Wednesday, March 7, 2007

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.