Monday, June 4, 2007

Oast Houses in Kent

Oast houses are a feature of Eastern and Southeastern England, particularly Kent. So you can imagine on at Hunsford if you wish, although they also crop up in Surrey (around the town of D__________ , and certainly near to Box Hill) and also in Hampshire. Jane Austen would have been very familiar with them, being as how Chawton is near to Alton, and Alton was a major market for hops. Beer again, you see. Most oast houses are round, and originally would have no windows. The two storeys would be used as follows:

The ground floor was a fireplace. The upper level was just open beams, radiating out like the spokes of a wheel, onto which were placed mesh screens. the freshly, harvested hop heads would be dried on the meshes before being taken to the brewery.
The single oast house has no windows- does that mean it's still in use? It has the turret-like roof, but no chimney vent, so maybe it isn't. The triple row of oast houses do have their cute chimneys still, but also windows... which means that they are almost certainly converted into dwellings or other uses. I must admit, it would be fun to live in one. And, just for the record, I think they are a product of the Ag Rev and later- certainly the concept isn't nearly as old as malt houses.
Both these photos are from Geograph, and they are both Kent.

Malthouse in Porlock, Somerset

Time was when every farm would have had its own malthouse-an outbuilding where the barley grains would be put on racks to sprout, and then spread out on the floor below to dry to make malt. As in "This is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built". And what was the malt for? Why ale, of course! The Agricultural Revolution didn't change the need for malt houses, but when the traditional areas stopped growing barley, the malthouses were often converted to other uses. With the growth of the railway system in the 1830's, they started building big commercial malting premises near to the railway stations, and farm malthouses gradually fell into disuse. The caption for this particular malthouse, which is from the lovely Geograph site again, says that it's the only one left in Somerset. I'm surprised that it exists at all, quite frankly.

Not all of this building is a malthouse- I'm sure it's just the bit on the far end with no windows and an outside set of steps.

There isn't any particular relevance to Jane Austen about this particular site, although you could imagine Col. Brandon's estate having farms like this, if you like. Or alternatively, you could imagine it belonging to the "Person from Porlock " who so rudely interrrupted Coleridge when he was daydreaming about Kubla Khan, thus depriving the world of a great epic poem....

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Laterfarm buildings

The trouble with old farm buildings like these is that unless you can see inside them, and get a good idea of proportions, it's really hard to tell what they were originally built for. I think this is a stable block and machinery barn- if the former were for cows the doors would be wider and a bit lower. Anyway, I thought I'd show it to you as something fairly typical in Southeast England-a group buildings of good age and unclear purpose. Just the kind of thing to baffle Spencer with on one of his walks. ;-)

New-style stables

Plans for the "new " farmsteads liked to emphasize efficiency, and so "new" stables were often in a line as part of that inner-facing quadrangle. Diane might like to correct me, but I think that this is more of a loose-box type of arrangement- certainly the horses get to see a lot more this way! It's not the case here, but often there would be feed storage above these- not so sure that there would be sleeping accommodations, though.

This happens to be an urban stable in Edinburgh, but apart from being made of stone, it could be just about anywhere. Imagine Mr Robert Martin with such a range, but in brick with a tiled roof.

Chawton House Stables

You would be forgiven for thinking that this was a private house, because nowadays it is precisely that. Built in 1590-ish, it is the original stable block for Chawton house, and typical, if rather grand, of stables built before the Ag Rev. The basic design was the same for a house, barn or almost any other farm building. The horses would be walked in through the front door, probably tethered in pairs along the wall, with a wooden partition to stop them kicking each other, wooden or metal mangers on the walls, and a drain in the centre of the floor. One wing was probably a tack room ; the second storey would be for the storage of hay and feed, and probably provided sleeping for the stable staff.

