Friday, February 22, 2013
Last for now in my line of posts about timber-framed houses is Paycocke's, the beautiful merchant's house in Coggeshall, Essex. Paycocke's was built in 1510 for Thomas Paycocke, a member of a rich family of cloth merchants. Although the house was much altered in later centuries, this street frontage is very much how it would have been in 1510 – there was a restoration in 1910, when some of the woodwork was replaced (with carving by Ernest Beckwith), but much 16th-century timber survives. And there is a lot of timber, because this frontage is close-studded – in other words the framework is made up of a large number of closely placed vertical posts. This was a high-status way of building, only available to a client with the money for lots of wood, but for those who could afford it both very satisfying to look at and very strong structurally. Close-studding is particularly associated with the prosperous towns and villages of East Anglia, although close-studded houses can be found in many other parts of England too.
Another thing a rich owner could afford was decorative carving, and Paycocke's has a lot of this – on the big horizontal beam, on the windows, and elsewhere. Snaking vines, carved heads, and the initials T. P. and M. P. (presumably for Thomas Paycocke and his wife Margaret) all feature on the carved front. This ornamentation, together with the mullioned windows and flattened arches, is very much in the Gothic taste of the time. The Renaissance was late coming to this part of England, but the house is none the worse for this – its creators were artists of the late Gothic as accomplished as the builders of many medieval churches.
The quality of this building, with its fine timber frame and herringbone brick infill, has long been recognised. One of its greatest champions was Lord Noel-Buxton, who bought the house in 1904, commissioned the 1910 restoration, and presented the building to the National Trust in 1924. The Trust give more details of the house here, and there is even a Paycocke's blog.