Featured Building

A cottage in Hempnall 

The six-bay timber frame is rendered externally over a low, mostly brick, plinth. The south gable wall has been rebuilt in brick, wraps round by almost one metre and contains a blocked doorway towards the east. Documentary evidence indicates division into two units during the late eighteenth century.  The roof is thatched and the northern end is half hipped. The ridge to the north of the stack is 25-30cm higher than on the south side. Two rows of purlins and a ridge piece are visible in the gable end.

The current entrance is through a modern porch located adjacent to the east side of the stack into a very small lobby, but there is evidence of a door in the east fa├žade in the cross-passage position, although there is no evidence of an opposing door.

It is understood that the dormer windows are of the twentieth century. A modern single-storey extension continues the building northwards. There is no cellar.


The timber in the building is of variable quality but does contain some sapwood. The frame is fully braced and scribed carpenter’s assembly marks can been seen throughout the building but it would require a thorough recording to identify those of significance.


The cottage has been through numerous alterations and exposes few dateable clues as to its origins and development. The building has the appearance and plan form of a late sixteenth century/early seventeenth century dwelling: it consists of parlour, hall and services and is floored throughout.  The timbers for the most part have plain chamfers and stops making their date later rather than earlier, but the ceiling joists are flat laid in both rooms. The moulding on the parlour wall posts is most unusual and is therefore difficult to date.

After revisiting this house and undertaking some detailed measuring it is now thought that it may have been orientated the other way round from the initial assessment made in 2012, which was based on the apparent cross-passage doorway and the location of the small service bay to the north. The two-bay room at the north end of house now appears to have been the parlour and has chamfered and stopped common  joists. The blocked doorway (seen from outside) at the northeast corner of this room would then appear to be a later insertion when the cottage was two units. The service rooms noted earlier are part of a single-storey lean-to extension (possibly later, as no details can be seen at the join).   The owner informed us that this doorway was the main entrance when she bought the house in 1959, with a small lobby inside - since removed. She also informed us that the current lobby-entrance and porch were also made after 1959, there was no entrance there before that.

On the south side of the stack there appear to be two frames with approximately 15cm between them - the southernmost one is complete and the other fragmentary. According to the owner, in 1959 there was no way through to the upper floor of the south side of the building from the stairs. Part of the wall in the frame to the south side of the stack was removed after 1959, the tie-beam cut through, the corridor constructed  and the stairs altered to allow access to the southern rooms. The adjacent fragmentary frame defines the extent of the current chimney stack, but has the appearance of a smoke bay. The current mantle beam is modern - marked by circular-saw cuts.


The original thought of this house as a lobby-entrance building of the late 16th or early 17th C does not now seem likely.

A comment by Edwin Rose in the Historic Environment Record highlights the difference in ridge height between the two ends of the house and suggests that the higher end is indicative of the parlour end of an open-hall house. 

The clumsy breaks in the two wallplates at the southern end of the stack bay indicates that the southern end of the house was rebuilt - was the current northern room the parlour end of an open-hall house which had a timber-framed chimney bay into which was built the current brick stack? The two parallel frames to the south of the stack points to the southern end of this house as a later build, probably a two-storey replacement - of an open hall or an earlier two-storied end?  The principal joist in the southern room is supported by butterfly-shaped supports carved from the solid. 

The fact that this end of the house upstairs was physically separate until 1959 seems to point to two separate occupations. Documentary research identifies 2 differently-named occupiers as early as 1691, opening the possibility that the rebuild of the hall end was at or before this date and the building was lived in as two units subsequently.
If there was a service end as part of this rebuild, it was replaced by the wrap-round brick gable probably in the late 18th or early 19th century, given the size of the bricks and the window head treatment.