HOUSES

Twelve houses and cottages have now been re-erected at the Museum. The Hangleton cottage, Bayleaf, and the houses from North Cray, Sole Street and Boarhunt all date from the medieval period and have open fires, whereas Pendean, the house from Walderton, the house extension from Reigate, the Toll Cottage and Whittaker’s Cottages have chimneys of brick and stone. Poplar Cottage represents an intermediate phase in which a fire burns in a ‘smoke bay’.

A direct comparison can be made between Bayleaf and Pendean. They are of similar size and represent two important house types in the region. In Bayleaf, as in the other medieval houses, the open hall and open fire are the central features of the building. The absence of a chimney was not due to a lack of technical know-how, but to the strength and persistence of the medieval pattern of life in which the open hall played a vital symbolic and practical role.

Pendean was built less than a century after Bayleaf but its plan is radically different. The cross-passage entrance has given way to a ‘lobby entrance’ — an entrance lobby facing the side wall of the chimney stack. The central room is still the most important living room, equivalent to Bayleaf’s open hall, but the medieval buttery and pantry have become a single ‘inner room’ at the western end. At the eastern end Pendean has a kitchen with a cooking hearth and a built-in oven. In medieval houses cooking was done either on the open fire in the hall or in a separate kitchen building.

The process of conversion by which similar changes were introduced to an existing medieval building can be seen in the house from Walderton. The chimney stack was built in the cross passage of the medieval house to form a lobby entrance plan, and a floor was inserted into the open hall. The arrangement of rooms is slightly different from Pendean, however, in that there is only one fireplace downstairs, and the bake-oven had a room to itself in the middle of the house.

Winkhurst Farm, the house extension from Reigate, and the wing of Longport Farmhouse, are all self-contained structures but they were never self-contained houses. Many historic buildings consist of several parts of different dates, resulting from successive additions and alterations. It is often very difficult to discover exactly how each part functioned when it was originally built, but these three buildings illustrate how valuable even an incomplete part of a house can be as an example of architectural features of a certain period.