Couple find note in chimney that reveals their £290,000 house was 100 times cheaper 50 years ago

A couple has found a note in their fireplace from 1971 which reveals that their £290,000 home previously cost only £3,000.

Kathryn Stutely, 49, and her partner Neil discovered a note from 1971 inside their home in Devizes, Wiltshire, that was written by 37-year-old market trader Mr E.C Pearce.

Handwritten on headed paper, the letter says that Mr Pearce bought the house – which the couple paid £292,000 for in 2019 – while earning 65p an hour. 

He described how he put down a £300 deposit for the then £3,000 house and paid £5 a week mortgage payments. 

He also revealed how costs for the property included a solicitor fee of just £80. 

Kathryn Stutely, 49, and partner Neil live in Devizes, Wiltshire

The 50-year-old note dating back to 1971 which was written by 37-year-old market trader Mr E.C Pearce

The 50-year-old note dating back to 1971 which was written by 37-year-old market trader Mr E.C Pearce

The note read: ‘To who may be interested. This fireplace was bricked up by me on September 1971.

‘I have just bought this house on mortgage for £3000 with a deposit of £300 and repayments of £5.50 per week + £80 solicitors fees.

‘My wage at present is 65p per hour and I go to a Sunday market to make a few bob extra, aged 37 years. Hope you find this interesting. E. C.Pearce’.

After an online investigation Ms Stutely and Neil believe that the author was a Mr Eugene Pearce who bought the home after marrying his wife Irene Hunt in the 1950s.

Sadly Eugene died in 2000 aged 66, which makes confirming if he wrote the note impossible. However, online researchers managed to track down one of his grandchildren.

Unlike Eugene though, the couple say they bought the house for £292,000 in 2019 and they have since done expensive renovations.

Ms Stutely, who runs a birth and postnatal support business, said: ‘As we’ve been doing the house up, we’ve been leaving notes around too – so if anyone then takes down our stud walls they’ll find our messages. So it was lovely to find that someone else had already done it.

‘When we moved in there was a not very pretty fireplace where someone had clearly once had a gas fire or something.

‘It was empty, so we decided to do something with it – maybe to put a wood burner or something in there.

‘We took the surround off initially and then realised that we needed to actually dig out the fireplace a bit more. So a few days later we started taking the actual bricks out.

The couple's fireplace where they found the extraordinary note folded up almost into a cube

The couple’s fireplace where they found the extraordinary note folded up almost into a cube 

‘Amongst all the rubble though there was a weird bit of paper that had been folded up many, many times into basically a small cube.

‘I couldn’t read it at first because I didn’t have my glasses on, but when I unfolded it I noticed there was clearly something written on it.

‘I gave it to my other half to read, and he read it out loud. That’s when we realised what it was. I was glad I’d bothered to unfold it – otherwise I’d have just thrown it away like the rest of the rubble.

‘I plan on keeping the letter, but I was very thankful to people on Devizes Facebook group who helped me find out where it came from.

‘A couple of people who are obviously interested in this kind of thing messaged me saying they had been doing some research and believed that the author was a Eugene Pearce, who got married, to Irene Hunt, in Devizes, in the 50s.

‘Three children with the surname Pearce (and with mothers with the maiden name Hunt) were born over the next few years.

‘Eugene unfortunately died in 2000, aged 66, So we won’t be able to let him know his note was found – however I’ve chatted to Eugene’s granddaughter who says her mother remembers living there.’

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