Discoveries from the Deverills, Part 6: Coming of the ‘Stone Age’
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.
Many farmhouses all over Britain underwent this process in the early to mid 19th century, and it seems to be linked with increasing prosperity in farming which culminated in the high farming of the mid-Victorian period. At this time two 17th century stone fireplaces were added in the formerly unheated parlour and chamber over. We don’t know where these came from, but it is thought that the Longleat Estate was tempting potential tenants with a bit of borrowed grandeur, even if it was a bit out of date.
Dorothy Treasure, Principal Buildings Historian, Wiltshire Buildings Record