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61-63 LONG ACRE

Description

61-63 Long Acre is an L-shaped building but with its main frontage aligned alongside Long Acre, rather than at a right-angles as with the other buildings surveyed. The principal part is 3-cells long and there is a single room extension at the north-east corner. The latter was extended further in 1982 for a new kitchen and the west end of the main part has had several single-storey service rooms tacked-on in recent years. The building was owned by the Crown but is currently divided into two separate residences: that of the Green’s at no. 61, and the Hodges at no. 63. A wall between the 2nd and 3rd rooms divides the two households. The building was listed at Grade II in 1989. Henceforth it will be referred to as simply ‘61-63.’

The building is an old, largely brick-built structure but with a south frontage and west gable-end that have been drastically altered to a vernacular revivalist design, with the introduction of dark vertical and diagonal timbers and thin (2 inch; 50mm) dark-red bricks set in a herringbone pattern. The tiled roof has three dormer windows and above are two tall Tudor-style chimneystacks (Plate 7). When this transformation took place, possibly somewhere in the 1870s, the rear elevations were largely left as before, apart from the addition of a small porch at the internal angle (Room 8) (Plate 8). As with the main frontage (Plate 12), this too had a Gothic-style doorway. The mixture of styles is further illustrated by a separate outside toilet / coal-store block that features arrow-loop ventilation slits on the south side.

Although this re-design was substantial, and probably explains why the building’s early age was not discovered until relatively recently, various parts of the original structure were retained within the building. Whilst most of the roof structure was replaced, part of an original cruck-frame, a pair of long curving timbers that usually rise from ground level to meet at the ridge of the roof, was apparently left in place behind the brick façade of the south gable. This was identified during an examination of the roof by conservation officers in about 1990. The author was unable to gain access to this part of the roof or to obtain further detailed information from Rushcliffe Borough Council to confirm this. There is also a curving collar still showing above the wall between Rooms 2 and 3. The remaining part of the main range’s rear elevation not now obscured by later additions, has early brickwork and some timbers showing (Plate 9). The walling above is hidden behind render. Although the east side of the building is unrendered, it is unfortunate that much of its early brickwork cannot be seen because of the close proximity of the adjacent building.

Internally, the original part of the building alongside Long Acre is of a similar design to no. 21 with three ground-floor rooms (Rooms 1-3), the first two being set around a large central stack, and with a dividing wall separating the last two rooms in the sequence. All three rooms are 14 feet wide (4.35m) and with a similar 12 feet (3.7m) length from wall to fireplace. This differs from no. 21 which has rooms of unequal length and a narrower width of about 12 feet (3.7m). Similarly to the latter, 61-63 has centrally-placed cross-beams running parallel to the building and two right-angle beams close to and to either side of the central stack, which extend through and show in the north façade. Neither of these timbers extends over the cross-passage (shown as the hall in Fig. 7), an area which would have acted as the lobby entrance to an original front door. A vertical timber on the south side of the hall (and at a point central to the stack) may have been a jamb to an internal dividing doorway, behind which there may have been the parlour.

The extension in the north-east corner (Room 6) is also 14 feet (4.35m) wide and slightly longer than this from wall to end fireplace. This room is both bigger and higher than the other ground-floor rooms. Rooms 1-3 are about 2.1-2.15m (6¾-7ft) in height but Room 6 is higher at 2.3m (7½ft). This was used as a large kitchen / dining area before the extension was added in 1982 but may have started in use as a dairy or even a wash-house. On the west side there is a centrally-placed window with a segmental head, of similar size and appearance to that on the west side of no. 21 Long Acre. Another large window above and to the left has a flat head. The east elevation is now unlit apart from a single small window at first-floor level that lights a corridor.

At first-floor level the building as a whole displays no obvious original features. The positioning of the two staircases and the layout of rooms and connecting corridors very much reflects the subdivision of the building into two distinct parts. Together, the residences have five bedrooms, two of which retain small Victorian fireplaces. The relatively confined space of the upper floor in the main range, with the side walls rising to only a height of about 1.2m (4ft) shows that the original building was only 1½ storeys high, with lofts or garrets instead of a second storey as such (Fig. 8 Section 1). These were probably open to the roof, lit by small windows at either end and intended principally for storage. The relatively steep roof-pitch of about 55º probably reflects the original use of a cruck-frame and a thatched covering. The use of crucks might also explain why the early brick walling in the north wall is not particularly thick and does not sit on a wider plinth. Apart from supporting the beams and joists of the upper floor, the side walls were not load-bearing as the full weight of the roof was transmitted directly to the ground through the crucks.

Development of the building

The original part of the building is probably represented by the three rooms or cells that face Long Acre. Although many buildings that feature a central stack started as 2-cell units, with a third cell added later, 61-63 appears to have been built as a three-cell unit from the start, with a hall or forehouse (an area that usually incorporated the kitchen), a service area and a parlour, although determining which room was which is not easy without corroborating evidence. Where the upper part of the east wall of Room 2 rises towards the ceiling there are floor joints carrying on through, and the cross-beam probably rests on a timber upright about 0.4m (16ins) wide, which shows as straight joints in the walling. There may have been a mainly stud or timber and plank partition here before the building was sub-divided by a brick wall for the two residences. One possible arrangement is that Room 1 was the parlour, Room 2 the forehouse and Room 3 the service area (with perhaps a milk-house and buttery). The latter was originally unheated. The line of the cross-beam is clearly interrupted by both the staircase and the fireplace as it has no chamfer-stops showing, and bricks used in the fireplace are of the sort found in the later wing.

