Houses of the Nobility and Gentry
Most of the major medieval houses in the area have been demolished, the royal house at King's
Cliffe in the 15th century, Collyweston Manor in 1640 and Harringworth towards the end of
the same century. The survivors are Southwick and Apethorpe, and smaller houses at Glapthorn
(8) and Nassington (3). The available evidence suggests that all of these houses consisted of
more or less irregular groupings of rooms around a core consisting of a hall and chamber. At
the earliest, the Prebendal Manor House at Nassington (3), the hall dominated the associated
lower and separately-roofed buildings containing the chamber and service rooms. In 1272 the
manor houses at Bulwick and Harringworth both consisted of a kitchen, hall and chamber; in
addition the house at Harringworth had a chapel, a chamber for 'the religious men', and a
gatehouse (PRO, C133/2). Southwick Hall (2) appears to have consisted of a hall and a chamber
on the first floor of a cross wing, to which a two-storey tower was added in the 14th century.
The nearest parallel to this development is the slightly earlier three-storey tower added in the
same way to a hall and cross wing house at Longthorpe Tower, near Peterborough. As at
Southwick, the first-floor room of the tower was a second or inner chamber entered directly
from the cross wing. The towers of these two houses are notable features and must have been
primarily symbols of status as their defensive capabilities were restricted. The larger houses at
Apethorpe and Harringworth were both built piecemeal around two sides of a courtyard with
the main domestic apartments forming one range. The progressive accretion of chambers at the
S. end of the main range at Apethorpe in the 16th century is now difficult to disentangle. The
courtyard was enclosed by stages, the third side being built in 1562 and the fourth side in 1623.
The kitchens in these houses were generally detached, as at Harringworth in 1272, Southwick,
and probably Nassington (3) and Apethorpe. All of these houses had open halls, the first
instance at this social level of a ground-floor hall with chambers above being the remodelling of
Southwick in 1571, followed by Tansor later in the century. The circulation problems created at
first-floor level by having an open hall in the middle of the house were solved at Apethorpe by
building a gallery, called the Matted Passage, some distance behind and connecting the two
groups of domestic rooms. Gateways are recorded at Harringworth in 1272 and Nassington (3)
in 1649 (LAO, DIV/70) but the only one to survive is at Apethorpe, where it is the centre of a
subsidiary range and flanked by lodgings. As a status symbol it survived all remodellings of the
house, and only ceased to be the main entrance to the house in the 19th century.
All of these larger medieval houses were built in the architectural styles prevailing at the time,
best manifested in the churches. Nassington (3) has the same round-headed openings found in
domestic and ecclesiastical work in the area at the opening of the 13th century, while the mid
14th-century work at Southwick has exact parallels in the nearby church tower. Only in the
15th century is there evidence in the area for a distinct secular usage, when windows with flat
heads became the usual domestic form but are less common in churches. They are found at
Apethorpe, Harringworth (32) and Nassington (4), and in the 15th century are generally cusped
or even traceried.
The first work in the area in the new style of the later 16th century was probably Sir Walter
Mildmay's new range on the S. of the courtyard at Apethorpe, dated by a fireplace of 1562.
This must have contained a major suite of rooms, and so made the house suitable for the
entertainment of Queen Elizabeth and James I. The Great Dining Room fireplace is a work of
high quality whose design is probably derived from Serlio; locally it can only be compared to
the similar fireplace of 1571 at Deene and to the tombs of the Dukes of York at Fotheringhay,
erected in 1573. In 1570 Humphrey Stafford of Blatherwycke began building a large and
magnificent house at Kirby, 3½ miles away and outside the area studied. In the following year
George Lynne began a remodelling of Southwick Hall in a style which, although plainer than
Kirby, used many of its novel features. These two houses and Leicester's work at Kenilworth
Castle are the earliest known use of ovolo-moulded mullions. Other mouldings are classical, the
strings having an ogee corona profile, and the gable finials are gadrooned urns on panelled
pedestals. Tansor Manor (3) is a smaller house of the end of the century and has the same large
mullioned and transomed windows as Southwick, and the same string moulding. Early in the
17th century these features were being copied in small houses.
