Medieval house from Sole Street at the Weald & Downland Living Museum

This medieval building was painstakingly dismantled in 2015 to make way for our exciting new visitor centre. It has been reassembled near the centre of the Museum’s grounds and is now open as a centre where our visitors can try hands-on construction activities.

Read about the move in our blog and watch time-lapse footage of day one and day two of the build.

The medieval house from Sole Street, under re-erection summer 2016

During summer 2017 landscaping work will take please, including the construction of a ditch, woven hazel fence, hedge and garden.

About Sole Street

This medieval house has an open hall of aisled construction, giving low windows but a wider floor space. The cross wing at the service end is later than the hall and probably replaced an earlier medieval cross wing.

Sole Street

The medieval house from Sole Street before dismantling in 1970.

This building originally stood in the tiny Downland village of Sole Street. In 1960 it was condemned as unfit for habitation but was occupied until 1967. Its interest and antiquity had been recognised and efforts were made to interest local and national conservation bodies in its preservation in situ. Unfortunately they failed and eventually the only way to preserve the historic structure was to dismantle the frame for re-erection at the Museum.

The historic importance of the building lay in the fact that it had an aisled hall which had survived intact. Aisled halls are an important part of the story of the development of house types both regionally and nationally. They are usually features of early houses — dating from the 13th and 14th centuries — but Sole Street is more likely to date from the 15th century and is one of a number of similar single-bay aisled halls in the North Downs near Canterbury.

The aisled hall was open to the roof and had a central open hearth. It was in the middle of a house which followed the normal medieval pattern of service-hall-solar, with a cross-passage entry between the hall and the service end. The aisles have the advantage of giving greater width to the hall but the resulting low eaves restricts the height of the windows.

The Sole Street house is unusual in that it has a cross wing at the service end — a cross wing at the solar end is more common. The present cross wing is not the original one but a replacement built in the 16th century. It has the normal pair of service rooms on the ground floor, with a chamber above.

The solar end of the house had been rebuilt in more recent times. It probably consisted of a single end bay without an upper floor, as reconstructed at the Museum, but may originally have been divided into two rooms side by side. Unfortunately no evidence remained when the house was dismantled.

The medieval timbers were in a poor state of preservation, and many were missing altogether. The timbers of the hall are elm and they were so ravaged by beetle attack that the main posts broke up and could not be rescued. In spite of this, it has been possible to follow the evidence and produce a convincing reconstruction of the building as it was in the early 16th century.