The Conservation of the wagon shed from Pallingham Quay

This building’s story runs across four centuries. Joe Thompson, Museum Carpenter-in-Residence, led the project to remove the building from the site of our new visitor centre in 2015. He will also perform its conservation and will oversee its re-erection near May Day barn and stable, where it will form part of a new late 18th century farmstead exhibit.

 This structure was originally built in the 18th century as a three bay shed. It was separated from the main farmstead, in a corner of a field some distance away from the main farm track. Research by historian, Dr Danae Tankard, unearthed a survey map of 1777 showing it as part of Pallingham Quay Farm, near Wisborough Green, West Sussex. It was owned by the Onslow family prior to being incorporated into the Leconfield Estate in 1790.

The wagon shed on its original site, prior to dismantling in 1981

The function of the building is unknown but probably incorporated both cart, wagon, machinery storage and a saw-shed. The evidence for this is a series of saw-kerfs on both tiebeams, similar to those on the Wiston wagon shed and Charlwood open shed, and a significant amount of race-knifed initials (W M, N D, G B, etc.), numerals (1810? 1816? 1841 and 1891? etc.), and tally marks scratched onto the internal sawn surfaces of the braces and tiebeams.

Judging by the pattern of fractured timbers, we might interpret the building as having partially collapsed during the 19th century. The building was then repaired to restore the frame and was enclosed with timber siding (vertical boarding) on all four sides. There are angled holes drilled in a regular pattern which indicate that feeding racks were added to two of the walls and some wallplates were re-used to form the jambs of two new doorways, the function of the building now being a shelter shed/stable, probably for cattle.

It remained in this form throughout the 20th century before it was dismantled by contractors on behalf of the Museum in early 1981, having been kindly donated by the Golden family who then owned the farm. The Museum Magazine from August 1981 informs us that “The wagon shed from Pallingham Quay has been re-erected by John Booker on the old site of the Toll Cottage, and is now serving refreshments, run by Peggy Tall. Richard Pailthorpe was responsible for the development.”

The wagon shed in use as the Museum’s café servery, before dismantling in 2015

The building continued in use as a café during the 21st century until we dismantled the building in autumn 2015. During dismantling we established, from the nail evidence, that the rafters had been re-roofed twice. So the lesson learned is that appearances can be deceptive, and even a simple 18th century agricultural building such as this can provide a number of fascinating details that add to our knowledge of how these buildings were built and used.

The wagon shed is currently undergoing conservation work in our Downland Gridshell building, which visitors are welcome to view. Once complete, the building will be re-erected near May Day barn and stable, where it will form part of a new late 18th century farmstead exhibit in 2019.