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21 LONG ACRE

Description

Numbers 19 and 21 Long Acre are a Grade II listed building as the two properties are part of the same range that runs at a right angle to the north of Long Acre, and were once part of the same property. The other properties surveyed were sold off by their former owner, The Crown, but no. 21 has been retained. Number 19 consists of two distinct though adjoining buildings, both of some age, one single-storey and used as a shop with its frontage to the road, the other a two-storey residence behind it. This part of the range was not included for survey. The earliest surviving map, the tithe map of 1840, shows all parts of the range then in existence, although the more modern brickwork at the south gable end indicates that the shop frontage did not appear until the late 19th – early 20th century. Otherwise, the main brickwork suggests a date for no.19 somewhere in the 18th century. A pump in the yard of no. 21 is also listed separately from the house.

Number 21 (Plate 1) is a separate residence, that of the Morris family, who have been living in the building since about 1900 (pers. comm. J. Morris). The main part of the building is 3-cells long with a fourth cell or wing forming an L-shape. A single-storey kitchen block (Room 4), a lean-to at the north end and a projection on the west side housing a staircase are later additions. To the east there is a separate block that features a garage, a store and a former pigsty. The main building is brick-built and has a pantile roof. A part stone rubble and part brick plinth is visible on three sides and Fig. 4 indicates that it also existed at the south gable end of the building prior to the adjoining part of the range being added in the 18th century. The plinth does not continue around the projecting east wing. If the latter is observed straight on, the main entrance is near-central to the whole eastern frontage, with a window immediately above but with others that are irregularly spaced. It is difficult to determine for sure whether the projecting east wing is original. It has a basement-cellar with benches or thralls and an upper room which may have been used originally for storing cheese. It has a sliding roof and the upper brickwork is later than the lower and may indicate a major alteration, such as a raise in height.

On the west side there is a back doorway which is not original as it has cut through the plinth and brickwork has had to be re-set on the north side (Fig 5). Near the south end there is a small blocked window (showing over the coal-store) and a similar small window may have existed in the position of the doorway before it was inserted. A large ground-floor window with the segmental head has also disturbed the plinth below it and is positioned almost exactly central to the façade. The proximity of two windows near the ends of the building is of some interest as a mid-17th century building in Newark (5 Church Street) also has windows set surprisingly close to the end of two of its elevations.

Internally, the building has three ground-floor rooms 12 feet (3.65m) wide and of varying length, although the central room has a similar length-breadth ratio. Each room has a central axial cross-beam (Plate 6). Those in Rooms 1 and 2 are supported by a widened section of intermediate walling which may have replaced or still contain within it a vertical timber support. A similar support timber can be seen in Room 3 next to a former kitchen fireplace (Plate 4), and another probably remains boarded up in Room 2, supporting the cross-beam there. The axial cross-beam in Room 2 has mortices showing on its underside, indicating that it has been moved from elsewhere where there has been a partition (these mortises are now hidden under supportive metal plates attached to the now cracked beam; (Plate 6). The mortises in this timber may have been to hold timber uprights or muntins which were grooved down the edges to hold thinner planks. This beam may have been previously situated where a brick wall now separates Rooms 1 and 2 as its length is similar to the width of the building. The end of a beam may have had to be cut as it still shows in the west elevation (Fig. 5). The height of the ceiling in this room is only about 2m (6½ feet) and as there is a step down of about 20cm (8ins) from the principal garden entrance into Room 2; the panelled front door is noticeably short.

Room 1 has an end fireplace but the room above (Room 7) does not have appear to have had one and smoke from the lower room was discharged through the stack above the adjoining building. Either this fireplace is an addition or the stack originally stood out from the south gable wall and was then incorporated into the adjoining building, although this might suggest that the upper room would also have been heated too, with its fireplace recessed into the wall-face (and now no longer that evident). It is more than likely that Room 1 was originally unheated.

Rooms 2 and 3 have their fireplaces in a shared stack which is now heavily rendered and may have once featured inglenooks. There is an adjacent cross-beam in both rooms from which items could have been hung for warming. A stairway was probably positioned alongside the stack for access to the floor above, more likely on its east side, close to doorway in the north end wall and possibly lit by the small window next to it. Two planked doorways off Room 3 lead into the cellar (Room 5) and the raised room above it (Room 6; now the toilet) in the projecting east wing. As these rooms were probably intended for working and storing dairy produce, Room 3 would have been used as a kitchen, Room 2 the ‘forehouse’ (the main living area) and Room 1 the parlour. This arrangement is typical of the 17th century farmhouse throughout lowland England, with allowance for some variations.

