A full archaeological survey of Little Bursted Farm (CA03-04), Upper Hardres was commissioned in order to inform refurbishment. The building had fallen into considerable disrepair and a full survey was requested by Canterbury City Council. The building proved to be a splendid example of a small, timber-framed, open hall farmhouse that remarkably had survived very much in its original form. It had not been extended or reduced in size, its footprint remaining much as when it was built. A high percentage of the original timber-frame survived. Only one or two components of its roof, for example, were not those put in place by carpenters in the early sixteenth century.
In contrast to the full survey at Little Bursted, partial survey was requested as a condition of planning consent for repairs and other work at Little Breach Farmhouse, not far away at Barham. Two visits were made, the first in October 2010 when the front wall of the building had been stripped of lath and daub. A drawing and photographic record was made at this time. A second visit was made in June 2011 when another wall had been knocked through in preparation for the addition of a conservatory, so exposing further framing.
Further interesting features were also noted in other parts of the building during the works.
At Millwall Place, Sandwich (CA05-06) plans had been put forward to convert a building used as a garage for many years to residential use. One scheme had already been refused planning permission but new owners commissioned a detailed study, in order to inform a revised scheme. This revealed an interesting and unusual timber-framed property, enough of which survived to enable a reconstruction on paper.
Though at first the appearance and some of the features of the building looked to belong to a dwelling built around the turn of the sixteenth century, other aspects suggested otherwise. Poorly lit and with none of the modifications usually seen in a building lived in for any length of time, the study concluded it was built as a workshop or store. If so, it is a rare survival of this type of building.
In 2007 we carried out a survey of the Curfew Tower at Windsor Castle. This massive tower dates from around 1240, but the timber-framed belfry within was installed over 200 years later. Before repairs could be made to the belfry which had begun to move excessively during bell-ringing, it was necessary to understand the archaeology of the fabric. A set of measured drawings was produced partly using a 3D CAD model made by Plowman Craven and partly from hand measurements. The drawings were annotated to show both features of interest and the various periods of work present within the structure.
Fire severely damaged the Hilden Manor (CA05-06) public house in Tonbridge in February 2005. An interesting medieval timber-framed hall house lay at the core of what had later become a sprawling road-house. The owners, Whitbread plc, agreed that survey of the surviving elements of the fourteenth-century building would form an essential part of the reinstatement process. A photographic survey was undertaken before any timbers or debris was removed and then measured recording took place after the structure had been cleared and made safe. Perhaps the most impressive of the building’s features was the base-cruck frame that crossed its open hall.
Another victim of fire was Manor Barn at Frindsbury (CA03-04). This dates from 1403 and until the fire, on the night of a national firemen’s strike in January 2003, was the longest of Kent’s medieval timber-framed barns and the best preserved. Three of its thirteen bays were destroyed and the roof of the fourth collapsed. Medway Council called in the Trust to identify, recover and record as much of the fallen timber as possible in the hope that valuable details, that might be useful if reconstruction were to take place, might survive. This proved to be the case. The discovery of carpenter’s numerals within the joints of the timber frame was one of the more interesting observations and explained why none had been visible when the surviving bays of the barn had been examined. From these it was clear that the barn was built from the north-east end, which was consistent with the direction of the scarfs within the structure.
In partnership with independent heritage consultant Mansell Jagger, a Conservation Statement on Eastgate House, Rochester, was prepared in 2003 (CA03-04). There were four areas of investigation; an assessment of the archaeological potential of the site, a study of documentary sources, an investigation and analysis of the standing building and a statement of significance. Despite the documentary record being patchy, useful information was recovered which, combined with our survey the building, was sufficient to show that the building’s development and possibly its initial construction in the late sixteenth century could be attributed to the Buck family. The property has since grown to nearly three times its original size and incorporates seven major periods of work. Its story illustrates both the development of a major town house and also the rising fortunes of an important Rochester family.
Numerous attractive, historic features survived within the house: fireplaces with elaborate chimney pieces and overmantles, oak paneling, fragments of wall paintings, decorated doorframes and a seventeenth-century newel staircase. Decorated plaster ceilings also survive in three rooms of the primary range. These incorporate the arms of Sir Peter Buck and his second wife and other devices of the period – lions, mermaids and mermen, grotesques and a buck and doe.
‘Architecturally there is nothing quite like Eastgate House in Rochester or elsewhere in Kent’.
We have, over the last twenty-five years, recorded several buildings about to be dismantled for re-erection elsewhere. This began with Stone Farm (CA87-88), one of the buildings affected by the building of the Channel Tunnel in the late 1980s. This was closely followed by Romden Hall House, a victim of the great storm of 1987 and then Longport House in 1993.
The survey at Romden Hall House, near Smarden, Ashford, was one of the most ambitious building recording projects undertaken during the 1980s (CA88-89). This fine medieval farmhouse was literally torn apart and reduced to a pile of broken timbers by the storm that ravaged the south of England in October 1987. We identified, drew and numbered all the components of the original timber frame before removing them to a temporary dry store in a nearby barn. A set of drawings was then prepared reconstructing the building on paper. The building then remained in store for some time, eventually being purchased by a local builder who has re-erected it on a new site.
Returning to the Channel Tunnel terminal in 1992, Longport House (CA92-93), which we had previously assessed, was dismantled so that a new police station could be built. It was moved to the Weald and Downland Museum. We worked in partnership with the museum, their specialists supervising a team from the Trust. Dismantling involves plenty of hard physical labour as well as careful and systematic recording. The entire timber frame was labeled and taken apart and nearly 9,000 bricks and stones were methodically numbered and removed from site. The building was reconstructed in 1995.
In 1999 a building endangered by the construction of the Channel Tunnel rail link, Old and Water Street Cottages, Lenham, was dismantled and moved, this time to the Museum of Kent Life at Maidstone. Prior to their removal an appraisal of the property was undertaken by Archaeology South-East. We then undertook the detailed survey and analysis essential before dismantling could begin.
‘Almost every structural element, fixture and fitting and even a few garden features (the front gate) was numbered and marked on the drawings before being transported to the museum. Everything from its seventeenth-century timber frame through to the 1950s extension was recovered (even a 1970s bathroom suite!). Badly decayed or damaged components were also kept. Whilst such items were obviously beyond repair, they can provide templates for fashioning replacements and often retain information about a building that assists interpretation’ (CA00-01).
Working alongside contractors Traditional Building Restorations, we began dismantling in June and once the site was clear an excavation of the building’s footprint took place. The Trust continued to play an important role during the reconstruction of the building, advising on the nature and detail of the reconstruction.
The Trust has been involved with the recording and relocation of three other buildings to the Museum of Kent Life: Pett’s Farm, Ulcombe Village Hall (CA97-98) and Cuxton Chapel.
A documentary history often forms part of a building survey. The enormous value of this multi-disciplinary approach has been demonstrated time and again in a variety of projects. Amongst the highlights are two medieval properties flanking Mercery Lane, The Parade and St Margaret’s Street (CA05-06); the Royal Sea Bathing Hospital at Margate (CA05-06); Deal Barracks (CA00-01); Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne (CA06-07), Manor House, St Stephen’s, Canterbury (CA06-07); Cliftonville Lido (CA07-08); Christ Church Gate, Canterbury Cathedral (CA09-10) .