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The Grange, Chelsworth

An Historical Survey


Leigh Alston MA (Oxon)
Architectural Historian
4 Nayland Road
Bures St Mary
Suffolk CO8 5BX

March 2004


Illus. 1 The unusually well preserved, heavily sooted open truss of the medieval hall.

Illus. 1 The unusually well preserved, heavily sooted open truss of the medieval hall.

Together with the adjacent church of All Saints, The Grange forms one of the most picturesque scenes in the county, and preserves an historically important complex of late-medieval timber-framed buildings. The courtyard behind the house is a rare Tudor survival, formed by a series of 16th century structures that probably includes one of the earliest purpose-built maltings in Britain. The evolution of the domestic range in front of the courtyard neatly documents the changing nature of domestic life between the mid-15th and mid-17th centuries, but has changed remarkably little since the addition of its fine porch in 1689. At the heart of the house lies a hall of circa 1450 that was originally open to its roof in the manner of a barn and heated by a bonfire-like open hearth; the open truss that dominated this hall is a particularly impressive feature, preserved intact in a modern void on the first-floor. The hall is contemporary with the jettied service cross-wing to its left, that was converted into a parlour when the existing chimney was inserted into the medieval entrance passage during the 17th century. This chimney replaced an earlier insertion of the 16th century, built against rather than in the passage, for which evidence can still be seen. To the right of the hall lay an earlier parlour wing that was rebuilt in the 17th century, although part of this structure, which may date from as early as the 14th century, still remains hidden in the walls of the modern kitchen. The beginning of the 16th century saw the addition of a strangely misshapen new parlour with moulded ceiling timbers and a ‘smoke bay’ behind the 15th century service wing. At the same period a large structure of four bays, of which two were floored and two open to its crown-post roof, was constructed in the courtyard, and extended by a further two floored bays a few decades later.

Illus. 3 Detail of the crown post’s crenellated capital

Illus. 2 The octagonal crown-post of the open truss, seen from the low end of the open hall.

The unfloored bays of this highly unusual building, which consists largely of re-used medieval timber, contained an open hearth and may well have been used for large-scale malting, in addition to the more usual domestic activities of brewing and baking.

Little is known of the origins of the Grange, and although Bury Abbey held the manor of Chelsworth until the Reformation its present name is understood to date only from the 19th century. Local historians have identified the house with the Green family of Yeoman farmers in the 17th century. Chelsworth contains a number of Tudor houses of unusually high quality, albeit much altered, and the evident wealth of the village derived largely from the woollen cloth industry that made nearby Bildeston one of the richest towns in East Anglia. Even if the Grange was intended primarily as a farmhouse, the cloth industry would have contributed more or less directly to its ostentatious, mercantile appearance. In the more detailed description that follows, any technical terms in Italics are defined in the accompanying glossary.



The Domestic House: 15th Century

Illus. 2 The octagonal crown-post of the open truss, seen from the low end of the open hall.

Illus. 3 Detail of the crown post’s crenellated capital

The domestic range to the east of the courtyard, shown in the cover illustration, reflects the standard internal layout of medieval houses as described in the Appendix of this report. The hall in the centre of the building, flanked by twin gables, was originally open to its roof and heated by an open hearth. Although its timber-framed walls are now largely concealed by later plaster, the rafters are intact and exposed in the roofspace, unaltered for centuries and still heavily encrusted with medieval soot. Illustration 1 shows the fine open truss that spanned the eaves of the hall, dominating its lofty space and intended both to tie its walls together and impress visitors. This truss, now lies in a hidden void between the inserted brick chimney of the 17th century and the partition of the modern bedroom above the hall, and in consequence has survived intact. While many medieval halls in Suffolk retain fragments of similar open trusses, undamaged examples, complete with arch braces, tie-beam and crown-post, are rare. The original condition of the truss at The Grange, devoid of later paint or stain and thickly sooted, is particularly unusual. Illustrations 2 and 3 show details of the octagonal crown-post with its finely carved and crenellated capital and base, all of which are typical of the mid-15th century.

