nd house!!!???

  • Liudmila

    I remember this your story, too. You are so brave to tell stories that they remain in the memory. :-)))

    How do you feel thinking about past? I noticed that it doesn’t exist for me, my past life. It’s some strange -that is why I ask you.

    • Some of my past I don’t like to think about, but most of it is like it happened just yesterday 🙂

  • Oh boy, for once I’m so glad I’m behind on my blog reading, because I don’t have to wait to get to the other parts…

    • Just found this in my Spam folder – weird as your other comment was fine.