It’s all in a number….

No.3 is undoubtedly old, the exact year it was built is unknown but we have a rough idea. Whilst carrying out the restoration work, we were approached by the Domestic Buildings Research Group, who were interested in having a close look at the structure of the house. It was an excellent opportunity, as we had it virtually stripped back to its wattle and daub at the time and the timber framing was completely exposed.

Accompanying the group were a couple of archeologists and a dendrochronologist. Although dendro samples were taken, it was unfortunate that it was not possible to obtain one that would give an accurate enough reading for tree ring dating. A successful sample needs to have at least eighty visible rings. Carbon dating is another option, we have promised ourselves that one day we will look into having this done.

However, the archeologists were able to provide us with a rough guide to the time of construction, by the nature and style of the timber framing, particularly the lack of purlins (horizontal roof beams) and the long wind braces. The estimate they gave was circa 1350.

Incidentally, a successful dendro analysis was undertaken on another house in the village, The Forge, dating it to 1254. So, that tells us there was a settlement of a certain size here at that time. There is no written record before 1291 that refers to the village – although, it is possible there is reference in the 1086 Domesday to a chapel, that once stood where the village church is now situated. The existing church was built around 1290.

Back in the day, it is most likely that most of this area would have been predominantly woodland, typically oak. Timber framed buildings would often have been built from trees growing in situ. Possibly a saw pit would have been dug close by and clay for wattle and daub locally sourced. The digging of clay would result in impressions which would then naturally fill with water. This explains why there is often a pond in the immediate vicinity of a timber framed building.

These early builders and carpenters were highly skilled, very often working as mobile units, moving from site to site, constructing buildings surprisingly quickly. The smallest trees possible for the job in hand would be selected, the builds would tend to be constructed in the winter months from green wood. Seasoned wood, especially oak, is very hard to work with. Being green, the wood would be susceptible to twisting, thus giving that ‘crooked’ charm so many of these cottages and houses exude.

This particular cottage is a two bay, open hall house, with one and a half storeys. It is timber framed with brick infill on the lower level and lime washed wattle and daub/render infill to the upper level. It has a steeply pitched, plain tiled, hipped roof with end gables. Of course, at one time it would have been thatched. It has its original outshot.

A hall house, to put it simply, is basically just that – a ‘hall’. A simple , one main room dwelling. Sometimes, one or two smaller rooms, for the storage of food etc., would be included at one end. A more affluent family home may possibly of had another section at the other end for privacy and somewhere to keep valuables. Generally though, the whole ‘community’ (this would include the family and any servants they may of had if they were wealthy enough), all lived together in the main hall.

A hearth in the middle of the room provided a fire for warmth and cooking. The resulting smoke would have been drawn up into the roof area to a vent.

There are still many examples of these buildings around but few remain relatively unchanged. Sometimes, they become so unrecognisable through modernisation over the ages, that it is only when work is undertaken that happens to expose tell tale, soot blackened roof beams, that the origins become evident.

This cottage is an unspoilt example of an early house. At some point after 1540 a chimney was added and an inglenook fireplace incorporated. At a later date the house was extended and the fireplace became enclosed within the building rather than being on an outside wall. I assume it was all one house at that time because nowadays, that ‘extension’ is a separate cottage in its own right – we are actually semi-detached. It is possible it was originally added as a ‘dower’ cottage – maybe to provide accommodation for an elderly relative…. I speculate. This extension would have been less than half the size of the main house but it has been enlarged since.

I am not at all sure when the outshot was added or whether it was in fact part of the main build.

There are four main types of timber framed house. Box frame, post and truss, aisled and cruck. Of course, builders would of added their own variations and modifications to a particular style. This house appears to have been built following the aisle method, although having said that, it is not entirely true to form.

An upper floor was added, possibly in the 1400’s, to half the house, leaving the remaining half still open hall. The beams supporting this floor are substantial, almost ‘over engineered’ when compared to those of the ceiling added at a later date to the other half of the house.

The later addition would have happened about the time the fireplace was built, also it is likely this is when the staircase was installed. Originally, access to upstairs would have been via what was basically a ladder. Amongst the large ceiling beams of what is now the dining room, is an area that has been infilled with much smaller ones, this is quite obviously where the ladder was situated. I, for one, am relieved access to upstairs is no longer by this method….!!

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