Despite the relative lack of exposed framing at ground-floor level, the layout of the hall can be deciphered with reference to the pattern of pegged mortise-and-tenon joints that secured the component timbers. The entrance has not moved during the life of the house, although the existing front door is rather smaller than its predecessor and pegs for a medieval arch can be seen above its lintel. A mortise in the jamb to the left of the doorway held the top-rail of a boarded screen that protected the hall from rain and wind when the door stood open to ventilate the smoky interior. An identical door and screen would have existed in the back wall immediately opposite, creating the ubiquitous cross-passage of the medieval domestic plan, but the latter have been destroyed by the inserted chimney. On entering the hall a 15th century visitor would have found two further arched doorways lying side-by-side in the centre of the hall to his left, each opening into a service (storage) room lined with shelves. The rebates into which these two doors folded are still visible in the truncated post immediately beneath the main ceiling joist of the modern sitting room, together with pegs that held the arches; the partition wall beneath the same joist was removed in the 17th century when the service rooms were amalgamated, as described below. Yet another door opened onto a stair at the back of the cross-passage, and rose to a single, undivided storage area on the first-floor that was open to its roof. Evidence of the framed trap for this stair can be found by lifting a board in the bedroom floor. The two service rooms were contained in a jettied and gabled cross-wing of two bays that is contemporary with the open hall, and reflects a pattern found in many middle and high-status houses of the period. Empty mortises in the external jetty joists held brackets that flanked a central window, as shown in figure 3. The crown-post of the first-floor open truss in the service cross-wing is unusual in possessing no braces of any kind (illus. 4), although mortises in the storey posts reveal the former positions of tie-beam braces.

Illus. 4 The crown post in the roof of the service cross-wing that, unusually, lacks braces. This structure is contemporary with the open hall to the left.

Illus. 4 The crown post in the roof of the service cross-wing that, unusually, lacks braces. This structure is contemporary with the open hall to the left.

The size of the open hall is now difficult to appreciate given the presence of its chimney and ceilings, but it originally extended to a spacious 18 feet in width by 23-24 feet in length, and rose to 12 feet at its eaves. Few halls of the period were larger, outside the ranks of the gentry, but many were smaller; an artisan’s hall of the 15th century, for example, could extend to as little as 12 feet square, and rise to only 7 feet. The Grange was appropriate to a successful merchant or ‘Yeoman’ farmer, and would have competed with the first rank of houses in a notoriously wealthy region with woollen cloth manufacturing at its heart. Despite its relative isolation at the entrance to the churchyard, the irregular proportions of the building suggest it occupied a restricted plot between other medieval houses that have since disappeared. Local historian Geoffrey Pocklington’s ‘Chelsworth’ suggests the Grange was formerly described as ‘the house on the green’, and the small medieval commons that characterise southern Suffolk were typically lined with several properties. Urban buildings were frequently constructed as parallelograms, forced to obey irregular road and property boundaries, but isolated farmhouses are invariably rectangular; the hall of The Grange is 23 feet long against its front wall, but 24 at its rear, and the extraordinary proportions of the service wing was clearly built against a boundary that is no longer apparent.

Our hypothetical medieval visitor would have looked past the weather screen on entering the hall to a dais at its ‘high’ end, beyond the open truss and the pair of tall, unglazed windows that lit the high table and hearth from front and rear. A rebate for the hinged internal shutter of the rear hall window can be seen in the roof-plate on the modern first-floor landing, albeit filled by a later piece of timber. The high-end of the hall is obscured on the ground floor, but remains exposed above the inserted ceiling: in contrast to the low-end of the hall, which simply abuts the service cross-wing, the high end is provided with its own tie-beam and fully-framed gable. This distinction between the two ends is best appreciated from the roof, as illustrated in figure 3, where the short crown-post at the low-end to the right rests upon the cross-wing’s roof-plate, while the long high-end post descends to the eaves of the hall. The structure of the hall did not, however, extend further to the north but stopped abruptly at the dais (there are no brace mortises, for example, in either the crown-post or the central post of the high-end to suggest that it continued). The medieval house is unlikely to have ended at its dais, as a property of such high status would undoubtedly have possessed a parlour and the northern side of the dais gable shows no trace of weathering. It is therefore highly probable that the hall and service cross-wing were constructed against an earlier parlour cross-wing, and represent the reconstruction of an older hall on the same site.

Illus. 5 The rear external gable of the modern kitchen wing (now hidden within the courtyard roof). The widely spaced studs and collared-rafter roof suggest this may be the earliest building on the site.

Illus. 5 The rear external gable of the modern kitchen wing (now hidden within the courtyard roof). The widely spaced studs and collared-rafter roof suggest this may be the earliest building on the site.