I imagine that the farm horses would share the place with the riding horses; that was the usual arrangement.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Welsh Goats

Goats undoubtedly existed in eighteenth century England. Since they ate anything, provided milk and a very sturdy skin, even the poorest of the rural poor aimed to have one. But perhaps because of their low status, they did not attract much attention from the Improvers. Anyway, there's not much said about goats until the late 1870's, when the possibility of goat hair in textile production was seriously investigated. As far as I know, no goats in Jane Austen, either. (Prove me wrong, somebody!)
Nevertheless, Shiels, in his exhaustive paintings of British livestock, came up with this life-size painting of two Welsh Goats, some time before 1842. It didn't make the fashionable print-books of his works, though. Pity.
My personal experience of English goats is that they are resourceful, rather grumpy around strangers, and give a good product for great cheese. Their coats are wonderfully silky, too.

A Post-enclosure Farmhouse

The Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions marked the end of what is known as "vernacular architecture"- the building of structures in local materials, to local traditional styles by local craftsmen. This Hampshire farmhouse is in the "new" style- although made of local materials it is classically Georgian in design and there's nothing about it to tell you it's definitely a farmhouse and not, say, a country rectory, a merchant's town-house, or even the home of a sailor. It's a "house", that's all, and if it wasn't for the surrounding buildings you wouldn't know it was a farm. If it wasn't for the local materials, it might as well be at York, or even on the outskirts of Bath.

The picture is from Geograph again. See here:

"Hartfield pork is not like any other pork. "

This mezzotint of a Moreland painting was first published in 1802. It's cozy rusticity is probably far from the reality of most pig lives, however it does show a couple of things that make it interesting. Firstly, it seems to be a purpose-made building: newish wood and carefully thatched, with a pig-sized doorway with a half-door to let in light, but not draughts. Lots of nice straw for bedding will keep those piggies warm and they will grow faster because of it. Whether the rosy-cheeked farm girl is giving them leftover scraps or specially provided food isn't clear. What is obvious, to me anyway, is that this is definitely the "new" style of pig farming advocated by the Improvers. The pigs themselves, though, are old-style, with long snouts, prick ears and relatively small bodies. Or maybe they are still piglets?

Almost every small-holder and cottager would have tried to have a pig to keep them in bacon over the winter. What happened with the changes of the Agricultural revolution and population drift was that areas close to the great Metropolis (such as Hartfield, and perhaps even Longbourn) often tended to to specialise in larger-scale pig rearing. So apart from donating the odd leg of pork to the needy of the village, you may like to imagine Mr Woodhouse breeding for the London market.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Pitstone Windmill

This is the windmill that you can see in Spencer's first photo from Ivinghoe Beacon. It's a 'post' mill, so called because the whole tall top can be rotated around a central post, thus taking advantage of any wind from any direction. It was built in 1627, restored by volunteers, and is in the care of the National Trust.

Windmills and watermills are very ancient edifices; they served a whole village and would have been a prominent feature pre- Enclosure. I don't really know what happened to milling arrangements after the Agricultural Revolution, but it's not something that you would expect to find in every farm.

The picture is from Flicr:
And very pretty it is, too!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Do you remember Adlestrop?

You might remember Adlestrop as being a stop on a railway line in somebody's poem. You might even remember Adlestrop as the location of a big house and rectory belonging to Mrs Austen's family, which was where they were staying when they suddenly got whisked off to Stoneleigh Abbey.

Well, this is neither house, but it is just down the road. A rather fanciful 18th century dovecote, in a nice Cotswold-y stone. You might imagine it as Col. Brandon's dovecote, since he has one.

Inside the dovecote at a house "near Westerham"

Dovecotes could be really simple or very fancy. This one, as you can see, is very large. I picked it because it's from a country house near Westerham, Kent. When Mr Collins writes his first letter announcing his visit , his address is "near Westerham", so you can imagine this as an appendage to Rosings Park, or if you wish, to Hunsford parsonage. I personally think it's a bit too grand for that, but never mind...

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Estate Cottages

These days it is very fashionable to lambast the eighteenth and nineteenth century improvers for demolishing whole villages and removing their occupants to other houses out of sight of the big house. Personally, don't join in this vituperation; if I was a cottager living in a hovel right at the Lord's front door, and he built me a nice new cottage out of his sight- so I wouldn't have to look at his ancestral pile every morning, I might actually be quite pleased.

