Friday, February 15, 2013
Singleton, West Sussex
In the Weald
This post continues my short series on timber-framed buildings with another type that is associated with a specific English region. This is the Wealden hall house, a form that is most common in the Weald region, which covers part of Kent and neighbouring East Sussex. A Wealden house is a timber-framed building with a central, double-height hall heated by a central hearth, the smoke from which would originally have escaped through a hole in the roof. On either side of the central hall are two-storey sections, with their upper floors overhanging slightly, so that the central, hall section of the house is recessed. There would be service rooms on the lower floor of one of these side sections, with private rooms called solars on the upper floors.
My picture shows the beautiful Wealden house known as Bayleaf, originally built at Chiddingstone in Kent and relocated to the excellent Weald and Downland Museum. The house dates mainly from the early-15th century with alterations from the 16th century. With its large rectangular panels of wattle and daub, with curving cross-braces, it is very attractive, although some Wealden houses have a still more striking type of framework made up of many closely positioned vertical timbers. The name Bayleaf may derive from Bailey, the surname of the first occupant in the 15th century. Harry Bailey and later tenants and lessees of the house were farmers and Bayleaf seems to have been associated with a landholding of about 100 acres of probably mixed farmland (cattle farming dominated in this part of Kent, but a holding of this size most likely included some arable as well). This would make it home to people who in modern terms we might think of as members of the rural middle classes.
Wealden houses were not only found in the Weald. There are also some examples in Surrey, Essex, and even further afield. But Kent and eastern Sussex are their heartland and they form one of the most distinctive and attractive regional types of timber-framed buildings.
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The website of the the Weald and Downland Museum, which I must visit again soon, has more information about Bayleaf.
The photograph above is by Keith Edkins, and is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.