The dramatic enlargement and remodelling of Apethorpe in 1623 is an elegant design in the
style of the time but makes few innovations. Mildmay's S. range was rebuilt as a suite of state
rooms above a hall and chapel, and an E. range was added containing loggias, long gallery and
a roof-walk. The two ranges thus formed a complete 'state apartment' and largely duplicated
the family accommodation already available on a smaller scale elsewhere in the house. The
elevations are carefully and symmetrically designed, employing classical motifs and the earliest
shaped gables in the area. These gables are used in numbers to give character to the skyline; by
contrast at the nearby small manor house at Stibbington built in 1626 there is a single shaped
gable over the porch, all others being straight-sided (RCHM, Hunts., Sibson-cum-Stibbington
The only other large houses of the 17th century in the area were built by the gentry. Three
religious houses were converted to secular use, but have now vanished. At Fotheringhay a
house was contrived mainly from the ranges on the S. of the cloister in the 16th century, while
descriptions of Fineshade suggest that Sir Robert Kirkham converted the S. claustral range into
a house. The Kirkhams also occupied the buildings of Cotterstock college, but the details are
not recoverable. Cotterstock Hall was built in 1656 by the cavalier Kirkham's puritan neighbour
on a conservative H-plan. Such a plan was normal among minor gentry at this time, and was
used for the house built by a Tryon at Collyweston in the mid 17th century. The house at
Cotterstock is built not with two cross wings but four separate short wings projecting from the
back and front of the main range. This arrangement can be seen in John Thorpe's collection of
plans, made at the beginning of the century (Walpole Society, 40 (1966), Nos. T55, 59, 61). The
architectural style of Cotterstock is an interesting combination of new and old features. Shaped
gables had usually been reserved for special positions, such as the porch of Stibbington Hall of
1626; at Cotterstock the porch gable is shaped but uses new scroll devices of Dutch origin. The
windows have mullions and transoms but are also set in classical architraves. Internally the
fittings present a similar picture, with remarkably early bolection mouldings to the fireplaces,
and somewhat old fashioned wainscot with small but unmoulded panels.
Warmington Manor (26) of 1677 has a conservative elevation which reflects early range-and-cross wing plans although here the plan is purely linear. The architectural details, on the other
hand, are up-to-date, with platband, architraves to door and windows, and an oval window.
Later alterations make an appreciation of the new work of 1676 at Bulwick Hall very difficult. It
consists of a new range and loggia added to an earlier building which has since been
demolished. In plan it appears to have contained a suite of rooms entered from the loggia at one
end, an unusual arrangement resembling that in the roughly contemporary new range at
Dingley Hall, Northamptonshire. Architecturally, Bulwick must have been fashionable, with a
hipped roof, deeply overhanging eaves, and two-light transomed windows with architraves.
The end of the 17th century saw the introduction into the area of an entirely new plan, a
compact square (class 8) which was frequently used for the houses of the minor gentry and
richer clergy. The first houses of this type, Harringworth (16) and Easton-on-the-Hill (57), are
equal in quality to the best work in Stamford. More unusual is Easton-on-the-Hill (13), built on
an L-shaped plan that seems to have derived from essentially urban house plans such as are
found in Stamford, but with a long rear wing.
Perhaps the most important architectural project in the area in the 18th century was the
proposed remodelling of Apethorpe Hall in the years following 1736. John Fane had already
built Mereworth in 1723 as a Palladian villa; on inheriting Apethorpe in 1736 he proposed
converting that house into a Palladian palace. Copies of the original plans suggest that the 17th-century state rooms were to be retained but cased externally, and a new range of rooms was to
be added on the S. and apparently on the N. also. The long elevations were to be dominated by
domed pavilions. Available evidence points to the intention of destroying the original hall range
and also the gatehouse, although several classical houses retained earlier external focal points as
at Dereham and Lyme (J. Harris (ed.). The Country Seat (1970), 70; Country Life, 12 Dec. 1974).
The other three major 18th-century houses in the area were also built by new owners.
Blatherwycke Hall was the first Palladian house in the area, built in 1720 by Henry O'Brien, an
Irishman who inherited the house in that year and employed Thomas Ripley, a fashionable
gentleman architect. The house had separate pavilions linked to the main block by a raised
terrace, and Ripley's liking of French architecture is revealed in details such as the quoins.
