Pikes Farm: Reconciliation of Dendrochronology report with on-site evidence of construction history
1431 - 1598
Pikes Farm, Michaelchurch Escley
Initial reconciliation of draft dendrochronology report with on site evidence.
Tony Gray October 2007
The dendrochronology data fits remarkably well with the conclusions being reached based on on-site evidence but has produced dates approx 100 years earlier than expected.
The construction history of the buildings seems to fall into three phases albeit spanning a short timescale
- ? <1490’s - 1546 Hall House, with either timber or stone walling.
- 1546-1561 Long House; chimney and associated dividing wall built 1546 possibly with spiral stair and first floor over Hall.
- Post 1561 major ground and first floor extension built 1561 creating an L shaped building; new or alterations to, windows in Hall 1590/91; other later work includes raising the Long House roof [and changing roof covering?] changing roof alignment over rear bay, work associated with “problem”, perhaps collapse, in north west corner, new flagstone floor in the kitchen and insertion of post and panelling in the kitchen, possibly taken from the Hall.
Generally the basic building seems to compare well with Nannerth-ganol [Figs 104 & 197 Houses & History in the March of Wales, Richard Suggett] but with a wide window at ground floor to the north gable to the Parlour and no evidence of windows east and west to the rear bay due to subsequent works.
It is interesting that there are only 15 years between the Hall House becoming a Long House  and the major extension being added . Is this unusual?
See attached plan for building layout, amended version of dendro report Table 1 for summary of tree ring dating and timescale schedule.
Door lintel and post – dated 1457-87 & 1462-92 [mepf1 &2]
These form an opening in the wall/chimney between the cross passage and Hall. The chimney lintel and therefore one assumes, the dividing wall, is dated 1546 so the door lintel and post being much older, must be re-used timber – although there are no really clear signs of this. It is possible that they formed the door opening in the timber framed wall that would have divided the cross passage from the Hall in the Hall House. If so this would give us a date for the construction of the Hall House say no later than 1490’s.
Panelling – dated after 1431 and after 1494 [mepf23 & 24]
The panelling currently forms the wall between the Long House and the 1561 extension. It includes two door openings and is two storeys high. It would be nice to think that it was originally at the dais end of the Hall House, two storeys high and with two openings to service rooms [the Parlour and Dairy as at Nannerth-ganol]. It could subsequently have been moved to its present position perhaps when the roof was raised in the Long House. If so, the dates might also support a build date for the Hall House of around 1490’s.
Dairy cill & window – dated after 1496 and after 1472 [mepf 6 & 9]
Perhaps these dates can also give some support to a construction date for the Hall House of around 1490’s? The dairy window as found in the north gable, appears to have been cut in half and the left side of the window reveal truncated, possibly at the time of the “problem” in the north west corner [see below]. If so, it would originally have been some 3.0m long. If there were two service rooms forming the rear bay of the Hall House, assuming the window only served one of them, then one room, the Parlour, would have been some 4.5m wide and the other room 1.3m [the Long House being some 5.8m internal width generally]. Is it realistic to suggest such a large window would have been in the original construction?
The wide Parlour window was also different from the other diamond mullioned windows in the extension and the “new” windows in the Hall, in having intermediate smaller diamond mullions [as illustrated in Houses of the Welsh Countryside RCAHMW 1975 Fig 161b]. However, this illustration is dated 1653; has this “two mullion” style been dated any earlier?
Chimney lintel – dated c1546 [mepf3]
This is the most significant base date, giving as it does, the date of conversion from a Hall House to a Long House. It is not certain that the spiral stairs and hence first floor were constructed at the same time. There is no fireplace at first floor. The wall and chimney breast were constructed whilst the building was single storey – the original lower roof line being visible in what is now the lounge.
Dairy ceiling beam – dated 1541-1566 [mepf4a]
This dating is comparable to the chimney lintel of 1546. However, it suggests that the rear bay of the Hall House did not originally have a first floor but that it was added when the conversion to a Long House took place. Would it not however have been usual for a Hall House to have a first floor over the rear bay? There is currently a small window in the north gable at first floor [as Nannerth-ganol], the old frame being diamond mullioned. If original, it suggests this rear bay was floored.