The link is a photo of five Hampshire cottages built in East Stratton, Hampshire. Personally I think the local Squire did a good job, in this case. Do you agree?

Oh, and if you look at the map below the photo, you can see "New Farm"; a nice square of beige-y brown, that just might be 'new' after enclosure.

( Oh, and the word hovel originally meant a shed to put cows in- it's a synonym of byre. The fact that it was applied to people's homes suggests much; it also makes me realise just how badly -off the cows were- they often had nothing at all....)

A Farm-house Elevated Into a Cottage

This 'cottage' near Alresford in Jane Austen's Hampshire is of the classic three-unit plan: it has one and a half storeys, a chimney at either end, and an off-centre front door. That door indicates that originally, if not now, there was a cross-passage straight through the house and out the back. The cross-passage was so that animals could be taken through the house and out to a pen in the back, or if the weather was bad, kept inside the house itself in the central "hall" room. Of the two end rooms , one would be the parlour, or best room, and the other the pantry/buttery for storage. The half storey under the eaves would be for storage of crops and equipment.

This type of house plan dates back to the fourteenth century; and the basic plan continued to be used right up to the nineteenth, all over England. It is typical of the kind of farmhouse attached to a small-holding that tended to disappear with Enclosure. A newer, smarter farmhouse was probably built on the enclosed acreage , and this one let out, sometimes being divided up into two or more cottages. Or, as in the case of the village of Uppercross, it might be gussied up for the newly-married son of the local squire.

That's the generality anyway. I don't know this particular house (it's from Geograph, again) but it looks like the kind of farm that was built in the prosperous years after the dissolution of the monasteries. That 'half-hipped' roof is a good style for thatch- it helps the rain run off faster than a gable-end would. The bricks are probably Victorian , though; I can't tell from this photo, but they often are. The wall is local stone - it's known to geologists as Upper Greensand, and the locals usually as Bargate.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Great Coxwell, Oxon. Tithe Barn
Another "Tithe Barn" that's not strictly speaking a tithe barn , this monastic edifice was built of cotswold rubble-stone near Faringdon. No hipped roof here, and only one door. It supplied the far-way Beaulieu Abbey , close to Southampton.
It now belongs tot the National Trust: if you are an architecture geek you could click on that link above to compare the interior of this barn with the Wanborough one. This has a 'Queen-post' roof and stone plinths for the supporting columns.

Manor Farm

Manor Farm is between Portsmouth and Southampton and is run as a public education/tourist attraction. it has the classic "eighteenth century" u-shape of farm buildings with animal pens in the middle, some very old wooden construction buildings where the wall has been bricked in later (a process called "nogging"), hipped and half-hipped roofs that would originally have been thatched, and what looks from here like a fifteenth century house at the back.

It looks like Shire horse in the front of the pic.

The Great Barn, Wanborough, #2

The Great Barn, as I said, was built as big as a church, and in the same way. That's because it need to be as large an open, unrestricted space as possible. The barn has side "aisles" to make it as wide as possible. The columns are whole trees standing on stone blocks, and the roof , which is known as a crown-post roof, is the earliest design of Medieval large-scale roof that exists in England. So this barn really is quite something special,and it surprises me not one jot that it should now be a tourist centre.

The Great Barn, Wanborough #1

Well, it doesn't really look very interesting, does it? A barn is a barn, right? They all look the same, right?

Well, this one is a bit different. First, it's absolutely huge. Perhaps the picture doesn't do it justice, but it's bigger than most country churches. You can see the big door on the side, where the loaded cart went in. The cart did NOT come out that end door; that's a relatively new adaptation for visitors. There was another exit door on the other side which, up until 1974 at least, was functioning.

Notice the roof - in stead of "gable" ends , this barn has a steeply-pitched "hipped" roof with a little air vent at the top. That's because it used to be thatched, but now it's tiled with locally-made "Farnham" pantiles, which came in in the eighteenth century. The barn itself isn't eighteenth century- it was built around 1388, when the whole manor was owned by Waverley Abbey, and it would a have held the Abbey 's corn and hay. There probably never was much of a village here, though, and it probably disappeared well before Henry VIII dissolved Waverley Abbey in 1536. He sold the whole manor to a great Lord (whose name I don't remember) and it remained under and absentee landlord for centuries afterwards. However, when I first found this barn it was till a fully-functioning entity- it had hay in it, and a threshing floor. How it survived for 620+ years without being adapted or destroyed is a minor miracle.