Fineshade Abbey was built c. 1749 by a new owner; the slightly old-fashioned rusticated
doorway and windows might be appropriate to a Stamford mason, but the interior joinery and
plasterwork were clearly by leading craftsmen of the time. Like Blatherwycke the plan was a
symmetrical arrangement of rooms with a central entrance hall at the front. Laxton was built in
the third quarter of the century by Lord Carbery, another Irishman establishing himself in
England. The house clearly had a detached service wing from the beginning, but most of its
architectural character and plan-form were altered in the years following 1806 when it passed to
George Freke Evans. Although Evans only had a life-interest in the estate he enlarged the house
to an initial design by J. A. Repton which was altered by himself, George Dance and a surveyor
named Chapman. The reputation that the house has acquired as a monument of neo-classical
taste is based on Dance's entrance hall.
The only other building work on large houses in the area in the 19th century was aimed at
making the houses meet contemporary requirements. An extensive campaign at Apethorpe
under Bryan and later Edward Browning created a new entrance on the E. of the house and
tackled the problems of a very awkward building. Bulwick Hall was rationalised by building
new service rooms opening off an axial corridor, and the circulation pattern at Cotterstock was
improved by adding a staircase. Fineshade was extended in a way that maintained the symmetry
of the original house.
The only domestic chapel to survive in the area is the 14th-century chapel or oratory at
Southwick Hall (2). Here a room with a fireplace and opening off the solar has a piscina in a
bay window. A similar arrangement existed at the Tower of London where the first floor of the
Wakefield Tower, begun in 1221, formed an inner chamber to the royal apartments and had an
oratory in an enlarged window-opening (Apted, Gilyard-Beer and Saunders, (eds.), Ancient
Monuments and their Interpretation (1977), 170–1). A room over the gateway at Prudhoe Castle,
Durham, also had an oratory in a window recess (Arch. J., 133 (1976), 207). The room over the
E. porch to the hall at Apethorpe Hall is said to have had a piscina, removed some time before
1837, and so may have been an oratory (NRO, W(A) Misc. vol. 37, p. 6). There is also
documentary evidence for several other domestic chapels in the area, all associated with larger
houses. That at Harringworth manor in 1272 was a detached building, with a 'chamber for the
religious men' nearby (NRO, T(B) 2); it was later used as the burial place of the Zouches until
at least 1550, when it measured 24½ feet by 58 feet (7.45 m. by 17.7 m.) (Bodl. MS Top.
Northants. f1; PRO, Prob11/134). Richard de Lindon built a chapel at his manor house at
Easton about 1276 (VCH, Northants. II, 566), and by 1342 there were two chapels in
Fotheringhay Castle (Cal. Inq. Misc. (1308–48), 419). Lady Margaret Beaufort's household in the
early 16th century included choirboys, who had separate accommodation at both Collyweston
and Fotheringhay (St. John's Coll. Camb., MS 102.9; 91.7). None of these chapels remained in
use after the mid 16th century. A few new chapels were built in the first half of the 17th
century. At Apethorpe a large chapel formed part of the new S. range built in 1623, and
remained in use until 1736 (NRO, W(A) 5. VI; Misc. vol. 7). Richard Cecil had a chapel in his
house at Wakerley before 1633 (Ex. MS. 28/56) and Robert Kirkham built a chapel at Fineshade
between 1635 and 1650 (Bridges II, 308). At Bulwick Hall a chapel is recorded in 1722 but may
have been a room specially fitted up (NRO, T(B) 571).
In large houses accommodation had to be provided for a household of considerable size. At
Fotheringhay some 39 rooms were allocated to specific members of Lady Margaret Beaufort's
household in 1506 (St. John's Coll. Camb., MS 91.7), and similar accommodation must have
been available at Collyweston. Visitors to Fotheringhay were presumably lodged outside the
castle, at the New Inn and Old Inn, buildings which had parallels elsewhere, for example
Mydletons Lodgings and Hiltones Lodgings which stood outside Alnwick Castle but had fallen
out of use by 1567 (Alnwick Castle MS A.I.1a f. 43, 44, 46). At Apethorpe the range on the N.
side of the courtyard was devoted to lodgings, and in the early 18th century the curate lived
there (NRO, W(A) Misc. vol. 7). By the 19th century the domestic staff were all in the N.
range W. of the kitchens, an area called the Rookery. Laxton Hall had a separate kitchen range
with accommodation for staff above, and a housekeeper's flat between it and the house.