The upper floor area reflects the lower area, although a modern partition now provides private access to Room 7, the largest of the three bedrooms (Fig. 3). This room has thicker walls than the other two rooms, and this difference coincides with straight joints in the brickwork on the outer faces. Two of the walls of Room 9 have since been thickened on the inside. Two of the upstairs rooms have traditional three-plank doors with spearhead strap hinges, and downstairs there are other possibly early plank doors. However, whilst these features might date from the late 17th or early 18th century period in this context, they appear in houses of later date and cannot be relied on here to be original features. Otherwise, there are few noticeable details within the building’s interior to provide clues as to its date. Chamfer ends are plain types of indeterminate date. Although the window openings are in original positions, most contain 19th or 20th century casements, apart from a small Yorkshire sliding-sash window in the north end (Plate 2).

Development of the building

There are a few indications, such as the distinct straight joints next to the first window, that there may once have been vertical timbers showing on the building’s east frontage. The building has a rough plinth above which there is relatively thin one-brick thick walling; the upper walling in the northern part was only a half-brick thick. Generally, the lower brickwork is of variable coursing, ranging in places from random brickwork to variations of Flemish garden wall bond (e.g. Monk bond: two stretchers to each header, per course). The bricks vary in thickness between 2¼ - 2 7/8ins (57-60mm) and are long, averaging about 9½ ins (241mm). Similar sized brick is also used above the ceiling level of the ground-floor rooms where the walling becomes thinner, but the coursing changes to mainly stretcher bond. This change is evident on three faces of the building and is shown on Figs 4 and 5. There is also a levelling-up course above the doorway on the west side.

The lower brickwork coursing rises to a greater height at the south end of the building, where Rooms 7 is situated, and the upper brickwork here is different, being of a thicker brick set in Flemish stretcher bond. The difference in brick used for Rooms 7 and 8 also shows as a distinct vertical break, a difference in the height of the dogtooth brick course at eaves level, and a slightly higher roof-line above Room 8. The internal brick wall separating this part of the building from the rest rises up into the attic. Seen from the east side it is possible to deduce that the building was at one time divided into two parts, 1½ storeys high at the south end and single storey at the north end, and that both ends were raised, possibly at different times. The differential heights suggested here are reminiscent of a medieval arrangement, where the main part of the building (the low, north end) was centred around a hearth (later becoming a stack) and open to the roof, whereas the high end was separated off for privacy and was taller, having a floored upper chamber. The possibility must exist that the building is older than the brickwork suggests, and that it was originally timber-framed above the stone plinth. The low ground floor level relative to the garden might support this suggestion for an earlier origin. The first phase of the 17th century brick building may have been influenced by an earlier 16th century design, retaining the distinction between the high and low ends.

Two possible explanations are offered here for the differences in the upper brickwork. The first assumes that the building was as mentioned above, 1½ storeys high at the south end and single storey at the north end. Alteration to the building may have occurred in two phases: firstly with an internal brick wall built on the line of a previous timbered division between Rooms 1 and 2. This was carried through to a 2-storey height and up to form a new attic-space. The walling to either side of Room 7 was raised in height and new windows inserted (that on the east side is central to the room). With the attic some height above the unaltered roofline, this might explain why the wall in the attic has what appears to be a small window opening in it. Internally, the cross-beam that previously spanned the building between Rooms 1 and 2 was moved and re-set to support the new floor in Room 2. This change may also explain the large timber in Room 3 (Plate 4), which is unlike other cross-beams and may well have come from the truss replaced by the upper brick wall. The north end of the building was raised at a later date with only half-brick thick walling. This has since moved where it joins with the existing brickwork – inwards on the east frontage and outwards on the west side (Plate 3). There are adjoining courses of dogtooth where the two phases of roof join at the eaves level.

However, whilst there is a clean vertical break showing on the east side, there is a more irregular change on the west side which is less easy to explain (Plate 3). An alternative scenario for how the building appeared before alteration is that the whole building was originally 1½ storeys high, with brickwork rising at least 8ft (2.45m) above the plinth. It was then altered in two phases, possibly as a result of partial collapse of a truss or damage such as a fire. The internal brick walling is contemporary with the rebuilding and raising of the walling around the south end (Room 7) first. The timbers mentioned above were removed at this stage and made available for re-use elsewhere. In the second phase most of the existing upper brickwork in the north part of the building was reduced down to ceiling level from where it was rebuilt to a full 2-storey height, but to a half-brick thickness only, and topped with a light pine roof, measures that hint at cost-saving. The reduction of the wall may be because timberwork needed to be removed from the upper walling or, more likely, because the first-floor flooring was being replaced or even inserted at this stage.