The rebuilding of the component structures of medieval houses at different periods was common practise, following the dictates of finance and fashion. Parlour cross-wings of the 13th and 14th centuries were often relatively narrow, and at just 11 feet in internal width the modern rear kitchen wing at The Grange may well represent a surviving fragment of the earlier wing against which the hall was built. Lack of evidence in the form of exposed framing hampers precise analysis, but the kitchen roof is of simple coupled rafter type, without crown-posts or collar purlin, and is undoubtedly either contemporary with, or (more probably) earlier than the hall. The widely spaced studs of its rear gable (illus. 5) are consistent with a 14th century date. The front part of the existing ‘parlour’ cross-wing is a later reconstruction of the 17th century that extends to 13 feet in internal width, but the kitchen wing probably once extended to the front of the hall and terminated in a jettied gable to match that of the service wing. Any evidence of original doors in the high-end wall of the hall is hidden behind later plaster, and we cannot therefore exclude a further possible interpretation of the facts: the kitchen wing may indeed have extended to the front of the house, but have formed part of the neighbouring property. In such an instance no internal communication would have existed at this point until the 17th century, when the owner of the Grange acquired part of the adjacent plot, and the parlour behind the service cross-wing would represent an original feature rather than a later addition. This possibility cannot be excluded without an investigation of the relevant areas of the high-end for evidence of one or more doors flanking the dais; if the hall contained doors here from the outset, the ‘neighbouring property’ scenario can be ruled out.

Illus. 6 The 16th century inserted hall ceiling. The plaster-filled mortise to the extreme left housed a joist that framed the demolished 16th century chimney.

Illus. 6 The 16th century inserted hall ceiling. The plaster-filled mortise to the extreme left housed a joist that framed the demolished 16th century chimney.

A number of stylistic and structural features combine to suggest a date of construction for the hall and service cross-wing in the middle decades of the 15th century. The ‘edge-halved and bridled’ scarf joint in the rear roof-plate, adjacent to the hall window, is not found earlier than the final decade of the 14th century and continues until the late-16th century, while at 2 inches the relatively thin braces to the crown-post contrast with the much heavier examples expected in the first quarter of the 15th century. The high, shallow profile of the open truss is more closely related to the Perpendicular ‘Tudor’ arch than to the steeply inclined, ‘two-centred’ arch of the Decorated style of architecture found in the 14th and early-15th centuries. Perhaps the most dramatic dating feature is the heavy, close-studding of the hall, where the seven-inch wide studs are separated by nine-inch panels of wattle-and-daub; this excessive use of timber is wholly unnecessary from a structural perspective, and was intended for external display at a time when timber was expensive and only the wealthy could waste it. This fashion for closely spaced studwork developed during the 15th century, reaching its apogee in the early-16th century houses of local towns such as Lavenham; 14th century buildings can be instantly recognised by the much wider panels between their timbers. The studding of the internal walls at The Grange is slightly more economical than its façade, and the rear wall to the courtyard appears to have been externally rendered given the poor finish of the studs in this direction. Open hearths began to disappear from local houses during the final quarter of the 15th century, with few remaining after c.1530, and, taking these various factors into account The Grange can be securely dated to a period between 1440 and 1480, with 1450-70 the most likely range.  

The Domestic House: 16th Century

The Tudor period saw two principal changes to The Grange, apart from the construction of the courtyard buildings described separately below. A chimney and ceiling were inserted into the hall, and a new parlour was constructed behind the service cross-wing.

Having been an international backwoodsman for centuries, England changed rapidly during the late-15th and early-16th centuries as it caught up with the European Renaissance. Chimneys began to replace traditional, feudal open hearths around 1500, and few if any remained in fashionable Suffolk by the 1550s. The process is well documented by William Harrison, Rector of Radwinter in north Essex, whose 1577 ‘Description of England’ notes the domestic revolution that had seen the change in a single lifetime from open hearth to fireplace, from wooden trenchers to pewter plates and from straw mattresses laid on the floor to feather beds. The earliest chimneys typically contained a single fireplace heating only the hall, just as the open hearth had done, and the evidence suggests that an intermediate example of this kind existed at The Grange before the construction of the existing 17th century chimney.

Illus. 7  The crown post of the early-16th century rear parlour, looking towards its jettied gable (the service cross-wing lies to the left).