The surviving small houses of the late 16th and earliest 17th centuries are built of rubble
without freestone dressings, openings having timber lintels. Gables are sometimes parapeted,
and roofs thatched. Stone mullioned windows first appeared in small houses some time in the
early 17th century. Glapthorn (8) has ogee-moulded mullions of c. 1599 and Warmington (30),
another relatively high-class house, of shortly before 1605, has ovolo-moulded mullions;
Warmington (18) of 1648 and King's Cliffe (8), an earlier house, both have chamfered mullions.
Most mullioned windows however have ovolo mouldings and date from the second half of the
17th century, and are confined to houses of high quality, though not necessarily large size. In
some windows of the third quarter of the 17th century ovolo mouldings are stopped against
squared blocks in the upper angles. Only one wooden ovolo-moulded mullioned window has
been found, at Warmington (3), and it is probably early 18th-century. Iron casements were in
general use in the 18th century, followed in the 19th century by sliding sashes, maintaining the
tradition of horizontal window proportions. Hung sashes are features of polite decoration and
are normally found in small houses only in the 19th century.
Mullioned windows were sometimes surmounted by a hood-mould. Two main mouldings
were used. A cavetto, of medieval origin, found at Apethorpe Hall in 1623, and at King's Cliffe
(41) in about 1659, remained in use until the end of the century, as at Easton-on-the-Hill (13)
and Bulwick (12). On dated houses the ogee moulding is found from 1649 at Easton-on-the-Hill
(40) to 1696 at Collyweston (41). Firmly dated examples of the more classical ogee and corona
moulding first found at Southwick Hall in 1571 are not forthcoming but it seems to have been
confined mainly to the first half of the 17th century. Although in large houses the hood-mould
was sometimes carried across the building as a string, this has been found in only one small
house, Bulwick (12) of 1675.
In houses without stone mullioned windows the heads of openings continued to be formed
with wooden lintels until the use of rubble arches, either flat or gently cambered, became
general in the early 19th century, often in association with relatively narrow windows. Stone
lintels first appeared in the 18th century, and were associated with the use of freestone dressings
and architectural symmetry. They are formed of three blocks of freestone, a keystone flanked by
two half-lintels each with a generous bearing on the adjacent piers. Existing doorways are
generally plain. Even in the 17th century the four-centred heads of King's Cliffe (87) and
Duddington (28), and the moulded frame of Yarwell (20) were exceptional. Polebrook (25) is an
unusually late use of this design in an otherwise up-to-date elevation. Door and window
openings were usually treated in the same way, although in the 19th century a few polite houses
had wooden doorcases and even flat wooden hoods. With a few exceptions, such as Apethorpe
(14) and King's Cliffe (8), all mullioned bay windows date from the second half of the 17th
century. They are usually of two storeys, gabled, and are a sign of superiority. In the 18th
century more modest single-storey bays with casements and stone-slated lean-to roofs came into
fashion and persisted into the following century, occasionally rising to two full storeys in larger
Gables are often parapeted, with freestone coping and kneelers of plain design. The apex
usually has a plain roll although a few houses have a gabled device. Chimney stacks are of
rubble in cottages and ashlar in houses. Large flat slabs are set on edge, often forming separate
flues. The top is usually finished with a simplified entablature moulding which becomes a little
more elaborate in the 18th century.
Symmetry of elevation is not usually regarded as an element of vernacular building, but is
found in a large proportion of small houses in the area; it was by no means always deliberate
but was created incidently by the plan form, particularly in two-room houses of class 4a with
near-central doors. At some houses such as Collyweston (15) this symmetry was deliberately
emphasized with bay windows. Putting the door on the rear wall could also help to create a
symmetrical front elevation, as at Harringworth (22) and Warmington (18), although how
deliberate this was is now hard to say. A number of 17th-century houses of some pretension
deliberately aimed at a symmetrical elevation. Two-room internal-stack houses of class 3b are
symmetrical in plan, but symmetry is also emphasized in the remarkable elevation of King's
Cliffe (8). Yarwell (11) has an almost symmetrical elevation, on a markedly asymmetrical plan,
one bay containing the door instead of a window. Warmington (21) has a regular arrangement
of one first-floor and three ground-floor windows, while Bulwick (12) may have been equally
regular; both houses were probably entered from the rear. A symmetrical arrangement of
openings was not necessarily placed centrally in the elevation. Yarwell (13) has a fire window
duplicated on one side of the door, lighting the hall, to give a symmetrical arrangement of
windows flanking and above an off-centre door. Below manor house level symmetrical plans
with the exception of class 3b only appeared at the very end of the 17th century, and some 18th
century houses managed to combine a symmetrical elevation with an adaptation of an
asymmetrical plan, as at Harringworth (5).
