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This Family Discovered a Strange Blockage in Their Chimney--and It Wasn't Santa!

Many of us with an old homes dream of lifting up a floorboard and finding a stash of old coins. Or a long-forgotten heirloom like a precious jewel or Rembrandt. For one family renovating their home, a chimney hid an amazing secret long forgotten. Restoring an old house is typically fraught with problems. Like uncovering mold in the walls, detecting faulty wiring, or spotting rotting wood. This family found something that few of us are likely to locate in our chimneys or anywhere else in our house for that matter.

What's Hiding Up Your Chimney?

For most people, their chimney is a place of soot, dirt, and smoke. Sometimes, a squirrel or bird ventures inside, but that's about all.

oldhouseweb
oldhouseweb

Aberdeen Family Renovates Home

A family living in Aberdeen, Scotland decided to renovate their home, a project that required them to examine their chimney.

rendevdc
rendevdc

Renovations Can be Major

Like many renovations, this family needed to gut walls, paint, and install new insulation to various parts of their home. As they neared project completion, they discovered that all was not as it should be with their chimney.

lifestorage
lifestorage

Blocking the Flue

As the family carefully examined their chimney, they discovered that something was blocking the flue. The object was large enough that it was a significant barrier that would prevent them from opening up their hearth.

fineartamerica
fineartamerica

Deeply Lodged

The man, curious at this point as to what could be causing this blockage of the flue, reached his arm in deeply and had to yank several times to loosen the object, which seemed to be strongly lodged in place. With a final yank, he pulled it down and out.

windsorchimneysweep
windsorchimneysweep

Tattered Old Rags

The object appeared to be a large wad of tattered rags that looked like a large ball of old insulation, something previous owners might have stuffed up there to keep out the chill. The homeowner had every intention of throwing the pile out, but then something caught his eye.

salemnet
salemnet

Could That Be Writing?

Upon closer examination of the rags, the man noticed writing on the underside of a tatter he was holding in his hand. The tatter began to look like parchment, but what did the writing mean? Did it pertain to a previous owner?

pixcove
pixcove

Unraveling the Mess

As the man grew more curious, he tried to unravel the item in his hands, but the piece was so delicate, it simply flaked off with its attempts. The more he tried, the more he risked that the wad of tatters would flake into a billion small pieces that would prove impossible to decipher.

yelpcdn
yelpcdn

Save for Later

With the renovation needing completion, the man decided that he wouldn’t throw the object away, but he needed to get back to work. So, he put the object away until he had time to deal with it.

pinimg
pinimg

Toss It Out?

Again, the man considered foisting the mess in the rubbish bin to get it out of his house, but again he had second thoughts. How old was the item?

pinimg
pinimg

Recognition

Later, the man realized that the object was not something he could realistically investigate himself and he didn’t have the time, in any case, to do delve into its mystery. So, he left the item with the local historical society.

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anesfhs

From Local Historical Society to National Library of Scotland

The staff of the historical society knew they had something quite old, possibly ancient on their hands. Upon inspection, the experts decided to pass the tattered ball of parchment on to the experts at the National Library of Scotland Edinburgh.

nedcc
nedcc

An Historical Find

The researchers received the box of parchment weren’t quite sure what to make of it while removing it from its packaging box. After some careful examination, the research team concluded that they had an important find on their hands, a 17th-century map.

thehistoryblog
thehistoryblog

A Map of Great Proportions

As the research team slowly and painstakingly unraveled the map, they determined that it was quite large. They measured the map at seven feet long and five feet wide. The map was backed by canvas, which is what helped make it a great insulating item.

ndt
ndt

Condition Is a Problem

As the researchers struggled to spread the map to reveal its imagery and size, they realized that it was in seriously bad condition. Yet, during its prime, this map would have made an amazing ornament for their wall.

dailymail
dailymail

Maps Were a Status Symbol

A map the size of this one would have been a major status symbol in its heyday. Its owners would have proudly displayed the work where family and guests could admire it. Only the very wealthy could have afforded a luxury item like this one.

pinimg
pinimg

A Symbol of the Times

As researchers examined the map in their possession, they were amazed to see the illustrations and art that adorned it. They saw illustrations of famous people and various places. The map embodied elements of the 17th century.

psd-dude
psd-dude

A Portrait of Royals

Among the pictures of famous people of the age, portraits of King William III and Queen Mary held prominent positions on the map. The presence of the portrait allowed the researchers to date the map to 1690.

ytimg
ytimg

Sea Battles

The map’s illustrations revealed images of sea battles. In particular, the map made reference to Portugal and its colonization of China.

fineartamerica
fineartamerica

Social Commentary

In addition to its many drawings, the map also included a reference to the Spanish conquistadors and their wretched treatment of the New World’s native population.

mamontoff
mamontoff

Who Was the Mapmaker?

The mapmaker who created this world map was George Wildey. He was a popular mapmaker of his day who worked in London.

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wp-content

George Wildey

According to researchers, Wildey often copied maps. Some suggest his favorable illustrations of the Portuguese suggest that he may have been influenced by mapmakers in Amsterdam or other locations.

Why Stuff This Beautiful Map up a Chimney?

Initially, it was puzzling why such an exquisite work would be stuffed up a chimney where it would be sure to incur damage. Researchers think that it was likely hidden because it depicted a king with prominent Protestant beliefs. In Scotland and Ireland where Catholicism was still widely popular, the map would have been seen as controversial in some eras.

The Cleanup Process

The work to restore the map was painstaking indeed. It required many stages of cleaning. It needed to be soaked, brushed, flattened, and ever-so-carefully pieced back together.

washmapsociety
washmapsociety

A Step-by-Step Project

Although the process to restore this significant find was laborious, researchers were confident that their work would achieve good results.

mediad
mediad

A Hard-Working Team

The conservationists working on the team were put to the test in order to complete their undertaking.

frisiancoloristsrestorers
frisiancoloristsrestorers

Confident

Even after the conservation team ran into difficulties, they plodded on. They believed strongly in their restoration methods.

A Work in Progress

To date, the restoration process is still ongoing. The team at the University is making progress, but it is still slow-going. In time, they believe that can completely restore this masterpiece, a true prize from history.

kinghamandorme
kinghamandorme

What’s Up Your Chimney?

Discovering an 18th century map in a chimney is an extremely rare, once in a lifetime event. Do you think you have a map, a painting, or a rare find up your chimney? Probably not!

2ndgenerationchimneys
2ndgenerationchimneys

Historic Maps

Historic maps are immensely important as they can tell us much about the history of travel, exploration, and even the times in which they were created. The next time you visit a museum, be sure to peruse the maps section to see how intricate and masterful these works are.

historic-cities
historic-cities
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Peg, Heywise Staff

Article WriterPeg, Heywise Staff

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