The building was almost certainly originally thatched as the roof-pitch is steep (Fig. 6). Internally, the roof is uncomplicated with simple rafters and one line of purlins. The timber in the two northern part is pine, which is pegged and probably of 18th century date (pers. comm. R. Howard), whilst a more recent softwood is evident in the roof over Room 7. The latter, if raised first, may have made use of existing oak rafters, whereas the thinner walls of the north end required less weighty pine timbers made closer to the time of their insertion. The former, being older, may have needed to be replaced in more recent times. This also shows as a tonal difference in the pantiles.

It is regrettable that the timbers used in the building, both in the roof where softwood was present and elsewhere, where oak had been used, were found by R. Howard to be unsuitable for dendrochronology. The ring spacing of the oak was too great and there were not enough rings present to allow accurate measurement. There are no records remaining of the property and it cannot be connected with confidence to any individuals recorded as living in Bingham in the 17th-18th centuries. The building is not easy to analyse. Above it is suggested that there may be indications of a late medieval design and an earlier timber phase, which was subsequently altered. However, the present form of the building suggests a likely date after 1600. Dating this building by its brickwork alone is not straightforward as bricks are notoriously difficult to date, their size varying from place to place. However, certain general trends can be discerned by examining other buildings in the region and plain brick buildings were being constructed in Nottinghamshire from at least the 1650s (e.g. 5 Church Street, Newark). Early brick pits may be implied by names such as Upper and Lower Claypit Closes in the survey book of 1586 (Henstock 1986, 33), although this may have been for tile production instead. The simpler term ‘pitt’ in early documents can refer to marl pits, clay pits or gypsum pits, whereas here the term has a more specific connotation. Nevertheless, many of the smaller buildings in Bingham were probably made of timber with mud and stud infill, or even solid mud walling, rather than the more expensive brick.

The brick bonding used is not particularly helpful for dating the building. Whilst Flemish garden wall bond is apparently evident within the walling it is part of a more random pattern that is typical of early brickwork. Where used solely in a wall face on Nottinghamshire buildings it is generally of 18th century date (Brian 1980). The more regular coursing at the upper south end (either side of Room 7) is a Flemish stretcher bond, with 2-5 stretcher courses to each normal Flemish course (i.e. alternating header and stretcher). Like the random coursing it is found in central England in ‘lowly’ buildings and in Nottinghamshire dates to the 17th-18th centuries, its occurrence here probably falling within the latter period.

The layout and character of the building and the general nature of its brickwork suggests that the brick building is of mid-late 17th century date. It was probably re-roofed in the mid-late 18th century with the use of pine below a probably still thatched roof, later replaced by pantiles. Internally, brick walls probably replaced post and plank partitions and the upper flooring provided rooms where only a loft had existed before (as may be indicated by the curvature of the stack shown in (Plate 5). This may have coincided with the building’s enlargement to include a larger kitchen / washroom (Room 4). This included boiling facilities and a well (pers. comm. J. Morris); the latter would previously have been external to the original smaller kitchen (Room 3), as was commonly the case in 17th century buildings. Other alterations occurred in the 19th century when new windows were installed, and perhaps the roof above Room 7 was replaced. The staircase block may also date from this period.

Summary

An earlier study of this building concluded that it was of 16th century date (pers. comm. J. Morris), but copies of this report were unavailable to this author for the reasons to be appraised. This date may be supported by the presence of a stone plinth (with brick repairs at the north end), indications of former timberwork in the walling, a sunken floor level, recycled timbers and indications of different floor levels. The central stack has a curve showing at the upper level (Plate 5), which might suggest that the first floor level is a later introduction. The position of the building, set back from and gable-end towards the road is very similar to that of Donkey Green’s Cottage. There remains a strong possibility of an earlier phase before the brick building.

The brick building probably dates to the mid-late 17th century; it probably stood when the 1674 hearth tax returns were made. This date-range is based on the size of brick used and the mixed coursing (not fully random), both of which suggest a date after 1640. There is also the probable inclusion of the east wing, the lower brickwork of which appears to be coursed in with the rest of the building. This and an element of symmetry in the positioning of doorways and windows is evidence for a post-1650 date.

The building may have made use of an existing earlier roof, something of a common practice, and this may have needed to be replaced in due course, possibly in the mid-1700s. This would also be when the upper brickwork was altered and the roofline raised. That this was possibly carried out in two phases and that much of the walling was built only half-brick thick hints at cheapness. The early appearance of pinewood, as in the roof at 21 Long Acre, is not unusual as good oak timber was probably in short supply and expensive by this time. The addition at the north-west corner was also built in the 18th century but this was only of single-storey height.


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