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Hardy's Tooting House
Ever since the former residences of the famous and important were first commemorated by The Royal Society of Arts with blue plaques back in 1867, they have spread throughout London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Portsmouth and Southampton. Recognising individuals as diverse as George Orwell and Jimi Hendrix. But what's it like to live in the house where a famous author, politician or' entertainer once lived?
Felicity Hope bought author Thomas Hardy's former Tooting residence three years ago and is in the process of renovating it. "I was looking for somewhere when the estate agent told us that
Thomas Hardy's house was available. Apparently Hardy lived here when he was working as an architect in Tooting, but didn't stay for long because he was so miserable. I'd studied Hardy for A-level so 1 thought I'd go and have a look, and 1 absolutely loved it. I rang the bank and begged and begged for extra money and bought it for about £82,000, and it's now been valued at around £180,000.
"A lot of people are quite interested in it. We're forever getting people taking photographs. "Quite a few times people have rung on the doorbell, asking if we'd ever found one of Hardy's manuscripts here. When we took the carpets up I did find something underneath the floor that looked like a letter. 1 got really excited and spent an hour with a pair of chopsticks trying to get it out, thinking, 'Yes, this is it'. When 1 finally got it out, it was a letter-dated from 1981, which was very disappointing. Also, one of the girls who lived downstairs was convinced she had seen his ghost. She got hysterical one night, when she thought he'd walked through her kitchen."
Even without supernatural visitations, blue plaques do have the potential to increase the value of a property. "They make a house sell, mainly because it gives the property a focal point says Tony Halstead, a residential property consultant. "It helps to create an interest, helps in advertising which makes it easier to sell, and ultimately might result in a slightly better price. "Of course a lot depends on who the blue plaque commemorates as to whether it will increase the price. But were two houses which identical and one had a blue plaque and the didn't I'd certainly buy the one with the blue plaque." Ultimately however it is important to keep in mind that no matter which poet, singer or superstar lived there, the blue plaque is just a bonus.