Internally the main feature of heated rooms was the fireplace. The principal room, called the
hall, was a living room and also used for cooking in most houses; consequently it had a wide
fireplace. These fireplaces have ashlar jambs and timber mantel beams, generally cambered in
the early 17th century, flat in the 18th century and bowed in the 19th century. By the early 19th
century the cooking fireplace was becoming relatively narrow, and an increasing proportion of
small houses had tall narrow openings to take cooking ranges. At the same time ranges were
inserted in older fireplaces, any spare space being occupied by cupboards. In the 17th and early
18th centuries wide fireplaces were sometimes lit by a single-light fire window, while the back
wall usually contained at least one cupboard or recess for dry storage. Four houses, Duddington
(30), Nassington (33), Wakerley (15) and Woodnewton (5), have or had a pair of low pilasters
against the rear wall of the fireplace, flanking the fire itself, and clearly connected with its
management and use; they appear to date from the 17th and early 18th centuries. Heated
parlours were unusual in small houses before the late 18th century, whereas a number of first-floor chambers were heated from an early date. These chamber and parlour fireplaces of the
17th century are relatively narrow, entirely of freestone with a four-centred head usually in a
rectangular frame and sometimes with a moulded shelf above.
Little evidence for internal decoration survives. Small houses did not have panelling. At
Harringworth (18) and Lutton (6) are fragments of wall-painting of c. 1600, and King's Cliffe
(87) has a verse painted over the fireplace. Polite small houses sometimes had a moulded plaster
cornice in the parlour. The decorated plaster ceiling at Easton-on-the-Hill (44) is exceptional.
Very few early staircases remain, and those that do are all economical structures rising against
a masonry wall; the only decorative elements are a newel and sometimes a balustrade when the
stair emerges at first-floor level. Finialed newels of the 17th and 18th centuries exist at
Duddington (8) and King's Cliffe (48). In the early 19th century plain turned balusters and
moulded hand rails were used only in those small houses which had a wide enough stair
compartment for such display. Some early 18th-century buildings had shaped flat balusters
imitating the turned balusters of an earlier period, as at King's Cliffe (11). Sometimes the outer
wall of a house was built thinner to accommodate a stair, and when the stair has been removed
this thinning of the wall may be the only evidence of its former existence, as at Woodnewton
Survival and Accommodation
Surviving houses represent only a small proportion of those built. The chances of survival
favour large houses rather than cottages, so that existing buildings form a non-random sample
weighted heavily in favour of the more recent, the larger and the better built houses.
Several early 17th century surveys, ostensibly of complete villages, exist and can help to
correct the picture given by surviving buildings, but they too seem to omit some of the smaller
houses. Surveys of Collyweston and Warmington in 1607 have been augmented by those of
neighbouring Forest villages of Brigstock and Geddington to give average proportions of
different house sizes (PRO, LR 2/221). Remarkably few single-bay houses are recorded, an
average of only 6% and it is at this level that there may have been omissions from the surveys.
Two-bay houses average 36% of the total, but account for half of the houses in Collyweston
and Geddington. Three-bay houses are more evenly distributed in the four villages, accounting
for 28%. Four-bay houses form 19% of the total but only 8% of Collyweston and
Warmington; larger houses are rare. This predominance of two and three-bay houses is found
also in the incomplete surveys of Ailsworth, Castor and Sutton in 1649 (Peterborough Chapter
Library, Dean and Chapter Register). These figures are also close to those for surviving 17th-century houses of which 3% originally had one ground-floor room, 60% had two and 33% had
three. In later years the proportion of houses of single-room plan increases. About a quarter of
the pre-1850 houses which survive to the present day had been built with a single ground-floor
room, half had two ground-floor rooms and a fifth had three. Alterations subsequent to
building such as subdivisions, which are difficult to quantify and mainly of the 19th century,
make it impossible to give reliable figures for the actual situation in 1850.
