House That Grieving Family Left Stuck in Time, Now a Museum

Like something out of a Dickens novel, 81 years ago a loss left a family so bereft that they essentially tried to freeze time. Grocer William Straw Sr. lived for about 10 years with his wife and youngest son in a semi-detached home in the Sheffield suburb of Worksop, in northern England. The family lived an unremarkable existence there, writes the Nottingham Post, until Straw died suddenly in 1932, at age 68. That's when the remarkable part of their home's story began, because in their grief Straw's widow and two sons then left the house essentially unchanged from then on.

The sons
William Jr. and Walter, went even a bit further when their mother died seven years later -- leaving her room untouched. And when the last of them to survive, Walter Straw Jr., died in 1990 without an heir, he left the home to Britain's National Trust, which preserves cultural treasures.

followed suit in leaving the home in the condition the Straws left it, where (as can be seen in the slideshow below) the Trust says hardly anything was thrown away and where the Straws did without most modern conveniences. The Trust has since opened Mr Straw's House to the public as a place where "photographs, letters, Victorian furniture and household objects spanning 100 years can still be seen exactly where their owners left them." Though the house doesn't contain precious antiques per se, its eerily untouched state gives a glimpse into how well-to-do British families lived nearly a century ago.

Customs of the time can be seen from the Straw House's decorations -- oil paintings, delicate linens and heavy furniture -- down to the contents of the pantry. However, the antique kitchen is perhaps the most fascinating for the way it compares to "ultra-modern" kitchens of today. Its limited space includes a butler's sink, a tiny stove (where a primitive clothes iron waits to be warmed), and a pantry stocked with circa-1930s items.

Mr Straw's House currently offers tours that focus on the life of donor William Straw Jr. that challenges assumptions about the teacher, community activist and World War I veteran who lived there for 47 years. "Some people think he was eccentric," The Post quotes Megan Doole, custodian of the house, as saying. "But we are showing that he had a range of interests and skills which changed throughout his long life." (Contrast that with the life of heiress Hugette Clark, a reputed recluse, who in 2011 reportedly left $180 million in prime residential property in the U.S. that was likewise frozen in time.)

The Trust is also seeking more local interest in the remarkable home, as it's seen a drop-off in visitors. "The older generation remember the Straws and know of them so visit," Danielle Brown, house and visitor manager, said in the Worksop Guardian. "But it's the next generation we are trying to attract, who don't have memories of the brothers."

Mr Straw's House Now -- Just as It Was Then: