Wealden Hall Houses

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Wealden Hall Houses were timber framed farmhouses built by wealthy Yeoman farmers from the late 1300's to the mid 1500's, late Mediaeval to Tudor times. Its origins start in the South East, in the Weald of Kent and Sussex, but spread to other Southern English counties. They remain most prevalent in the South East, particularly in the surrounding areas of Maidstone.


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Those wealden hall houses that retain much of their original character are now listed buildings, the best examples being Grade II* listed.

❖ Design and construction

An original Wealden Hall House can be identified by its front jettied first floor end bays, and exposed timber frame work.
The timber framed walls would be filled with earth, dung and horse hair, the floor of chalk and sour milk (an early form of concrete), and the roofs were steep thatched hipped roofs, later to be upgraded to clay tile.

The timber frame was built in a bayed construction usually of three fairly equal bays, based around an open hall in the central bay, with an open fire place in the centre and no chimney.

At one end of the building would be the private bedrooms, the upper chamber was called the 'solar'. To the other end the 'service' and servants quarters and a cross passage entrance (front and rear doors joined by corridor directly opposite one another).

Roofs were constructed in rectangular hipped form, typically to a 50° pitch. Some situated in village and town centres had gable ends.

A toilet may have been provided suspended over the end of the building, quite an advancement in its day!

❖ Typical details

SU8712 : Historic House by Oast House Archive
Jettied first floor end bays, wooden slatted windows and timber detailing. This was at the front, and sometimes at sides.


SU8712 : Wealden hall house from Chiddingstone, Kent by Chris Gunns
Cross passage entrances. A corridor linking the front and rear doors. Gothic arched front entrance.


TQ5202 : Historic House by Oast House Archive
Thatched roof.


SU8712 : Historic House detail by Oast House Archive
A gablet, a small gabled bit of roof at the top of a hipped tiled roof.


SU8712 : Crown post inside roof of Bayleaf House by Oast House Archive
Inside roof, showing the high internal roof structure and crown post.


SU8712 : Jettied Toilet of Bayleaf House by Oast House Archive SU8712 : Historic House toilet by Oast House Archive
Jettied upstairs toilet.


TQ7855 : Historic House by Oast House Archive
Curved bracing and flying wall plate.


❖ Modifications

Over many hundreds of years virtually all wealden hall houses have been modified over their lifetime. As new technologies appeared and fashions changed, the buildings evolved. Many have disappeared altogether, usually replaced with a modern building of the time.

TQ6957 : Historic House by Oast House Archive
This example shows the central bay has been infilled, and the additional front doors show it has been converted to separate cottages.


Common modifications included;
• Glazed windows.
• Insertion of a brick chimney place and stack, usually positioned between the front and rear doors, changing the layout to a 'baffle entry' house.
• Thatched roofs were replaced with clay tiles.
• A floor was placed in the open hall to increase floor space at first floor.
• Central bay was jettied inline with the end bays.
• Jettied first floors walls were filled in below, often with brick, to increase floor space at ground floor.
• Rendering or tiling hanging to the external walls, hiding the exposed timbers.
• Extensions and gable roofed front bay windows.
• Parapeted front facade.

TQ7847 : Rabbits Cross Farmhouse by David Anstiss
A bay window addition, baffle entry chimney.


TQ8845 : Wanden Farmhouse by David Anstiss
A bay window addition, infill ground floor walls and central bay, front weatherboarding, side tile-hanging, and baffle entry chimney.


TQ5247 : Historic House by Oast House Archive
Jettied form retained but timbers replaced with brick at ground floor. Tile hung wings. This example had split into two cottages, and has recently been reverted back to one.


Many heavily modified Wealden hall houses are now being renovated and reverted back nearer their original form.

❖ Location

Map of a sample of wealden hall houses in the South East.


❖ Examples

SU8712 : Historic House by Oast House Archive
The Bayleaf was rescued from the site of a new reservoir at Bough Beach in Kent (TQ49674869), and reconstructed at the Wealden and Downland Museum as it would have been when originally built. It is one of the best examples to be found.


TQ5202 : Historic House by Oast House Archive
The Clergy House at Alfriston was the first property to be bought by the National Trust for the sum of £10. A carving of an acorn within the central hall is said to be the originals of the National Trust logo. It has been restored, though not to its original form, still retaining a brick and tiled extension to the rear, and a brick chimney and tile hanging to one side.


TQ8942 : Historic House by Oast House Archive
Whilst other Wealden Hall Houses took on major changes such as brick walls and infilled bays, Romden Hall House had few alterations. This was largely because it fell out of use as a dwelling during the 17th century, and was used as a farm building, including at one time being used as an oast house during the 19th century.
Romden Hall House was destroyed in the great storm of 1987, and later its timbers were used to be faithfully rebuilt at a new site in Smarden.


TQ7236 : Mock Historic House by Oast House Archive
Due to their desirable nature, some developers have built faithful reproductions. This example in Goudhurst was built in 2003, and for sale in 2009 for £1.25m.


Eating and drinking establishments
A number of buildings have been converted to public houses or cafés
TQ7415 : Historic House by Oast House Archive TQ8833 : Historic House by Oast House Archive TQ7323 : Historic pub by Oast House Archive TQ7058 : Historic House by Oast House Archive TR2858 : Historic House by Oast House Archive TR2753 : Historic house by Oast House Archive

❖ Gallery

TQ7831 : Historic house by Oast House Archive TQ8649 : Historic House by Oast House Archive TQ8942 : Historic House by Oast House Archive TQ9124 : Historic House by Oast House Archive TQ6171 : Historic House by Oast House Archive TQ5247 : Historic House by Oast House Archive TQ7444 : Historic House by Oast House Archive TQ7323 : Historic House by Oast House Archive TQ5856 : Oldbury Hall, Oldbury Lane, Ightham by Jane Haselden TQ8947 : Historic House by Oast House Archive TQ8045 : Historic House by Oast House Archive TR0033 : Historic House by Oast House Archive

See more Wealden Hall House photos

❖ Further reading

TQ7546 : Historic House by Oast House Archive
"Traditional Buildings of Britain" by R.W. Runskill
KML
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