Map of The Hog's Back, Surrey

This scrap of map is courtesy of the Ordnance Survey, the official map-making entity of the British Government. Originally created during the Napoleonic Wars to completely map the whole kingdom for military purposes, it now produces the best-known and best-loved general purpose maps in Britain. This map is on a scale of 1:50,00 ; that means that one blue grid-square represents one square kilometre of land. On this section, a "mile" scale should be visible at the bottom edge.

This particular bit of Britain happened to be part of my undergrad dissertation all those years ago, and I'm putting this up now to show you a couple of things. The first is that big thick green line that goes from east to west across the map . It's the A31 road and it follows the line of a chalk ridge called The Hog's back. To the north of this road is the parish of Wanborough; I hope you can see that there are very few houses in this parish ( houses and other buildings are little beige-y blocks). There's very few buildings because it's all chalk up there- awful for building, and not much use for growing crops- in theory! but as you will see in the next pic, it contains an enormous old barn.

Other interesting things on the map- some prehistoric tumuli, a Roman villa, and that red diamond thingy- an ancient medieval trackway known as the Pilgrim's Way. You can probably find public phone booths, brown wiggly contour lines that show the Hog's Back ridge , a set of parallel dashed lines at Wanborough showing another very old unpaved road, red dashes for footpaths, black crosses and black dots with crosses on them (church with no spire/church with spire) MS (milestone) and PC (public convenience) What else would you need on a map?:-)

Tithe Barn at Basing House

Basing House , an enormous mansion near Basingstoke, Hampshire, was burnt to the ground during the English Civil wars of the seventeenth century. Smaller houses and farm buildings were rebuilt on the site. This brick Building is a Tithe barn- designed to hold the tenth of the crop that was the parson's portion- not just for himself but to provide for the needy if necessary. Many villages have a 'tithe barn', not all genuine.

When the open fields were enclosed, the parson was often granted an allotment of land in lieu of the tithe, which effectively made him a farmer. Such land is often named "Glebe", and glebe fields are commonly found near churches today.

A barn is a barn is a barn, no?

Well, actually, no. Barns are not always alike . But they have a certain function - they are where they store the hay, and the corn to be threshed. So they tend to look more or less the same at first glance, just like a garage is a garage, and is where you put your car. Old barns in today's world are sometimes used as machinery sheds, or converted to animal stalls, and if in the right place and not needed any more, they can even be converted into desirable residences for yuppies .

What you see in this picture, which was taken in Jane Austen's Hampshire, is the kind of farm that was built after enclosure, when the land was divided up and the farmer built something close to his fields rather than continue to house himself and his animals within the village. It's the usual three-sides-of-a-square arrangement, and you can see the barn, all black, at the back. The "front door" of the barn sticks out- it's very large, to acommodate a loaded haycart . The cart would be taken in through the door, unloaded, and then taken out the other door on the other side of the barn. This "out" door would be smaller, because the cart would be empty. Why two doors? Well, if you've ever tried to turn a team of eight oxen- or even two horses- in a confined space with a heavy wagon behind them, you'd know why!

That funny building in front of the barn is a granary. This is where threshed grain would be stored. The mushroom-shaped staddle stones on the "legs" of the granary were to keep the grain dry in wet weather and also to keep out vermin. They'll usually tell you it's to keep out rats, but rabbits squirrels , weasels and other small animals might well be interested, and baffled, by the granary. Human access would be via a removable wooden ramp up to a raised door- which you can't see, of course, in this picture!

Granaries like this are not a sign of an 'enclosure' farm- they date back to an earlier time. Indeed, there's one in the village where I grew up with is seventeenth century or older. With my usual sense of timing I didn't find out about it until I grew up and moved out!

This photo is another one from uk. The farm is in Hannington, Hampshire.