BHTA commissioned Trent & Peak Archaeological
Unit to carry out a survey of three of the oldest houses in Bingham.
Richard Sheppard carried out the surveys. Robert Howard of the Nottingham
Tree-ring Dating Laboratory inspected the buildings to see whether
they might be dated through dendrochronology. BHTA is grateful to
the owners of the houses for allowing this intrusion into their
homes and for permission to publish the reports on them.
There are several candidates for the title
“oldest house in Bingham”. Among them are Beauvale House,
The Manor House and number 19 in Market Place, and the Post Office
House in Long Acre. Research on these has not yet been started.
The three chosen for this survey are 21 Long Acre, 61-63 Long Acre
and 23 Long Acre East.
Despite a spread of modern housing around its
flanks, at its centre Bingham retains its original medieval rectilinear
street pattern with the most important streets running east-west.
One of these is Long Acre (formerly known as Husbandman Street)
and still the principal east-west route through the town. At its
east end its alignment continues as Long Acre East, now just an
access road for local inhabitants. This former lane once continued
through the deserted medieval village in Crow Close ending roughly
where Carnarvon Primary School now is. The three properties examined
for this report lie along this general route-way and both the present
and earlier names for the road reflect the largely agricultural
background of the area through which it passed.
There are no detailed maps of Bingham that
survive from before the tithe map of 1840. A survey carried out
in 1586 for Sir Brian Stapleton, the then Lord of the Manor, showed
that the annual rentage then due to him was £95-14s-7½d.
Ownership then passed to the Stanhope family (Earls of Chesterfield)
who owned Bingham until 1871. It then passed to the Earl of Carnarvon
and eventually the Crown in 1925. The latter still owns some of
the property in the town, including one of the buildings covered
by the survey (Craddock 1980). Open field agriculture had ended
by 1684 and many small privately-run tenanted farms had become established.
Wills and inventories surviving from the 17th-18th centuries show
that most Bingham people with property were involved in agriculture.
The Hearth Tax returns of 1674 listed 117 households, and with an
estimated population of 500-550 based on an average figure of 4.5
persons per household, Bingham was bigger than most other villages
to the east of Nottingham, including Radcliffe-on-Trent and Cotgrave,
although not necessarily any wealthier.
Dating the Bingham buildings
The problem of dating is fundamental to building archaeology. The
late Maurice Barley pointed out that buildings like those in Bingham
are very rarely documented or have any inscribed evidence or dateable
fittings or mouldings, and as a result are usually impossible to
date to within less than 50 years (1986, 243). This highlights the
continuing importance of dendrochronology where oak timbers survive
and are of suitable age when felled. This can often provide major
surprises: both 40-44 Castle Gate and 40-44 Cartergate in Newark
were thought to be late 16th – mid 17th century on stylistic
grounds but were found to be of mid-14th century origin when tree-ring
dated (Arnold et al 2002, 58, 90). Tree-ring
dating has provided one clear and precise date for 61-63 Long
Acre and a possible date-range for the cottage. Otherwise, it is
a consideration of other factors in an archaeological approach that
has to be employed here to date the remaining building (21 Long
Acre) and the alterations to the others.
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 2-2¼ins (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.
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.
The bricks used in the three buildings surveyed
are of the following dimensions:
• 61-63 Long Acre:
2 3/8 ins (60mm) thick and just under 9ins (229mm) long.
Random coursing with some multiple headers. The later
wing has bricks about 2½ins (57mm) thick and
9½ ins (241mm) long, set in Flemish bond.
• 21 Long Acre: between 2¼ - 2 3/8 ins
(57-60mm) thick and about 9½ ins (241mm) long.
Random coursing with indications of a Flemish garden
wall bond (e.g. Monk bond: two stretchers to each header,
per course). Similar sized brick used in later phases
of building. Thicker brick in Flemish stretcher bond
in upper part of Room 7.
• 23 Long Acre East: 2½ ins (63mm) thick
and 9¼ ins (235mm) long, but higher up walling
bricks are nearer to 2¾ ins (70mm) and 9½
(241mm) respectively. Variation of Flemish stretcher
bond, with alternating 2-3 headers and 2 stretchers
in one course, and then 1-3 stretcher courses.
