Featured Building

Lime Tree Cottage Hempnall. 


The house is of one and a half storeys, externally rendered over a timber frame on a brick plinth, later clad in brick. It is aligned approximately wnw - ese and consists of three cells with a cross-passage and off-centre chimney stack with four original flues, although the top of the stack appears to have been rebuilt above an eighteenth-century dentil strip.

The roof is thatched and is hipped at both ends. Access to the roof is extremely limited, but it appears to be supported by two side purlins, the lower ones clasped by collars, the upper ones close to the ridge piece, not pegged to the rafters, supported by collar struts, wedged between the two sides of the roof. The two dormer windows on the north side and the two on the south side were probably not part of the original build, but it is not possible to see the constructional details. The two in the rear (south) wall appear to have been constructed to provide light when the rear lean-to extension was built.

The partition between the cross passage and service rooms contains three original doorways, two into the service rooms at the west end which were divided by a partition, now removed, as evidenced by the empty mortices in the central joist, and the third, to the south, accessing a staircase, which it is assumed is original. There is a Samson post in the southern service room adjacent to the staircase, supporting part of the ceiling, but this is unlikely to have been the result of the insertion of a staircase as there are no joists to be trimmed as they run in the same direction as the stair.

The principal joists in the ground floor ceilings have deep chamfers but the stops have been degraded by insect activity. In the western principal room, the principal joist has been raised by supporting it on a carved oak block at each end, the southern one of which rests on the original integral bracket. The common joists are laid flat, and are approximately 15cm wide, morticed into the principal joist but only resting at their other ends.

The frame is fully braced, with swag-shaped braces in the corners and straight or arched braces elsewhere. There is one visible face-halved scarfe joint in the northern wall plate, but its dimensions cannot be ascertained as most of it is hidden behind a partition. 
Many, if not most, of the joints throughout the frame are identified by carpenters’ marks, some chiselled, some scratched and some cut by a race knife and numbering up to XIIII or XIIII tag. There are several deep burn marks, especially on the mantle beams and a shallow incised rose circle on the door frame of the room above the service rooms. 

 Upstairs, the tie beams are between 1.2 and 1.5m above the floor level and each of them has been cut and had a doorway inserted to improve room to room access. In at least one case, the cut ends have been dovetailed into the door frame in an attempt to replace the rigidity afforded by the original tie-beam





Two of these door frames were constructed either from re-used timber from substantial principal joists with chamfers and decorated with two slightly different chamfer stops with deep nicks. Or they were inserted in the mid sixteenth century to improve access upstairs, perhaps when the Vicar took up residence in 1643. 
Some of the ledged oak doors are possibly original with T hinges and one very fancy sprung latch with an apotropaic saltire cross bridging the door-to-frame gap.   

Some of the original downstairs windows are visible inside and appear always to have been glazed as there is no evidence of shutters or shutter grooves anywhere in the house. The mullions in the window adjacent to the door in the north wall are of a ogee shape and those in the rear window in the same room are diamond-shaped but with gazing rebates. 

There is a second staircase made of softwood squeezed between the chimney stack and the north wall which may have resulted from the period when the house was divided into two units in the late eighteenth century, evidenced by documents (1783) and later photographs (a break in the brick plinth in the north wall confirms the presence of an additional door). These photographs also show a brick skin on the north wall, now rendered over.

Whether the house once faced the river to the south at the bottom of the garden rather than the road to the north, as it does now, is impossible to say from the available evidence, but the house is equidistant, approximately 10m, from both.