Illus. 7 The crown post of the early-16th century rear parlour, looking towards its jettied gable (the service cross-wing lies to the left).

Figure 4 shows the position of the 16th century chimney that was probably inserted around 1500. The back of the wide fireplace formed a screen against the cross-passage, and faced the dais, leaving the medieval layout and function undisturbed. The hall would have remained open to its roof for several decades, and surviving examples of inserted chimneys of this period are often decorated with arcading or painting high on their breasts. The front half of a single rafter collar in the roof was removed to accommodate the flue, and later replaced with a nailed substitute when the chimney was removed; a corresponding weathering scar to the front edge of the collar purlin reveals the point at which water trickled down the side of the brickwork for a century or more and came into contact with the timber. The ceiling in the hall is difficult to date with precision, but its deep chamfers and ‘pyramid’ stops suggest it was inserted during the third quarter of the century, perhaps some 50 years after the chimney. In some cases, notably at the Mill House in nearby Alpheton, dendrochronology has demonstrated that hall ceilings can post-date their chimneys by as much as a century. The large, empty mortise shown in illustration 6 was designed to secure the off-centred axial joist that framed the earlier chimney, as shown in figure 4, that was removed when the present chimney was built. The tall windows of the hall were blocked by the new ceiling, and the fenestration was remodelled accordingly (although the dormer window dates from the 17th century). A 16th century window sill can still be seen on the first-floor landing, partly obstructing the position of the rear hall window.

A new two-bay parlour wing was added at right-angles to the rear gable of the service cross-wing at the beginning of the 16th century, perhaps as part of the same phase of modernisation that saw the insertion of the hall chimney.

Illus. 8 Evidence of a smoke bay to the rear of the 16th century parlour. Note the sooted end of the collar purlin beyond the removed partition (truncated by the later chimney).

Illus. 8 Evidence of a smoke bay to the rear of the 16th century parlour. Note the sooted end of the collar purlin beyond the removed partition (truncated by the later chimney).

This wing contained single rooms on its ground and first-floors; the upper chamber was open to the crown-post roof shown in illustration 7, and the binding joist of the lower room bears an ogee-moulding that is typical of the early-16th century (see figure 1). The common ceiling joists are concealed by plaster, and may also be moulded. This decoration proves the room to have been designed as a living space of some quality, rather than a further storage room, and the existence of a smoke-bay confirms this interpretation. Illustration 8 shows the chimney that was added to the wing’s rear, north-facing gable in the 17th century, as seen from the roof; although the original gable has been rebuilt, and the structure extended around the chimney, the smoke-blackened area at the end of the collar purlin corresponds with similar sooting to the final original rafter-couple and reveals the former presence of a rare smoke bay. Smoke bays of this kind consisted of narrow bays between solid walls, usually some three feet apart, that served as chimneys; most heated kitchens, and examples in parlours are particularly unusual. Empty mortises in the purlin housed a missing partition and brace that was destroyed by the insertion of the later brick chimney.

It is by no means normal to find decorated, heated rooms behind service wings, and the precise purpose of the example at The Grange is a matter of considerable interest. Although rare in the 15th and early-16th centuries, similar arrangements are relatively common in the late-16th and 17th centuries, and can be regarded as accommodation for semi-independent family members who might share the service area but remain physically separate from the main household. A similar explanation seems likely in this instance. Many medieval houses were subdivided between two generations of the same family, with a widow permitted to live out her life in the parlour and parlour chamber, for example, while her son occupied the hall and service wing with his wife and children. Documented conflict is not unusual, and the new parlour at The Grange may have eased the difficulties of such an arrangement with a separate access from the courtyard (the complete concealment of its walls prevents any precise analysis of its method of entry). Provision of a smoke-bay would have permitted the room to operate, in effect, as a hall (in most cases a widow was permitted access to the hearth in the main hall for the purposes of cooking). The odd angle at which the structure is constructed probably relates to an irregular property boundary, as discussed above, but would also have permitted its occupant to see and be seen from the main approach road; an expensive undertaking such as a new jettied parlour would be worth displaying to interested passers-by. If, as discussed above, the medieval house possessed no parlour at the high end of its hall, thanks to the restrictions of its plot, the rear wing can instead be interpreted as the original parlour, designed to reveal its existence to anyone who might otherwise think its owner unable to afford the usual complement of rooms (low-status artisans’ houses frequently lacked separate parlours). While the existing rear wing is probably a later addition to the service wing, as ogee-moulded ceilings are not usually associated with open halls and its misalignment suggests an afterthought, the limited visible evidence is not sufficient to prove that the two structures are not contemporary.