Summaries of the findings of this
survey are given below, but the full details for each
house can be had by clicking onto the address. If you
want to read a short comment on housing in the 14th
to 18th centuries in the East Midlands click
21 Long Acre
is a two-storey house at the north end of a range of adjoining brick-built
buildings, which together are Grade II listed. The house is of L-shape
plan, with a row of three ground-floor rooms of differing sizes
and a short east wing featuring a basement-cellar and an upper room;
there is also a later single-storey room attached at the north-west
corner. The brick walls of the main row sit on a part stone - part
brick plinth, and straight joints attest to various changes to the
upper part of the building. Internally, there are timber beams,
back-to-back fireplaces and plank doors that indicate a building
of some age. Unfortunately, the building’s timbers consisted
mainly of softwood or young oak and were unsuitable for tree-ring
The building is something of a conundrum. There
are indications of former timberwork in the walling and some internal
timbers have clearly been moved from elsewhere. The presence of
a plinth, a low floor level relative to outside the building and
indications of an internal division reminiscent of late medieval
influence – a communal ‘low’ end with a central
hearth (here the back-to-back fireplaces) and open to the roof,
and a partitioned-off ‘high’ end with an upper chamber,
are perhaps suggestive of a 16th century origin. Otherwise, the
brickwork, the L-shape plan, the internal layout and suggestions
of symmetrical positioning of doors and window openings date the
building to somewhere after 1650. The upper brickwork was altered,
a floor was inserted or replaced and the building re-roofed in the
18th century. Straight joints, changes in the brick coursing and
a dip in the roofline show that this was carried out in two separate
phases. Apart from the replacing of its thatched roof with pantiles,
the building has changed little since then.
Acre is an L-shaped two-storey building, which is Grade II listed.
Its roadside frontage and gable-ends date from the late 19th century
when it was refurbished to a vernacular revivalist design, probably
on behalf of its then owner Lord Carnarvon. The building consists
of three rooms of similar size and a larger room that was added
to the north-east corner, forming a wing. Now divided into two residences,
the building has been further extended in recent years. During an
inspection by conservation officers to approve proposed improvements,
the building was found to contain part of a cruck frame, an old
building method where pairs of large timbers are joined together
to form the apex of a roof.
The plan of the building conforms to that of
most farmhouses built in the 17th century, with a large chimney-stack
and back-to-back fireplaces set between two rooms, and a third room
with an end fireplace, in this instance probably added later. The
remaining part of the main range’s rear elevation not now
obscured by later additions has early brickwork and some timbers
showing. Dendrochronology has dated the main part of the building
precisely to 1617. Whether the brickwork is original to that date
or was added later, replacing earlier mud and stud infilling between
timberwork, remains unresolved. Some of the internal wall-faces
may be hiding parts of the original timber-framing beneath their
plasterwork. The building was originally 1½ storeys high,
with lofts or garrets beneath a steep thatched roof. The first-floor
bedrooms date from the 19th century improvements. The rear part
of the building was probably added in the 18th century, by which
time farmhouses required more space for dairies, washrooms and for
housing farm labourers.
23 Long Acre
East is also known as Donkey Green’s Cottage after a late
19th century occupant who is recorded in an early photograph, with
other family members, standing beside the building. This building
is small, and originally consisted of two rooms and an upper loft
beneath a thatched roof. It is typical of many small buildings built
before 1750, most of which have since been lost or been altered
beyond recognition. This cottage has a number of timbers showing
in its east frontage, which now consists mainly of brickwork, and
others remain within an inner passageway. The building has been
fully modernised inside and other single-storey extensions have
been added to its north end.
One of the internal timbers, a post supporting
a remaining cross-beam, has been dated to somewhere between 1570
and 1590. Whilst this sample alone cannot convincingly date the
building, the building is of a type that existed then. Although
now called a cottage it could then have been used by a small farmer
or tradesman. Probably originally built solely of timber studs and
mud infill its main walling was refaced and in places fully replaced
by brick in the 18th century. Later still, the south gable wall
was rebuilt. The inside now has modern partition walling but timbers
remain to indicate the position of the original room division, the
floor level and a wall-plate shows where the roof started. Despite
modernisation it retains its original form and something of its
A recent history Donkey
Green’s Cottage drawn up from documentary evidence is