Wealden Hall Houses
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.
© Oast House Archive Link
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
Jettied first floor end bays, wooden slatted windows and timber detailing. This was at the front, and sometimes at sides.
Cross passage entrances. A corridor linking the front and rear doors. Gothic arched front entrance.
A gablet, a small gabled bit of roof at the top of a hipped tiled roof.
Inside roof, showing the high internal roof structure and crown post.
Jettied upstairs toilet.
Curved bracing and flying wall plate.
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.
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;
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.
A bay window addition, baffle entry chimney.
A bay window addition, infill ground floor walls and central bay, front weatherboarding, side tile-hanging, and baffle entry chimney.
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.
Map of a sample of wealden hall houses in the South East.
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.
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.
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.
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
See more Wealden Hall House photos
❖ Further reading
"Traditional Buildings of Britain" by R.W. Runskill