It is unfortunate that views of the main frontage do not survive from before its 19th century alteration, to show to what extent the door and window positions may have replicated what was there before. The roadside elevation, facing south, will have provided sunlight to the house and the lobby-entrance implies an entry-point, perhaps to the right of the present arrangement. The symmetry of the present fenestration and doorways would not have been a serious consideration in the early 17th century building. The building has all the characteristics of having been a farmhouse and the earliest surviving plan of Bingham, the tithe map of 1840, shows it with other buildings set around a probable crew-yard. Another doorway on the north side can be anticipated, and the brick walling on the north side bears evidence for two possible former entrances (Plate 9).

In the north-east corner of Room 1 the wall is recessed to a half-brick thickness and externally the brickwork is both darker and its coursing fails to align with that of the adjacent walling, as Plate 9 shows. A vertical line of render may mask a timber door jamb. To the left, the brickwork comes up against the later porch, and although the join is now obscured by a plastic down-pipe, the earlier brickwork stops at a straight joint which the porch has taken advantage of. Internally, the north wall in Room 2 displays a slight bulge at this point and a horizontal timber beam at a low head-height apparently exists beneath the modern plaster (pers. comm. B. Green). This is suggestive of more timbers having been present in the walling or perhaps that a doorway had been situated here. The doorway into Room 1 may have been the later one of the two as the cross-beam by the stack is set at an acute angle that suggests re-alignment. External brickwork above and to the left of the larger window in Plate 9 also differs from that marking its right reveal. Within only a 4-metre length there is enough variation in the earlier external brickwork to indicate that the building has had a complex history. Why the walling above is rendered is unclear.

Whether the brickwork is original is not absolutely certain. Many similar buildings are generally believed to have been timber-framed with a mud or wattle-and-daub infill that was only later replaced with brickwork. An example of this is 37 Water Lane, Radcliffe-on-Trent which is said to date from 1637 (Priestland and Cobbing 1996, 225). At 61-63 the bricks showing on the north elevation vary in size but generally average about 2? ins (60mm) in thickness, with a length of just under 9ins (229mm), and are randomly coursed with the use of multiple headers or bricks of reduced length. The wall is only one brick thick and there is no plinth. The later wing has both a brick plinth (perhaps because it has a cellar) and bricks that average about 2½ins (57mm) in thickness and 9½ ins (241mm) in length. These are coursed in Flemish bond and below the eaves there is a dogtooth course.

During the course of the survey dendrochronological dating was successfully carried out in no. 61 on floor joists in Room 2. These dated with some precision to 1617. Whilst a general examination of local brickwork would suggest that bricks with an average thickness of 2 3/8 ins (60mm) are rare in a 17th century context, they are not unknown. For example, Castle Farm, Melbourne, dating somewhere between 1604-30, has brickwork of this thickness (Hutton 1991, 42). In addition, the length of the bricks at 61-63 is also consistent with an early 17th century date, as a length of 8½-9ins (216-229mm) was most common in the early-mid 17th century, after which they had a tendency to get longer (as mentioned above). The bricks in the north-east wing can still be later despite being narrower as both their greater length and Flemish coursing are consistent with this. Although in use during the second part of the 17th century, Flemish coursing only became the dominant form after 1700. This was also when the corbelling-out of brickwork at eaves level with dentilation (as found here) and dogtooth (cogging) courses became more common. Unfortunately, the timbers in the wing were unsuitable for tree-ring dating.

This part of the building will have included a full chamber at first floor level, as opposed to the garrets in the earlier range. This may have been used by farm labourers, as parlours carried on being used as ground-floor sleeping quarters well into the 18th century. This chamber had side walls of full height and an attic-space was set below a roof pitched at only 36º, so as to allow the adjoining roofs to be at the same height (Fig. 8). How the upper floor was accessed is unclear but there may have been a ladder rising from the kitchen below, or an external staircase cannot be ruled out. The original part of the house probably had only a narrow stair for access, placed next to the central stack, but its likely former position is not clear. The map of 1840 also shows another structure adjoining the north end of the north-east part of the building. This was probably a farm building that was subsequently removed later in the century.

The exterior of the building may have deteriorated before it was altered in the late 19th century. The south frontage is somewhat eccentric on a former farmhouse but it probably coincides with a change of use and tenancy, from housing a single farmer to the provision of two homes for farm labourers or other lower status occupants. The suggested date of between 1870-80 for when this happened was the time of the Great Agricultural Depression when farming was in crisis. Many estate owners responded to this by using capital to improve their housing stock so as to prevent rents from falling in value, and this may be the case here in Bingham. Lord Carnarvon, the lord of the manor at the time, may have commissioned a local architect to improve the building.

Summary

The dendrochronological investigation has produced a precise date of 1617 for timbers in the central room of the 3-cell range (and by implication the whole range). The layout of the building, the presence of a cruck-frame and other timberwork all fit in with this date. What remains uncertain is whether the brickwork at the rear of the building is original or later infilling between timbers. The size of brick used is not dateable with any precision. The later wing is probably mid-late 18th century in date. The later redesign of the building probably occurred between 1870-1880.


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