Architectural detail - Elmtree Farm Hambridge Way

The house is a complex arrangement of buildings which have had continual alterations and changes of use right through to living memory.

The house appears to have more humble origins with the central section being the earliest surviving phase. The full framework to the north eastern wall is in situ with the corresponding south western wall having been removed at ground floor level following later alterations. The truss is of tie beam and collar with clasped purlins. There is a fairly straight diagonal windbrace to the roof structure visible to the north western pitch. The posts are jowelled with the tops of the posts gently widening which is indicative of an earlier date rather than later. There is a mid rail to the elevations off which the first floor is constructed.  This part of the house was constructed two storey with the surviving windows at first floor level (one to the front and one to the rear)  having shutters, the shutter grooves visible in the wall plate. The front and rear walls have a curved tension brace at first floor level connecting the post and mid rail at the north eastern end only.

There is a straight tension brace to the retained wall at first floor level to the side of the chimney breast and may be additional bracing to provide extra strengthening where the stairs or ladder access to the first floor were situated.  The front wall at ground floor level is entirely concealed and appears to have been largely rebuilt in brick. There are a number of visible timbers to the south eastern wall but these have seen substantial alterations with openings created and subsequently blocked, with reused timbers and brickwork infill. The brickwork is believed to have originated from Hammonds Farm and reused in the mid 20th century.

More timbers are visible at first floor level with the studs being fairly narrow and widely spaced, suggesting a building that was modest. The ground floor ceiling joists and the main axial beam are chamfered. The axial beam is built into the fireplace at one end and at the other abuts the replacement beam for the cross wing following the removal of the original wall and supporting timbers below.

There is a large inglenook fireplace which appears to be original to the construction and presumably the staircase or ladder access to the first floor was in the space adjoining the fireplace.

A two storey cross wing was added later as an entirely separate structure, which can be seen on the first floor landing with the original corner post independent to the cross wing structure.

The cross wing was built with two chambers to both floors but was not jettied as the floor joists run the wrong way ie. across not front to back. The ground floor ceiling joists are not chamfered and the timberwork is of lighter framework.  The timbers are of a shorter length and of light scantling. There are large gaps between the studs the exterior may have always been concealed with a lime render.

This would have made a traditional cross wing plan house which suggests that the entrance door either faced north west ie on to Royal Oak Lane or south east into the farmyard. This suggests the alignment of Royal Oak Lane may have been different to today and the green may have been a lot larger. This is also suggested by the alignment of the other older surviving houses in Royal Oak Lane on this side of the road. (see maps)  Part of the ground floor wall to the cross wing has been removed at its abutment with the earlier part of the house, which has also had its corresponding wall removed in order to create a large reception room. In doing this the central truss mid rail which previously divided the cross wing into two bays has had to be replaced with a longer more substantial timber in order to connect to the new substantial mid rail which is now a structural load bearing beam.

This beam has had to be widened in order to connect it to the earlier wings axial beam.

 At ground floor level the ceiling joists are not chamfered and are also offset suggesting that the ceiling joists were always plastered.  It is possible that these joists have been replaced to gain additional length following the alterations.

At first floor level the cross wing has exposed jowelled posts and wind bracing to the roof. The central truss has carpenters marks to the post, studs and tie beam. The exposed structural timbers are light in size and widely spaced, wider than the earlier part of the house.

The adjacent bay to the north east of the earliest part of the house has seen many changes and would appear to have originally been constructed as a barn abutting the house as the wall plates butt up to the corner posts and the central ceiling beam butts up to the original end wall of the house. A brick fireplace was installed with a metal curved arch plate. Surprisingly the fireplace was not built back to back with the existing fireplace but it appears that additional space was required at the back of the chimney for a bread oven which would have made siting the chimney abutting the existing fireplace impractical. 

The walls below the wall plate have been rebuilt and a new mid rail to support the inserted first floor joists has been installed. The ceiling joists and axial beam are chamfered.

This alteration would have given the house a traditional plan and exterior view.

A further barn was constructed adjoining the rear of the cross wing with the entirely separate structure still visible at first floor level. This was used as a dairy until early in the 20th Century when a floor was inserted and this part of the building was incorporated into the house. A catslide roof was added to this structure to create a ground floor lobby and new stairwell.

Due to this barn being present, further enlargement of the farmhouse was not possible any other way but to the south east, where a two storey two bay building was constructed. This has closer, more substantial studs and straight diagonal bracing to the corners. This appears to have been originally unheated with the two fireplaces built externally on the gable wall as the original stud peg holes are visible in the bedroom where the timbers had to be removed for the fireplace to be installed.  The ground floor fireplace has a curved back similar to others seen in the village and appears to date from the 18th Century. Alterations were made to create a new stairwell, probably in the late 18th/19th centuries at the southern end of this part of the house. The original dividing wall was removed and a new stud wall with nailed studs was constructed to create a stairwell and a larger reception room.

It appears that the floor was removed and rotated by 90 degrees with the central axial beam and ceiling joists reused, with the end of the ceiling beam being supported by the new stud wall. The joist holes are visible in this beam but are in the wrong places, whilst the central post to the front wall at ground floor level has a filled slot suggesting that a beam was tied into this timber.

At first floor level the corresponding beam is concealed at the wall plate by a cover plate bolted over the original wall plate.

In the 20th century a large addition was built to the north eastern end reusing a substantial dismantled timber framed barn which had originally stood at Meppershall.  This was rebuilt and converted into residential use.

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