Kitchen ceiling beams – dated 1561 [mepf11 & 12]
This is the second really significant base date. It means that the Long House was subject to a very major extension only 15 years after the chimney was inserted. The two beams sampled were cut from the same tree. We might reasonably conclude that all three beams and the two half beams at each end, were all from the same tree. Each beam is approximately 30cm by 23cm. The tree could have been cut into four with one section then split down the middle. This would mean a tree of approx 80cm diameter. Can you tell from the tree ring data you have, how old the tree would have been when felled? The wood is red oak which I am advised today is worth some ten times “normal” oak. Do you think the then owners knew what they were using? Perhaps it was seen to add to the status of the property. Perhaps such a large tree could also have provided the wood for the ceiling joists which are also red oak.
Roof truss over extension – dated 1550-1580 [mepf15]
Only one truss dated. The date range appears to fit well with the 1561 date of the ground floor beams. There are three trusses. The east end [the dated truss] and the central truss are both a simple triangle shape with no struts, braces etc. The west end truss however is completely different. It includes substantial timber struts and lath and plaster infill. Why should it be so different if constructed at the same time? I wonder if it was an external gable end when first built. At that time, the Long House could still have had its single storey roof running at 90degrees to the new extension roof. It would therefore be much lower than the two storey extension. Subsequently when the Long House roof was raised and the roof alignment over the rear bay changed, the truss became internal as it is today.
Windows in Hall – dated 1590/91 & 1568-1598 [mepf7 & 8]
There is a considerable difference in the nature and quality of stone used in the wall construction of the east wall of the Hall. The apparently older part of the wall uses thin non-dressed stone whilst that used for the recesses around the window openings is obviously carefully selected, thicker well dressed stone. The window openings and stone work are exactly the same as those in the 1561 extension. The date of 1590/91 perhaps suggests that window openings were improved or new windows were inserted in the Hall some thirty years after the extension was built.
The apparently original west window in the Hall is positioned towards the dais end. If there was a similar opening in the east wall [as Nannerth-ganol], its position is now taken by the door to the extension. The east window as found [mepf7] [now the front door] appears to have been added in 1590/91 as an improvement and to replace the window lost to the door to the extension?
North west corner
Something happened here probably some structural damage or collapse. It gave rise to a narrowing of the rear bay which probably occasioned the halving of the width of the Parlour window frame. A new west facing gable end was built and a new wall dividing the rear bay from the Hall but both were apparently cheaply done with butt joints and no footings. There is no evidence to suggest a date.
There are no cruck frames left in the building. From investigation in the building, the original Hall House crucks were in place when the walls were stone – as the original wall construction or a later conversion from timber. The improvements to the windows in the Hall [1590/91] also took place with the crucks still in place. Perhaps they were finally removed when the roof was raised and they were no longer needed.
The sections of crucks located as lintels over the entrance to the beasthouse [mepf21 & 22] are dated 1540-1570 and after 1527 and would not therefore appear to have been from the main building. This small barn probably pre-dated the main barn which itself has been dated by others as last quarter of C16th. It is perhaps logical to think the smaller barn supported the Hall House and is similarly dated. However the roof has obviously been altered at some time and the use of the crucks as lintels could have happened at almost any time.
It appears nothing major has happened at the property since the end of the C16th except a new raised roof over the Long House facilitating a first floor over the Hall if this was not part of the earlier construction of the chimney in 1546. This might have happened in the C17th. Subsequently a “problem” occurred in the north west corner which may have given rise to the change in alignment of the roof over the rear bay. Otherwise all that appears to have happened is that the post and panelling was moved and a new large flagstone floor was laid in the extension. This was laid about 15cm above the original floor which was made of broken stone as in the Hall but with no sign of being broken flags. The new flags in the extension are particularly large and of good quality. Perhaps another sign of status?
The earliest documentary evidence found to date comprises reference in a Manor survey to a 99 year lease to a Walter Maddy and a detailed will dated 1604 of Jenkin Madye which describes the holding by reference to field names also used in subsequent documents. Jenkin Madye was a prosperous farmer. In his will he leaves some 7 oxen/bullocks, 3 bulls, 19 horses, 80 cattle and 250 sheep/lambs to relatives and friends [he had no children]. The Maddys [at least four brothers] were big landholders in the area in C16th and descendents still farm land near Pikes Farm today.
No documentary evidence has yet emerged pre-dating the 1561 extension works.
Building layout plan
Amended Table 1