Timber Framed Buildings from a talk by Duncan James
Oak framed houses of every size are prominent in the Western Midlands, and their design and building matched contemporary styles and skills over many centuries, from the basic ‘long house’ of the early Middle Ages, to the elaborate and highly decorative mansions of the Tudor era. As the supply of suitable timber dried up, the superior craftsmanship of the carpenters became veiled by plaster, and replaced by building in brick and stone.
“The Rodd” near Presteigne, a prosperous Gentry farmhouse along the old road between Hereford and Presteigne, via Stansbatch, has a building date of 1629, so is of stone with a brick front and chimneys, and a tiled roof, and the basic linear layout includes an addition redolent of the period – a library! The doors and their cases, and panelling, and any interior beams are all richly but tastefully worked in ovolo moulding, but the greatest skill and design has been shown in the carving of the overmantels, with heraldic shields, and in one room, representations of Adam and Eve with all due modesty, and a lurking snake with an apple displayed, and perhaps a foretaste of “the future”, – a dragon. The ceilings are now plastered, between the nicely worked strops, and in a bit of a throw back, there is a nice apotropaeic symbol in the attic, to ward off evil spirits.
The barn is entirely of the period – oak framed and boarded, but now contains accommodation for many cattle, as a better food supply has been developed, allowing them to survive the winters, and near the stabling for valuable horses, is a sleeping platform, with nicely chamfered beams in attendance.
“Upper Dolley”, upstream of Presteigne, complete with the new ‘water meadows’ of the late 1500’s, is a contrast – initially a strongly decorated timber framed farm, demonstrating Presteigne’s rise in prosperity, strikingly jetted and gabled, but falling on hard times – much became plastered over, and ancient solid barge boards, are being reused to support staircase steps. Even later, it got more plastered over, and needed a serious rescue operation, but we can still relate to the original carpenter, as he left an outline of his hand, greeting our arrival, engraved on a bracket of the jettied porch.
Eyton Court, near Leominster, long associated with the prominent Hakluyt family, is similar in age (1530), with a close studded jetty, and lots of careful mouldings, with a brick cross wing added later, but demonstrating best of all, the highly decorated plaster work used in ceiling panels, and at every intersection, a beautifully carved boss – all completely different.
On a totally different scale, up country in Shropshire, is Pitchford Hall, of 1549, – once everyones’ conception of a Tudor Mansion, described as “one of the most beautiful and romantic of all timber framed houses”, initially with vertically framed ‘close studding’, but with additions creating a “dazzling display of diamond and herring bone work”. Fortunately, any restorations were carefully done, preserving the graceful ageing of the timber work, and all is crowned by numerous brick chimney stacks, with over 250 separate flues, demonstrating the size and affluence of the old estate, but the problem now is that the property has been empty for more than 20 years, being described as “at risk”, but hopefully there will be a handsome prince along sometime, to rescue this sleeping beauty. Review JR.
The Hymns Farm, Walton, Powys, LD8 2RA (it’s just off the Kinnerton Road from the A44). This is one of the properties that Duncan James referred to at our last meeting. The gardens are open to the public through the National Gardens Scheme on 20th and 21st May from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Sadly the house will not be open but there will be a print out of Duncan’s notes on the outside of the building. The WI and Old Radnor Church will provide refreshments and there will also be pottery, books, plants etc. for sale. Entry is £3.50 in aid of the NGS cancer related charities. It would be great to see KHS Members there.
After Easter we start our summer outings with visits to Hergest Croft Archives on 8th May (some places are still available for the afternoon tour) and Parkstile Cottage in Lyonshall on 16th September, followed by tea in the cottage. If you would like to join us please phone Nancy on 01544 230691 or Julia on 01544 231663 as soon as possible.
As was mentioned at our recent meeting, we would also welcome more members on the committee, in particular with arranging future speakers and visits, as Nancy will be stepping down as Programme Secretary in the autumn. Do phone if you feel you can help. Thank you. Editor, Vera Harrison.