Restoration Work: Stripping Out the Church House
Substantial parts of the walls of the Church House are now clear of plaster and pointing. A lot more information about the structure is now available.
The changes made when the building was converted to use as for Poor House in the 19th century are very clear. At the west end the blocking up of the ancient full width hearth in the 19th century can be clearly seen. It is quite rough upstairs though more substantial down below.
This must be the result of the work noted in the Church Wardens' Accounts in 1819: -
"To William Bevens, mason, for contracting Church House chimney, repairing west wall
ditto and including 13s 9d for Lime as per bill £2. 9. 9d"
The Oven that is now visible was clearly altered quite crudely at the same time and is a miserable rebuild of the 16th century oven which is recorded in 1575 as being thatched for by Botffilde for 4 pence.
But the most significant revelation is in the north wall (opposite the doors). It is now clear that along the north wall the Floor beams are set in a course of carefully squared stones running from east to west until broken by the first alteration to the west wall which probably happened in the 1570's. A layer of mortar or cob lies level with the top of the beams and then the upper part of the stone wall is set on this layer. This is very strong evidence that Church House was designed and built as a two storey building; and that the theory about two earlier phases as an Open Hall structure may well need to be abandoned. Of course this throws up the question of how the thatch became smoke blackened!
Both Ian Tyers and John Letts expressed reservations about the smoke blackening:-
John Letts writes " Although all of the smoke blackened thatch within this roof probably dates from a single phase of works different parts of the roof may well have been exposed to more or less blackening for a variety of reasons; e.g. partitions, location of smoke vents, leaky fireplaces... (p5)
Ian Tyers writes, when discussing the mixed numbering of the carpentry marks on the roof trusses." This leads to a series of interpretative issues with the thatch, the smoke blackening of both it and the timbers, the dating of the thatch and even the source of the smoke blackening since this is not of the thickly crystalline nature of much of the smoke blackening seen elsewhere. . . (p7)
Clearly there is lots of debate ahead.
Cynthia Gaskell Brown, Heritage Consultant. 31 May 2005