Demolition of this house had already commenced, when it was realised that the date of the building must have been considerably earlier than the date stone (1773) set in a blocked window in the front wall — the date merely recorded the year when the building had been repaired and altered after a fire. The brick shell must have been built during the first half of the 17th century, some hundred and fifty years earlier than the date stone.
This shell proved to be a remarkably complete example of a type of brick construction fairly widespread in the region in the early 17th century. All the original windows and the two original doorways had been blocked up or altered, but the original design could nevertheless be determined.
The building had been a residence since its reconstruction in 1773, but it probably was originally designed as an upper hall with an undercroft. Upstairs, the fine ovolo moulded brick mullion windows suggest an important upper room, and there was no sign that the first floor space had originally been partitioned. Downstairs the three small windows suggest that the ground floor may have been used for storage or some such purpose. The building was attached to the manor of Roughmere and might have been designed for some public purpose, such as a courtroom or meeting place.
Several groups of almshouses in the region provide dated parallels with the brick construction of the Lavant building. The Cawley Almshouses, just north of Chichester, were founded in 1625, and Wyatt’s Almshouses, near Godalming, in 1622. Thompson’s Almshouses in Petworth, founded in 1618, have doors and windows of nearly identical design to the Lavant building, although the rest of the walls are built of stone.