The Domestic House: 17th Century

Just as The Grange neatly documents the change in household interiors between the 15th and 16th centuries, so it illustrates the domestic revolution of the 17th century. Expectations of comfort had increased considerably by 1600, with glazing following rapidly on the heels of fireplaces. Heated bedrooms had become de rigueur, and new houses of any quality were typically built with large chimneys containing back-to-back fireplaces between their halls and parlours. The owner of The Grange, like many of his neighbours, chose to demolish his old-fashioned single-flue chimney and insert another in his cross-passage. The partition between the old service rooms was removed, and the cross-wing converted into a parlour, sensibly utilising the increasingly redundant space of the cross-passage rather than sacrificing large amounts of living space in the hall or the high-end parlour. As household life became more ‘private’ in the modern sense, moving away from the communal, feudal style of living for which The Grange was designed, so the function of individual rooms became fixed and the amount of permanent furniture increased; the cross-passage thoroughfare through the hall was no longer desirable. Newer properties contained a lobby-entrance instead, where the front door opened into a small lobby adjacent to the chimney between hall and parlour, usually with a stair leading to the upper storey. Private access to the main rooms of the house was thereby achieved, without disturbing the occupants of the hall. By rebuilding his chimney in the cross-passage, The Grange’s owner secured an instant upgrade to a lobby-entrance.

Illus. 9 The butt-purlin roof of the northern cross-wing, rebuilt in the 17th century, looking towards its front gable.  The horizontal collar is a re-used, much weathered fragment of cusped medieval barge board.

Illus. 9 The butt-purlin roof of the northern cross-wing, rebuilt in the 17th century, looking towards its front gable. The horizontal collar is a re-used, much weathered fragment of cusped medieval barge board.

The modernised house contained all the elements that 17th century fashion dictated: a spacious, heated parlour and a hall that had lost little of its ample medieval floorspace, together with a heated secondary bedroom in the parlour chamber (into which a ceiling had been inserted to retain as much warmth as possible). The chamber above the hall remained unheated, and contemporary inventories reveal that the same space in other houses was used simply for storage. The new chimney, with its impressive ‘sawtooth’ external shaft, blocked the service and stair doors in the cross-passage, and was set against the rear wall of the house in order to accommodate a spiral stair as shown in figure 5 (this has since been removed, but evidence of first floor doors can still be seen in the modern lobby). Fireplaces of this period were often plastered in imitation of stone, and any exposed brickwork was painted with red ochre to improve its irregular appearance; the first-floor fireplace in the parlour chamber (formerly the service chamber) retains evidence of ochre to its jambs, but was evidently rendered or hidden by a timber overmantel above its arch (note the poor quality of the pointing above this level). The ground-floor fireplace beneath is concealed, and may preserve similar evidence of original decoration. A good deal of the plasterwork in The Grange may date from the same period, when glass and fireplaces had made insulation a greater concern than previously, and exposed timbers were covered with lath-and-plaster both inside and out. While external plasterwork was pargeted, interior surfaces were often decorated with bright paintwork, perhaps emphasising a pattern of studding, and grey pigment of this type has recently been found on the internal timbers of the parlour chamber’s gable.

Illus. 10  The fine porch, dated 1689 with original pendant finials, balustrade and pargeting in raised panels.

Illus. 10 The fine porch, dated 1689 with original pendant finials, balustrade and pargeting in raised panels.

