General information on Hall from Boarhunt, Hampshire
This article is from the Museum Guidebook. © Weald & Downland Open Air Museum
The hall from Boarhunt dates from the late 14th century. It is a small but well-built example of a medieval open hall. The main feature of the building is the central roof truss of the open hall, which is an example of ‘cruck’ construction; a cruck is a long curved timber which rises from the ground to support the roof timbers. The bay to the right of the entrance was probably the service room. The inner room beyond the end of the hall is a conjectural reconstruction of the medieval solar.
In 1970 this cottage, which had been derelict for some years, was recognised as an unusual type of building. Over the centre of the small open hall is an arched frame in which crucks rise from near ground level, pass the wall head and support the roof purlin at collar level. Because the crucks do not continue to the apex of the roof they are known technically as ‘base-crucks’. True base-cruck construction is rare, and normally associated with medieval aisled buildings. There are no vestiges of aisled construction in the Boarhunt hall, which therefore represents an unusual hybrid form. It is the smallest base-cruck hall yet discovered.
Although small it was well constructed, and the interior proportions and sweep of the crucks which form the central truss of the hall are impressive, giving a sense of dignity and space quite disproportionate to the actual dimensions. The doorway at the upper end of the hall originally led to a private room that was completely sealed off from the smoke-filled hall, but this end of the house was replaced by a later terrace of brick cottages. The service bay under the roof hip at the lower end remained intact, and had originally only been separated from the hall by a screen below tie-beam level. The roof timbers had therefore been blackened by smoke from the open fire in the hall. A chimney and oven were later built into the hall, probably at the same time as an upper floor was inserted and an attic chamber created by the addition of dormer windows.
A relatively small number of original timbers survived from the medieval building, but, because of their historical importance, the hall has been rebuilt as it was originally designed in order to preserve and display them in their proper context. There is some uncertainty as to the exact position and size of the entrance door and hall window openings, and these must be regarded as conjectural. The missing bay at the upper end of the hall has been reconstructed in new materials, in order to complete the building and to protect the surviving medieval timbers. Its length and the form of its roof are completely conjectural. The building dates from the late 14th century.
Base-cruck construction is rare; about ninety examples are known, of which about half-a-dozen are in the area covered by the Museum. Buildings with full crucks, on the other hand, are very numerous, with over three thousand examples known in England and Wales. The earliest surviving examples of both forms date from the 13th century and very many crucks are medieval, but in some areas their use continued well into the 18th and even the 19th centuries. The geographical distribution of full crucks is very curious. They are completely unknown (at any date) in the eastern and south-eastern lowlands of England, including the Weald and Downland area, but are fairly evenly distributed over most of the rest of England and Wales. Base-crucks are thinly distributed over a similar area, but there are also some fourteen examples in East Anglia, Kent and Sussex.