Architecture - 17 High Street



The cottage is single storey with loft and comprises 3 bays which, unusually for Pirton, has the framing exposed externally. It also retains its thatch roof covering. There are a number of more recent additions to the rear mainly 20/21st century.

The current layout with entrance door opposite the fireplace is typical of a lobby entrance house however an inspection of the roof space reveals smoke blackened timbers. In the northernmost bedroom the fireplace brickwork has been constructed directly below the tie beam before corbelling around to pass the tie beam on the hall side. Slots for the studs which were in place before the fireplace was constructed are still present confirming that the property was originally constructed with an open hall and central hearth. The first floor above the hall was subsequently inserted.

Chimney corbelled around tie beam with redundant stud slot and holes for wattle and daub infill


The pattern of studs matches that of the southern hall truss and the holes for the hazel rods for the wattle and daub infill are also present. The quality of these timbers is of higher quality than the gable timbers and was clearly designed to be seen from within the hall. The trusses are of a queen post style and similar to that seen at 16 Great Green although that house is a full one and a half storey height.


Hall timbers which would have been visible before the hall was floored in with the upper chamber visible beyond


The hall main central beam which supports the inserted floor is offset and supported at one end by the fireplace bressumer. The other end passes through the bay wall, and is supported on an inserted horizontal timber. The roof timbers to this central bay have been extensively altered following the extensions at the rear of the property but were also altered to the front when a small dormer window was inserted to light the new room. The purlins also appear to have been upgraded as they are of considerably larger section than those of the southern bay and are squarer in profile.

The southern bay has a close coupled rafter roof without collars. Due to access restrictions it was not possible to confirm that the central bay is of similar construction however the northern bay is of rafter and ridge pole construction with collars, although some of these are more modern. The floor level of this northern bay is lower than the central and southern bays at both ground and first floor level whilst maintaining the same sill and wall plate levels. This could suggest a separate building phase especially as there are straight braces to this bay only which indicates a later date (late 17th/18th centuries) but the wall plate appears continuous at the front (the rear being concealed by later alterations). The walls themselves may have been altered and infilled by the removal of barn doors or similar so there are a number of possible explanations. Internally, the northern face of the king post in the centre bay truss has a vertical slot near the apex of the roof. This could be the former slot to an angled brace supporting the ridge or could be part of a hipped roof structure. The exposed timberwork to the truss in the bedroom is not weathered and a set of carpenters marks is clearly visible which suggests this was not an exposed wall.


Slot in king post and an example of how this may have been constructed


The first floor to this bay appears to be inserted so it is possible that this was constructed single storey with a swept hipped gable at this end. This would be similar to the cottage on The Bury which was burnt down for fire practice.

This type of construction is unusual today in Pirton as the main form of construction is of gabled roofs rather than hipped. However as buildings evolve, there may have been many more examples of this type of dwelling in the past. This photograph shows the eaves line continuing below that of the main roof which could indicate that the floor level was lower too in this part of the building.

This single storey area typically would be the service part of the house. Once the roof was gabled rather than hipped, a floor could be inserted to provide an additional room. These inserted floor timbers have been altered and there may have been a separate staircase providing easier access to this room rather than through the very small door linking it to the room in the centre bay. It may also have retained a more non domestic role such as a store, apple loft etc.

The central bay, the former open hall, is considerably wider than the bays either side being 4.3metres rather than 2.8 and 3.0 respectively. This is unusual in the houses studied in Pirton to date where the bays are typically a more similar width with much less variation particularly in later built houses. This arrangement however would provide enough space for a screens passage which would separate the service end of the house from the hall and provide a screen from the draughts that having doors opposite each other created. This would be opposite the high end of the hall. There are a large number of holes in the studs at the high end and appear to be where some form of paneling/seating/shelving had been fixed to the wall. This coincides with the position of the large hall windows which can just be made out most notably to the rear elevation.

Holes in studs for panelling or fittings  

                                   Hall window

Alternatively, the screens passage may have been in place to separate a byre from the house which would make this property a longhouse.

The fireplace was inserted into the space occupied by the screens passage and the hall floored in.

The position of the staircase is unknown but may have been within a separate stair turret located adjacent to the chimney but removed by the more modern extensions. It is noted that on some older photos the front door is further south which may have been to accommodate stairs in the space between the front wall and chimney breast. This would restrict access to the northernmost room which may have been accessed separately depending upon its use. There are indications of a former staircase in this room but it does appear to be relatively modern. As the fireplace is flush with the rear wall the stair turret would be the only possible alternative as there is no indication of a stairwell in the centre or southern bays.

There are some well preserved sequential carpenters marks to the internal walls and trusses. The wattle and daub infill in the wall between the southern and middle bay has been removed but a groove shows that it was a sprung infill rather than rods driven into holes.

Carpenters marks    

                                               Groove for sprung wattle and daub infill

There is only a single fireplace to heat the house and the lack of a back to back inserted fireplace is further evidence that the lower northern bay was non domestic. The fireplace itself has been partly rebuilt at lower levels but retains a chamfered bressumer beam and some older brickwork.



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