The medieval cross-wing at the northern end of the hall was rebuilt in the 17th century to form a wider gabled structure than its predecessor, although, as suggested above, its rear bays may well survive in the form of the modern kitchen. This alteration may have been a simple response to the restricted width of the earlier parlour, or possibly relate to the acquisition of a neighbouring property as described above. The roof of the new structure is shown in illustration 9, which looks towards the front gable and shows a butt-purlin structure of re-used timber that includes a weathered horizontal collar that began life as a cusped medieval barge-board (perhaps from the original house). The binding joist of the new wing is chamfered and notched in typical 17th century style, but the poor quality of its timbers and the presence of a contemporary brick cellar beneath, complete with storage and lamp recesses, suggest it was designed as a utilitarian space such as a buttery. The functions of the 15th century house had ‘turned around’ from end to end. The doorway in the rear corner of the hall that now opens into this new structure was intended to reach a stair, as shown in figure 5 (note the trimmer in the ceiling) and a second door must have existed elsewhere in the wall. The lack of any jetty combines with other carpentry features to indicate that the reconstruction may have occurred as late as 1689, when the exceptionally fine dated porch was added, although a date as early as c.1650 cannot be ruled out. The new chimney is also more likely to date from the mid-17th century, with the external makeover of 1689 representing the work of the following generation. The porch is one of the finest of its type in the county, and, importantly, retains part of its original relief-panelled pargeting (illustration 10). This pargeting once covered the entire house, and is similar to an extensive design opposite the church in Needham Market that bears the date 1718. The porch is in excellent condition, and any slight remedial work should take care to retain this rare plasterwork. The protective ‘witches’spikes’ on the porch and dormer window of the same period reflect the East Anglian obsession with witchcraft in the 17th century, close to the power base of Mathew Hopkins, the ‘Witchfinder General’ at Manningtree.

The Rear Courtyard

One of the most impressive aspects of The Grange is its rear courtyard, formed by a series of buildings dating from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries and little altered thereafter (illustration 11). Courtyards of this kind were commonplace at the time, containing a wide range of service, agricultural and commercial buildings, as revealed on contemporary maps and plans, but very few have survived. Some courtyard ranges were built together with their associated domestic houses in a single phase of construction, but others, like the present example, are the result of gradual expansion and addition.

Illus. 11   The 16th century ‘malting’ (left) with its near contemporary rear parlour to the right. The gablet above the hipped gable in the foreground served as a chimney.

Illus. 11 The 16th century ‘malting’ (left) with its near contemporary rear parlour to the right. The gablet above the hipped gable in the foreground served as a chimney.

Figure 4 shows the arrangement of the courtyard in the mid-16th century. The structure of the building to the west of the modern kitchen is largely concealed, but its much altered clasped-purlin roof contains wind braces that are typical of the first half of the 17th century. A small area of timber-framing in its north-eastern corner appears however to date from the 15th or early-16th century, with relatively widely spaced uniform studs and an external brace; it would therefore seem that a building of some indeterminate kind occupied the site at this period, but was later extensively reconstructed. Empty mortises in its storey posts suggest that it was floored rather than open to its roof, and we may speculate that it operated as a stable. The building was not attached to the modern kitchen, to which is was linked only in the late-17th century.

The most extraordinary building in the courtyard occupies its eastern flank, adjoining the aforementioned structure corner-to-corner. This contains four bays and extends to 38 feet in overall length by 16 feet in width, rising to 13 feet at its eaves. The two southern bays, towards the church, formed an open hall of 17 feet by 15 internally, while the northern bays were floored over (figure 6). (The original ceiling joists have been removed, and one of the floored bays combined with the open hall to create the modern ‘studio’ that is ceiled only at eaves height.) The roof timbers are heavily sooted, but are almost entirely re-used from other buildings and contain numerous empty mortises that do not relate to their present position; many rafters, for example, possess empty collar trenches immediately above the existing collars. The plain crown-posts are braced to the collar purlin with thick brackets that appear to have been re-used from a 14th century structure. The roof is hipped at both ends, and while there is no evidence of a protective hood, the triangular gablets above the sloping hip rafters appear to have been left open to allow smoke to escape (illustration 12); a removed partition separated the open hall from the floored chamber, but this seems to have stopped at collar level to allow smoke to reach the northern gablet. There is no trace of fenestration in the open hall, although windows with original diamond mullions still light the floored chamber and precise analysis of the walls is impossible given the re-use of timber and damage to certain areas. No obvious door positions can be traced, but a nailed stud may block an original entrance as shown in figure 6. A mid-16th century date between 1530 and 1560 can be assigned to the structure, based partly upon the crown-post roof (rarely employed after 1550) and the distinctive chamfers and sloping shoulders of the heavy ceiling joints (rarely found before 1540), although many roof and wall timbers are from earlier sources.

