Architectural Detail - Ivy Cottage Crabtree Lane

Architectural detail

The house is a complex arrangement of structures of differing ages and having undergone significant alterations over the years, making a definitive reconstruction of the actual buildings and phases impossible. However, we have examined the building in detail and over a couple of visits including an inspection with David Hillelson BA MIFA of The Heritage Network.

The earliest part of the building appears to be the south western corner where there is a two bay building with an inserted floor. The corner posts are jowelled and there is a complete central truss at first floor level and stud slots with holes for wattle and daub in the ceiling timber below. This shows that this was two separate rooms.

The complete studwork to the truss at first floor level. The slots for the corresponding studs are visible in the ceiling beam below.

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In the roof space the partition is complete with wattle and daub panels which are faced on both sides meaning that both walls were on show.

Continuation of the truss in the roof showing the wattle and daub infill panel, finished to both sides.

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It is possible that this was an open hall with the bay adjoining being the cross wing. The wall height from sill beam to wall plate level is similar to the open hall parts of 7-9 Walnut Tree Road, Three Gables and 28 Shillington Road. There are few exposed ground floor timbers. The sill is at a high level above the current floor which may be due to rot in the lower parts of the studs and original sill beam which was repaired by truncating them and fitting a new sill at a higher level to sound timber with brick infill below. Alternatively there may have been a change in the ground level to what we see today. The levels of the garden at Crabtree Farm and of the Churchyard are considerably higher than the road adjacent which may have been considerably eroded by general use creating a hollowway. With this part of the village also being close to the outer bailey and ditch, it may have been naturally wet which lead to the Green area being widened and the ground level gradually becoming worn down. The sill level to the earlier part of Stoneyards situated almost adjoining to the north is also at a similar level, providing further evidence that there may have been a change in the land levels n this area. When a building is floored in, the ground floors are often dug down to increase head height which became increasingly common during the 20th Century as our requirements and expectations have altered.  The other possibility is that the building may originally have had a non domestic function. We have seen this in many other houses.

At first floor level the wall plate arrangement and rafters suggest it was a two bay building with an additional building abutting it of at least two bays in size (only one of which is remaining). The mystery starts at ground floor level where the central ceiling beam in the northern part does not correspond with the apparently separate buildings and continues partially into the first bay of the southern building.

The end truss clearly visible at first floor level is where there is a change in the height of the ceiling joist rail (from the window). The apparent truss post is made up of at least two sections of reused timber. The central ceiling beams spans the whole room so both buildings are interlinked when the floor is inserted.

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All of the first floor is inserted which does suggest that the building may have originally been a barn or adjoining barns which were later converted into a dwelling. But as there have been many alterations, it is possible that an original floor was entirely removed, the evidence being destroyed by the later floors. The way the floor has been inserted, making it integral to both sections of this side of the building does show that the building has had domestic use for a considerable time. The wall plates throughout this side of the house are made up of small sections of timber joined by edge halved scarf joints which suggest a later date due to timber shortages which lead to smaller lengths being used, however the jowelled posts are likely to date from the 16th Century due to their informal shaping. It could be argued that smaller sections may have been used anyway for a barn at this time.

Edge halved scarf joint used to join the many sections of wall plate together.

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There are some joints which are situated very close to the front corner posts which is unusual as this does not aid structural stability and suggests that the existing front gable was not in fact the end of the building. The bay size could just be accommodated within the current boundary and it is possible that an additional bay was present in front of the house. This would have provided two storeys and would make the layout a conventional 3 bay hall house, similar to 16 Great Green, although narrower and smaller than others remaining in the village that we have seen to date.

The exposed studs are fairly wide spaced but even to both sides which makes this building more likely to have been built independently rather than abutting against the side of another building. The studs are set closer together in the northern section of the building which again is most likely to confirm that this was built at a different date although abutting the earlier building. Many of the first floor timbers particularly in the southern most bay, are heavily weathered which suggests the building may have been poorly weatherproofed and unheated, allowing decay to manifest. The absence of ground floor timbers, particularly in the northern end, may be due to this part having been a barn with large doors opening onto an enlarged Green to the west, as it would appear that the buildings which currently front Crabtree Lane and are of a later date, may be encroachment building. It is not possible to date the change of use from barn to house but there may have been a major remodelling of the farmhouse and farm buildings when the new front wing was added.

The roof is easily accessible to the northern section which shows the two separate buildings but the southern part was concealed with only small glimpses possible from the main roof and by using a camera held around the full height internal gable. There may be some smoke blackening but these could be altered timbers from when the new wing was constructed.

The large wing facing the church is an addition which has also been subject to significant alterations and appears to be the focus of an increase in fortunes for the owner by  enlarging the modest existing house or by constructing a replacement farm house by conversion and enlargement.

The roof comprises of large sized squared smoke blackened timbers pegged at the apex and appears to be consistent with those from an open hall house. However, a number of the timbers have grooves for collars which are not in line and in some instances are upside down.

The smoke blackening to the timbers is clearly visible but the grooves for collars can be seen. The grooves are at differing levels and the roof has clearly been reassembled in a different order.

