Ground Floor

The building has stone foundations which are visible from the outside; they protect the timber (mostly oak) from rot and explain the good state of the structure. The main support of the whole structure is a massive post with moulded edges, morticed to receive the principal diagonal beam (known as the “dragon” beam) and two horizontal beams to the south and west. Jettied buildings are very strong. The ends of the floor joists project beyond the inner beam and have another horizontal beam at their ends. This supports the walls and heavy roof, but the joists project only a short distance. Inside the joists are long, but have only the floor boards (and, maybe, furniture) to support. The science of see-saws tells us that balance depends on weight times distance. This technique meant that, as well as making the structure very strong, extra space could be provided on upper floors; a great benefit in crowded towns.

In the ceiling timbers there are a number of rectangular mortices, which show where door-frames have been, and round sockets, which held wattle and daub partitions. There are signs of such partitions throughout the building. Wood-frame buildings are very flexible in room design, but also retain the history of their partitioning.

Original entrance doors opened on to passages between the stalls leading to the inner and upper areas. On either side of the passages there was a medieval shop – a separate little lock-up shop, perhaps accessible only from the street, with shutters to secure it. Several such shops occupied most of the ground floor. Behind the shops and corridor was a kitchen with chimney, a courtyard and the staircase leading to the living rooms.

Note the ancient timbers supporting the floor above; the unusual width of the planks indicates their age. A seventeenth century door leads to a tiny room giving onto the courtyard. The original staircase, with its massive oak treads, turns round a single solid newel post, leading from the ground floor through the first and second floors. On this staircase the adze marks left by the fifteenth-century carpenters can still be seen. Behind a little window there is stone debris, the remains of a party wall and a mark on the wall indicates where a portion of the ground floor was actually owned by the neighbouring premises.

Comments are closed.