Before the end of the 16th century a two-bay floored extension had been added to the northern gable of the four-bay structure, increasing its length to an impressive 58 feet (figure 5), and at some point, probably during the 17th century, a now-demolished lean-to was added to its eastern elevation. The new extension was open-framed against the older gable, and the wall timbers of the latter may have been removed to create large, four-bay rooms on each floor. A curious framed hiatus in the wall of the extension resembles a window without mullions, and may have been intended to borrow light from the neighbouring building. The roof has been almost wholly rebuilt, but the surviving truss of the open frame reveals a clasped-purlin structure which, in combination with the nature of its partly extant ceiling, suggests a date of c.1580.

Illus. 12 The heavily sooted, re-used roof timbers of the ‘malting’ hall, with hip and gablet to the left and the crown-post of the open truss to the right.

Illus. 12 The heavily sooted, re-used roof timbers of the ‘malting’ hall, with hip and gablet to the left and the crown-post of the open truss to the right.

The purpose of this courtyard building is not entirely certain, and in all probability it served a number of different functions. Detached medieval and 16th century outbuildings that contain open halls are not uncommon across the country, and are generally interpreted as kitchens, although most were in fact used as brewhouses and bakehouses. Brewing was a major undertaking in any medieval household, given that each member would consume between one and two gallons per day (of ‘small’, weak ale or beer, drunk in preference to the potentially lethal water). Large vats and open furnaces were required for the process, together with ample height for the suspension of platforms and containers at different heights around the walls. Many such buildings possess floored bays for storage purposes, but the example at The Grange was unusually large in comparison with most recorded examples even before the construction of its extension, and an alternative function must be suspected. Pocklington’s village history notes that a malster acquired the property in 1707, and that references to ‘malting offices’ for which he offers no dates occur in the English manorial court rolls and to ‘domus brasiliatorum’ in the Latin (which should pre-date 1737, as English was adopted for such documents in that year). It seems highly likely that the eastern range at The Grange was used as a maltings for many years, as local legend relates, and while Pocklington cites no evidence of malting activity by the Green family in the 17th century this was a common sideline for local farmers. Maltings are usually associated with large brick kilns, of which there is now no trace on the site, but medieval and Tudor maltings employed suspended sacking to dry the malt over open hearths (the process is described by William Harrison). Large, floored chambers were required to spread the grain while germinating. If the outbuilding at The Grange is indeed a purpose-built 16th century maltings, as seems likely (albeit used for brewing and other activities on certain occasions) it represents one of a handful of known examples in Britain. Another, dating from the 1560s and already employing a brick kiln (but re-using sooted timbers from its predecessor) has recently been converted into a public museum in Dunmow, Essex.

Illus. 13  The modern kitchen seen from the courtyard (right), possibly the oldest building on the site. The largely rebuilt ‘stable’ lies to the left, and the 20th century stair tower projects from the back wall of the open hall to the extreme right. The open doorway leads into a gap that was roofed over in the 17th century. A fascinating piece of structural evolution!

Illus. 13 The modern kitchen seen from the courtyard (right), possibly the oldest building on the site. The largely rebuilt ‘stable’ lies to the left, and the 20th century stair tower projects from the back wall of the open hall to the extreme right. The open doorway leads into a gap that was roofed over in the 17th century. A fascinating piece of structural evolution!

The courtyard has changed little since the 16th century, although a short link was made between the modern kitchen and the possible stable range in the late-17th century; a first floor window that probably lit a passage between the two can be seen from within the roof, together with fragments of unpainted 17th century pargeting on the gable of the ‘stable’ (illustration 13). The ceiling of the latter may have been removed at the same time, and the present brick chimney inserted; the adjacent 19th century bread oven confirms that it eventually became the domestic bakehouse. Photographs of the early-20th century appear to show a stair turret in the angle between the open hall and 16th century rear parlour that may have dated from the late-17th or 18th century, when the entrance lobby was enlarged by removing its stair. This structure was replaced by the present, more spacious stair extension in the late-20th century, leaving only a small area in the angle of the open hall and modern kitchen to reveal the original depth of the courtyard.


The Grange is an historically important house that preserves a number of rare features. The crown-post open truss of its 15th century hall is among the finest in a county that is famed for them, its dated porch is an architectural gem, and the outbuilding in its courtyard is probably one of a tiny number of Tudor maltings in the country. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the house is the lack of change to its external appearance and internal layout since its refurbishment of 1689. The modern façade is almost identical to the drawing of 1850 published by Pocklington, and both its internal and external walls have largely escaped the recent fashion for removing insulating 17th and 18th century plaster to reveal earlier timber-framing. The result is a vivid record of the changing nature of the English home over more than five centuries.

