Some of the later buildings we investigated in Kingston Deverill may well have replaced the earlier timber-framed houses that were on the same site. Stone started to be used for vernacular, that is traditional, building from around 1550, possibly because decent timber that was usually preferred was getting scarce, and the local greensand rubble was plentiful. Humphrey’s Orchard seems to have started as a rubblestone farmhouse dating from the late 16th or early 17th century. The slightly peculiar name comes from a former owner. It had a heated hall, or living room/kitchen at the west end, and an unheated parlour for storage to the east. In C1700 the house was further extended to the west, doubling its size and providing further service rooms. When the rear range was added the whole house was ‘gentrified’ – a term meaning that the humble farmhouse was updated with some smart new architectural features inside.
In our on-going investigations into the Deverill parishes south of Warminster for the Victoria County History we visited Hedge Cottage. This looks like just another charming little early 18th century rubblestone and thatched rural idyll, gable end to the road, with a rear service outshut under a catslide roof. Once inside, we had a pleasant surprise: the interior told a very different tale of a one-and-a-half storeyed timber framed house of the earlier 16th century. The 16th century structure is of four uneven bays, that is, widths between the structural cross-frames that divide it. It was entered through something called a cross-passage, a medieval plan where a passage with doors at each end divided the house in half. It was too narrow for stairs, which had no prominence at that time, and tended to be stuck into a recess between the chimney breast and outer wall. This design lingered on in some rural parts such as the Deverill Valley until the 16th century.
To the right of the passage is an originally unheated parlour with panelled ceiling of 13cm chamfered beams. The widest chamfers seem to occur in 16th century beams, and they get progressively narrower and less conspicuous down the centuries as the craft of timber-framing diminishes and is replaced by brick and stonework with plainer finishes. To the left is the living room/hall with a later fireplace set in a deep smoke bay, just like the one at Manor Farm up the road mentioned in an earlier blog.
Quite often the most soundly constructed part of a church is its tower and when churches were restored in the 19th century it’s normally the nave, aisles and chancel that’s rebuilt, repaired or re-roofed. Sometimes the church was considered so dilapidated that it was demolished and a new one built on the same or even new site. In the case of Winsley in Wiltshire the 15th century church was recommended for demolition but the owner of Winsley House, Mr William Stone of Winsley House persuaded the architect, R.S. Pope of Bristol, and the diocese to keep the tower with its unusual saddleback roof.
The new church was built eight feet to the north of the old tower and was connected to it by a raised and covered passage way under which you can walk. Eroded memorial plaques on the tower had enjoyed the shelter of the nave until 1841 when the old nave and chancel were demolished. It seems possible that the old font that was contemporary with the tower was discarded at the same time as it was found in a garden in 1876 when it was restored to the church.
Is this the old manor house of Longbridge Deverill?
During our investigations of houses in the Deverills for the on-going Victoria County History study we visited Longbridge Deverill House nursing home. This was described in the listed building description as an 18th century house rebuilt in the 19th century and given as a rectory by the Longleat Estate in around 1840. The house presents as a gabled, L-plan Tudor-style mansion in Flemish bond diaper brickwork attractively picked out in burnt headers. In addition it has typically 19th century fish-scale tiled roofs and impressive ornamental diagonally-set brick stacks.
It looks fairly complete and has the Thynne motto over the doorway ‘J’ai Bonne Cause’, ‘I have good cause’ encircled by the Order of the Garter. Nobody would have thought that hidden away in what is now the kitchen and service wing to the north was evidence of a high-status dwelling of at least early 16th century date. The photograph shows an early type of partition known as plank and muntin, once with an arched door head. In the hierarchical society of the 16th century, the lord of the manor would have sat on a chair or bench backing onto this screen, which is finely carpentered in oak. Other similar surviving examples have been found in Wiltshire including at the King and Queen Inn, Highworth dating to the late 15th century, and at Bolehyde Manor near Chippenham.
In the second part of my blog on the marvellous discoveries in the Deverills I explored what timber-framed buildings were like in the Deverill valley in the period between1500-1600, looking in particular at Timber Cottage, Crockerton. Timber Cottage was a very obviously timber-framed building, but during our investigations we found that there was much more timber-framing hiding inside later stone encasing. One of the more spectacular finds was Manor Farmhouse in Kingston Deverill, which I will discuss in my next blog.
The wonderful mixed-truss construction aisled barn belonging to Manor farm is well-known about and recently dated by dendrochronology funded by Wiltshire Buildings Record to 1407-10. It has a fairly unique layout of structural trusses inside where base crucks (the very curved supports) alternate with straight posts. Base crucks are an early form of construction anywhere in England, and not generally found in Wiltshire after about 1350.
This dating was an improvement on the ‘probably 16th century’ date attributed by the DoE list description. It also extended what was previously thought to be the end of base-cruck construction – a very early type in the general chronology of crucks - in Wiltshire by around 60 years.
In my last blog I set the economic scene in the Deverill Valley which I believe gave rise to the great prosperity, partly through the woollen industry, that became evident in the rich building heritage of that area.
An obvious later example of wool wealth in Warminster can be seen in the grand houses that clothiers such as John Wansey built for themselves. The above image is Byne House dated to 1755 photographed in 2007 just after a fire, though there is very little that I looked at in the Deverills that represents the Georgian period. Most of our discoveries came from the beginning of the early modern period when Warminster and the Deverills had rich agricultural resources that were exploited by the lords of the manor such as Glastonbury Abbey, who owned Longbridge and Monkton Deverill in the Medieval period.
Before we look at individual buildings, what does a house of c1500 look like?