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The distribution of the smoke blackening is not consistent and stops abruptly. It appears that an entire medieval roof has been reused to roof a later building. It is possible that this roof came from an original farmhouse which may have occupied a separate part of the site and had become impractical for its purpose. The substantial size of these timbers meant that it was practical to reuse them and this was not uncommon particularly when larger lengths of timber were becoming more scarce. The lack of a full height gable at the abutment of the earlier barn confirms that this part of the building whilst initially appearing to be a medieval open hall, is in fact a later extension.

The abrupt end to the smoke blackening and dwarf lath and plastered wall which should have been full height if this part of the building predated the adjoining building.

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This part of the building appears to have an inserted floor as the floor timbers are sawn and of softwood, however the central ceiling beam is of oak and is older. All is supported off an integral mid rail so would have been two storey. The main beam is chamfered with scrolled stop ends and is supported at one end off the fireplace and at the other by a new timber stud which was inserted into the wall of the earlier building. The joints to the floor joists are shouldered which is an earlier joint than the actual timbers would suggest, but as many of the internal timbers to this part of building on the ground floor have been subject to considerable renovation in the past with most of the exposed timbers being replacements or cladding over the original timbers, the floor joists may have been entirely replaced in a traditional style. The wall timbers which are clad do reflect the position of the structural timbers and this is possibly a sympathetic replacement of a heavily decayed floor. The western wall timbers are mostly from the earlier building and some have horizontal grooves cut into the face of them. This would have been an outside wall and its purpose is not known.

Horizontal grooves on what would have been an outside wall. Purpose unknown.

 

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The timbers at first floor level are the original and are of fairly closely spaced studs set on a substantial mid rail. The timberwork is of a higher quality than the earlier part of the house and the substantial reused rafters make this an alteration showing improved status. This type of building would suggest a build date of 16th-17th Century.

The ground floor fireplace appears to be original for the age of this part of the building but the first floor fireplace is a later addition and has an entirely separate flue positioned in front of the earlier flue. This is a curved brick fireplace, similar to that seen elsewhere in the village and dates from the 18th Century.

Fireplace installed in front of the earlier flue serving the ground floor fireplace.

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Due to the later alterations and modernisation, it is not possible to see where the original staircase was located however it is likely to have been in the recess next to the fireplace. There is a dormer window to the front and as there is no evidence any windows having been below the wallplate level,  this is likely to be an original although probably much altered feature.

It is likely that the earlier part of the house or barn as it was, was converted at the same time or prior to the demolition of an earlier house to provide some accommodation whilst the new wing was being built. The arrangement would have looked similar to 7-9 Walnut Tree Road with a lower cross wing and it may also have been jettied. This would have made the whole house look more impressive.  The evidence for this is that the main ceiling beam runs across the southern most (front) bay not along it like the rear and additional barn. This allows the ceiling joists to be run to create an overhang ie. the jetty. Otherwise the floor should match the northern section of the building.  The existing ground floor wall is of brickwork and there are no ceiling or wall timbers visible to show evidence of a former bressumer beam, but the beam spacings would provide an overhang of approximately 12-18 inches.

Looking at the northern section of the earlier building which appears to have been built as a barn, it is unclear if the whole building became living accommodation or just the remaining bay. Outbuildings and other substantial barns are known to have stood on the site of the current 20th century addition although the building has been truncated at some time. The wall plate has been shaped into a horn at one side only where it protrudes beyond the tie beam. This horn is not weathered and is therefore shaped after the rest of this part of the building was demolished.

Cut off end to the wall plate.

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Below is a large brick built fireplace which has been altered over the years and having the main ceiling beam supported off the chimney. It is possible if the further bay had been retained that there were actually back to back fireplaces here and in demolishing the northern bay, the fireplace and flue was removed as well, which could account for some of the alterations.  An additional timber support has been added at a later date above the bressumer which is also a reused timber. This may have been to improve stability after the abutting flue was removed. Most of the ceiling joists and studwork in this room are reused and of varying ages which could be due to ongoing repairs and replacement using whatever timber was available to hand, including replacement of heavily decayed timbers to suit more modern requirements.

Fireplace showing reused bressumer and additional support. The varying timbers used for the ceiling joists are also visible.

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In the roof space above, the original roof was slightly lower than the southern building so to maintain a straight roof line, an additional roof has been constructed over it.

The jumble of rafters above the original parts of the building. The northern part has a slightly lower roof height than the southern part but both roofs have been superceeded by a later roof to straighten the ridge.

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Outside, the majority of the timbers are concealed by softwood timber covering the structural timbers. The steep pitch of the roofs suggests they were thatched and old photos show thatched barns adjoining the house.

 

To conclude, the house is unusual in that it has been very specifically altered over the years to suit the needs and changing fortunes of the owners. The alignment of the earlier part of the house with Stoneyards and its position in relation to what appears to have been a large Green in front of The Fox and Church opens a debate about the Green encroachment which forced a change in the way the buildings were accessed and used. Whilst it is not possible to tell if the smoke blackened timbers were from an earlier house on the site or from elsewhere, they are still an integral part of the buildings history and demonstrate the need to carefully consider the evidence seen during an inspection and the reasons for coming to our conclusions.

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