Leigh Alston
March 2004


Glossary of Technical Terms

Axial Joist. A principal ceiling joist running along the centre-line, or axis, of a structure beneath the ridge of its roof.
Bay. All timber-framed structures are built in bays, i.e. the distance between a pair of storey posts. A simple box-like structure with only four corner posts consists of a single bay.
Binding Joist. A principal ceiling beam which runs across the width of a structure between pairs of storey posts and to which any axial joists are secured.
Clasped Purlin Roof. The typical East Anglian roof structure during the second half of the 16th century and for several centuries thereafter. The longitudinal side purlin, designed to prevent the common rafters from collapsing along the length of the building, is clasped between the collar and principal rafters of the open trusses. Examples which pre-date the mid-17th century are usually provided with curved wind braces. The purlins of a butt-purlin structure are tenoned into the principal rafters.
Cross Passage. Alternatively known as a cross-entry. The thoroughfare between the front and rear doors of medieval and Tudor domestic houses against the low-end of the hall.
Crown Post. The most common local method of constructing a roof between c.1300 and c.1550. A post rises from the centre of the tie-beam to support a longitudinal timber known as a collar purlin which in turn supports a series horizontal struts or collars which are secured to each pair of rafters. The rafters are thereby prevented from collapsing along the length of the roof.
Diamond-mullioned Windows. The standard medieval and Tudor window consisted of an unglazed framed opening protected by large square-sectioned bars or mullions set diagonally in the aperture. When removed these mullions leave behind eponymous diamond-shaped mortises.
Jetty.  First floor overhang for the purpose primarily of display but providing the additional advantage of increased space on the upper storey. From the French jeter, to throw. The typical merchant’s house of the 14th and 15th centuries contains its parlour and service rooms in expensive and ostentatious jettied cross-wings flanking a central hall, while lower status houses contain the same rooms beneath a single, less expensive roof.
Lobby Entrance. The typical mid- and late-17th century domestic plan, dominant in Suffolk between 1630 and 1700, whereby the main entrance opens into a small “lobby” against the chimney stack between the hall and parlour.  This arrangement superseded the earlier cross-passage plan.
Mid-Rail. A horizontal beam tenoned into storey posts at its ends and positioned at mid-height in a timber-framed wall.
Mortise and Tenon Joint. The simple joint by which the majority of structural timbers are secured to each other. The tenon projects from the end of one timber into the mortise cut into the surface of another, and a tapering wooden spike or peg typically secures the two. Joints were often numbered by their carpenters, who would have spent some months cutting the individual timbers but only a day or two at most in ‘raising’ the frame.
Open Hearth. An open unenclosed hearth akin to a modern bonfire which heated the typical medieval open hall. Consisting of faggots (bundles of twigs) and logs rather than coal this could be positioned against a low fireback or reredos close to the centre of the hall, with the smoke escaping through the roof covering and through large unglazed windows. Tile, clay and flint hearths have been excavated in Suffolk, and an example may await discovery beneath the floor of The Grange.
Open Truss. A principal frame in the width a timber structure, consisting of storey posts, tie-beam and rafters (but lacking a solid wall) which is intended to distribute the weight of the roof to the ground. The open truss of an open hall was designed for decorative effect, and typically includes curved braces rising from its storey posts to its tie-beam to form an arch between the high- and low-end bays of the space.
Ovolo Moulding. A quarter-round moulding favoured on various architectural features, but particularly window mullions, from the very-late 16th century until the late-17th.
Roof-plate. The horizontal timber at the top of a wall which supports the rafters of the roof.
Scarf Joint. Any joint in a horizontal timber is termed a scarf (from the Swedish scarfa: to join).
Storey Post. A principal vertical wall timber rising from the ground sill to the roof-plate which supports the roof.
Stud. A common vertical wall beam, as opposed to large corner or bay posts.
Tie-beam. The large beam which spans the width of a timber structure above its wall posts and so ties the two side walls together.
Wattle and Daub. The infilling between the frame timbers, known as beamfilling in the Middle Ages, usually consists of a woven framework of coppice poles and split laths daubed with clay, chalk and straw. Animal dung was rarely used as it was more valuable as fertiliser. The vertical poles were tied to horizontal struts by means of hempen twine, withies or strips of bark, and the struts wedged into holes and notches cut into the sides of the timbers.