Architectural Detail - 7 Walnut Tree Road

The left hand side of the house (facing the front), is an older 2 bay cottage arranged gable end onto the road. The front (nearest the road) bay was originally an open hall. Internally we can see the first floor was inserted later due to the arrangement of the main axial ceiling beam and joist ends, and also the floor levels in the front and rear first floor rooms are slightly different which suggests they were independently built. The rear bay appears to have been the original buttery and pantry with solar over, accessed by a ladder type stair. A central axial ceiling beam divides this room into two. The beam may be original but was altered when the chimney stack was inserted at a later date. The rear wall of the room has no exposed timbers and has been subject to alterations in the past as has the south west wall in part. It is possible that there were further buildings attached to this bay – possibly barns and further evidence for this is discussed later.

This part of the house probably dates back to the early 16th Century. It is of post and truss construction with clasped purlin roof. The principal posts are jowelled which means that the tops of the posts are wider than the base, flaring out to give a larger amount of room to connect the tie beam and wall plate without compromising on strength.

 Jowelled post which flares out at the top of the post where it connects to the wall plate and tie beam above.

Jowelled post which flares out at the top of the post where it connects to the wall plate and tie beam above.

The walls are studded with timbers fairly widely spaced apart. Due to the later alterations made to the roof when the side wing was added, the original rafters above the open hall appear to have been largely removed and replaced with larger sized timbers. Those that are retained, are concealed from view due to the presence of insulation, plastic sheeting and plaster finishes. The visible timbers in the roof above the rear bay are a mixture of rounded and larger squared rafters in addition to modern timber, suggesting a number of changes in the past.

The large centrally situated chimney stack in this wing is a later addition as it is built around the central tie beam and probably dates from the 17th Century. It appears that the floor was inserted into the former open hall at around this time and a staircase built to provide access. The staircase wraps around next to the chimney tightly up against the wall of the hall and does not pass below the central roof truss tie beam which divided the two bays. Access to the two first floor rooms was independent until the tie beam was cut through at a much later date and after the additional wing was constructed to the side.

Inserted chimney with large open ground floor fireplace. The staircase to the side twists tightly around the flue providing access to the newly created room above this former open hall. The low height of the tie beam prevented access from this staircase initially to the first floor room beyond which would have always been accessible directly by an open ladder type stair. Later alterations after the new wing to the side was built, included cutting through the tie beam to allow access to both rooms from this staircase.

Inserted chimney with large open ground floor fireplace. The staircase to the side twists tightly around the flue providing access to the newly created room above this former open hall. The low height of the tie beam prevented access from this staircase initially to the first floor room beyond which would have always been accessible directly by an open ladder type stair. Later alterations after the new wing to the side was built, included cutting through the tie beam to allow access to both rooms from this staircase.

The inserted axial ceiling beam which supported the new first floor in the former open hall

The inserted axial ceiling beam which supported the new first floor in the former open hall

The house was extended to the side probably in the 16th/17th century, at two and a half  storeys in height constructed over two floors with attic rooms. This is a structurally more complex way of extending as can be seen by the 3d models and suggests two possibilities:- firstly, a  third bay  was attached to the existing house in front of the open hall, meaning that the house was closer to the road. Extending off the central former open hall would then create a “T” shaped plan. Secondly, the land ownership did not extend far enough beyond the hall bay to build a cross wing. The enclosure maps appear to show a line passing closer to the house than at present and it is possible in the seventeenth century that that boundary of Little Green was right up against the front of the house.  This is a similar arrangement to Ivy Cottage, Crab Tree Lane, where the lack of space to enlarge to the front has necessitated enlarging to the side. Finally, there may have been further buildings to the buttery end of the building such as barns preventing building to the south eastern end of the house.

The original hall is on the left hand side gable end on to the road and is at a much lower height than the new wing which is two and a half storeys in height.

The original hall is on the left hand side gable end on to the road and is at a much lower height than the new wing which is two and a half storeys in height.

This additional wing was built unheated and had a catslide roof to the rear over the small outshut. This part was open up to the roof and separate from the first floor room as the timber studwork is evident on the current landing. Some carpenters marks are present to some of the vertical timbers. This wing consists of a single bay with clasped purlin roof. The purlins are jointed to a ridge beam that was inserted into the roof over the original part of the building. One of the purlins has a through splayed scarf joint but is nailed rather than jointed suggesting the timber is reused or the work of an unskilled craftsman as it is a simple joint. The timbers are of a “lighter” type than to the original and are braced diagonally at first floor level by straight tension braces which are typical of late 17th/early 18th century.

The new wing had a catslide roof which continued the roof line at the back over a small single storey outshut room.

The new wing had a catslide roof which continued the roof line at the back over a small single storey outshut room.

The original south western outside wall became an internal wall when the new wing was added preserving a series of carpenters marks marking the position of studs in the framework. This one is marked V.

The original south western outside wall became an internal wall when the new wing was added preserving a series of carpenters marks marking the position of studs in the framework. This one is marked V.

The original part has much heavier studding whilst the new wing is of much lighter framing. Light framing of this type would typically have always been rendered with the timbers not intended to be on show externally.

Whilst originally unheated, a chimney and fireplaces were added at a later date to improve comfort. The chimney was built externally on the side wall in brick and internally the ground floor fireplace has a curved brick shape. A similar fireplace design was found inserted into an earlier fireplace opening at 16 Great Green, and another similarly designed contemporary fireplace has been seen at Warrengate Farm, Tewin, Herts, built in the early 18th Century (English Heritage Building ID: 356239), dating this style of fireplace and therefore the building of the chimney to this date. A small fireplace is also present at first floor level using carved timber which is possibly reused.

This curved design of brick fireplace has been seen in other buildings in Pirton and seems to date from the early 18th century.

This curved design of brick fireplace has been seen in other buildings in Pirton and seems to date from the early 18th century.