Farmhouses and cottages

The buildings surveyed on Long Acre were certainly farmhouses and the cottage on Long Acre East may well have been used initially by a small farmer. Most of the farms in Bingham were situated on Long Acre, the main route through the town, and the 1840 tithe map for Bingham, the earliest surviving map of the town, shows the outline of at least six farms within the space of only about 400 metres. In the 1586 survey it was called Husband’s Street. In East Bridgford there was both a Husbandman’s Street and a Cottager’s Street, names that marked something of social division at the time (Ashikaga and Henstock 1996, 89). Vernacular architecture studies have tended to focus more on 17th century farmhouses, perhaps because of their relatively high survival rate, whilst the once common smaller buildings, such as Donkey Green’s Cottage, have tended to receive less attention.

Many cottages were built in the later 16th century, but many were of poor quality and this led to an Act being passed in 1589 ‘against the erecting and maintaining of cottages,’ unless they also had four acres of land. The term cottage then referred to one-roomed structures, built largely from mud (Woodforde 1969, 11). A considerable number of houses built before 1750 had two ground-floor rooms, the earliest generally only 1½ storeys tall (Barley 1986, 256), and many of these are now referred to as cottages. Many were built for farmers, craftsmen and tradesmen, others of lesser quality for labourers. Because the quality of materials and workmanship varied, many have since been demolished or so drastically altered that they are now unrecognisable. South of Scarrington, a small settlement of cottages known as Little Lunnon housed the poorer members of the parish for several centuries (Flatman 2001; Plates 18, 19). One of these is shown with a similar extension as existed at Donkey Green Cottage; these may have been for small kitchens or pantries. The last cottage at Little Lunnon was demolished in 1945, and other cottages in the district around Bingham have been lost in relatively recent times.

By the beginning of 17th century the almost standard farmhouse design had evolved and this was to be repeated through several more generations. This was usually an unjettied timber-framed building 1½ storeys or more high and 3 cells or rooms long. It was entered by a doorway in a lateral wall opposite a central chimney-stack. The end room away from the stack was commonly an unheated service room, and this was sometimes divided into 2 smaller rooms (Mercer 1975, 62, 63). A low houses of three-cells length was preferred to a taller one of two-cells length (ibid., 65). The two other buildings in the survey generally conform to this blueprint.


Nottinghamshire has never had much of a tradition of using stone, and although the east part of the county has supplies of skerry this has tended to be mainly used for rubble walling, often in combination with brickwork (Summers 1975, 39). Most lesser status buildings were timber-framed and some fine examples were still being built well into the mid-17th century, as timber was used in the framework of most lowland houses up until then (Iredale & Barrett 2002, 23). However, as timber has never been available in great quantities in Nottinghamshire partly because of restrictive forest laws, many early buildings were built of mud and stud, using a minimum of timber in simple post and beam framing (ibid., 42). A paucity of timber is evident in the buildings of Bingham.

Throughout England bricks were not used in any quantity until after 1600 as they were initially expensive and were restricted to houses of the land-owning classes (Smith 1992, 95). Because of this fact the claypits referred to in the 1586 Bingham survey (see above) were probably not associated with brick production. One of the earliest brick houses in England, Old Hall Farm at Kneesall (between Newark and Ollerton) was built in the 1520s as a hunting lodge. It has the distinction of being the first identifiable lobby-entry house in the country (Gray 1994, 71), so it could be said that Nottinghamshire was not exactly a backwater in the development or spread of brick-building. However, it has long been thought that during the 17th century bricks were confined in the county to larger farmhouses or the homes of the lesser gentry, and that not until after 1700 were lesser buildings built solely of brick, when also many earlier timber buildings were clad or infilled with bricks, often in a herringbone pattern. As a local example, no. 37 Water Lane, Radcliffe-on-Trent, is said to date from 1637 and to have a brick infill dated to 1709 that replaced wattle and daub (Priestland and Cobbing 1996, 225).

There is now increasing evidence for vernacular buildings built primarily of brick in the middle decades of 17th century. Before then brick walls were usually built 1½ bricks thick as they were usually a covering, cladding or incorporated with existing walling and timbers, and possibly because of some remaining uncertainty about brick’s load-bearing capabilities (Iredale & Barrett 2002, 22). Some buildings in Newark show a confidence with brick in the mid-century, such as 5 Church Street, mentioned above. At 40-44 Castlegate a 14th century open hall roof was carried on single-brick thick walls that date to somewhere after 1636. From about 1660 onwards farmhouses were being built solely in brick and often built L-shaped from the outset, as by then more service space had become an important consideration (Barley 1986, 250). Parallel developments are the increase in height to a standard two-storeys and garret, the use of cellars, and fireplaces appearing in the end room, by now usually used as the parlour (ibid. 257). Ordinary brickwork before 1640 rarely showed any standardised bond (Iredale & Barrett 2002, 22).

Bricks are difficult to date, as their size could vary from place to place. Early 17th century bricks used in the general area around Bingham were generally no more than 2-2½ins (50-57mm) in thickness and local tendencies suggest that bricks that were 2 3/8; ins (60mm) in thickness are uncommon in the 17th century. As a note of caution though, the early 16th century bricks at Holme Pierrepont Hall reached this thickness, as did those in Castle Farm, Melbourne, which dates from dating somewhere between 1604-30 (Hutton 1991, 42). Also, brick lengths had reached about 9½ ins (241mm) by 1700, with even longer bricks being made in the early 18th century (e.g. for the buildings of Thomas Parkyn of Bunny Hall). This goes against findings elsewhere that bricks over 9ins (229mm) tended to be used less as the 17th century progressed (Campbell and Saint 2002, 181, 190). Bricks in Bingham may show a tendency to be both thicker and longer than elsewhere, possibly due to local production methods and the continued use of similar moulds in brick kilns. This continuation is evident at no. 21 Long Acre as it occurs in the upper walling rebuild mentioned above, in the addition in the north-west corner and the building added on to the south end (the latter two with English garden bond coursing). A brick of similar dimension was also used in a barn built after 1776 at Cooper’s Cottage in Bingham. Further study of older buildings in Bingham may establish how widespread this brick size was and its longevity.

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