The Hearth Tax returns of 1673 and the probate inventories of the last two decades of the
17th century provide a further chance to evaluate the surviving houses. The Hearth Tax returns
are substantially complete but do not distinguish sub-divided houses. Over the whole area 38%
of householders were exempted from Hearth Tax on grounds of poverty. Most would have
occupied single-hearth houses, so that 71% of the households had one fireplace, 16% had two,
6% had three and 3% had four fireplaces. Nearly all villages had one or at most two houses
with five hearths, and a single larger house. As the number of hearths was related to status
rather than size of house, these figures only give a crude picture of housing conditions. Thirty-seven probate inventories could be associated with Hearth Tax returns with varying degrees of
probability. A quarter of these were for single-hearth houses, occupied by labourers and
craftsmen. Most had a hall and parlour with chamber above, sometimes with a buttery as well;
one had a hall, parlour and kitchen and so resembled Glapthorn (12). The majority of single-hearth houses therefore would have had one or two rooms in plan. Half of the two-hearth
houses identified had two rooms, the remainder three or four rooms, and all of the houses with
more hearths had three or more rooms in plan. With houses of this large size the correlation of
room-names with structure is impossible. Most of the houses with three or more hearths were
occupied by farmers. Of the surviving 17th-century houses 64% had one or two-room plans
when built, a figure close to the 71% of houses having a single hearth in 1673.
The status of any individual house is not readily defined, for different types were only loosely
associated with particular social or economic groups. Even the distinction between house and
cottage was not always made correctly, although in the 17th century it was a legal reality. A
large number of the buildings called cottages had two-room plans and some had several acres of
arable land. The survey of Collyweston in 1605 (SRO, GD 45/221) shows landless men living
in houses of up to three bays. In this survey the occupiers of 40% of two-bay houses had no
land and the the remainder had up to 30 acres; occupiers of three-bay houses usually had up to
45 acres, but a quarter of them had no arable land. These landless men will have included
labourers and craftsmen, some of whom had small holdings or a few sheep and cattle.
The accommodation provided in each house was related to the social standing of the
occupant. The fundamental rooms common to all houses were the hall, which was the principal
living room and also used for cooking in the absence of a kitchen, and chambers, first-floor
rooms used for sleeping and storage. All but the smallest houses also had a parlour, a room
which was usually unheated and was used in a variety of ways according to the needs of the
owner. Usually it was a bedroom, but could serve also for a sitting room and for storage. By
the end of the 17th century a few houses had two parlours, some specifically allocated to
servants. Separate rooms for cooking seem to have increased in number during the 17th
century. The earliest kitchens of which there is evidence were detached buildings, like
Southwick Hall (2), but the only small houses to have them are probably King's Cliffe (5) and
(34). At Collyweston in 1607 only three out of 25 houses had a kitchen specified, one being a
single-bay house; these kitchens were presumably detached. A similar situation existed in other
villages. By the end of the century over half of the houses recorded in probate inventories had
kitchens, always in addition to a hall and parlour and often in addition to a buttery or pantry;
most of these were presumably an integral part of the main building.
A pantry or buttery is recorded in over half of the late 17th-century probate inventories, but
how it was contrived is rarely clear. In some houses it was a proper room, with a chamber
above,. and this name was probably given to the central room of houses of class 5. Many
pantries were doubtless contrived beneath staircases or in corners of larger rooms like the
'buttery in the hall' in Eleanor Crowson's house at Easton-on-the-Hill in 1698 (NRO,
Peterborough Inventories vol. 5). In some houses of class 4a it was beside the parlour and
entered from the hall (Woodnewton (18)). Cellars are rarely mentioned, and few survivors are
below ground; most are in lean-to additions (Woodnewton (31)). The cellar at Harringworth (5)
is entirely below ground and may have been a dairy.
In the 17th century some houses, particularly those of class 1, had an entrance passage
partitioned from one room, seemingly for convenience rather than for comfort or privacy.
Otherwise, inner rooms could only be reached by passing through other rooms. Houses of class
5 had a short passage inside the main entrance giving access to all ground-floor rooms, which
marks a significant advance in the planning of small houses. A similar passage, possibly original,
exists at Harringworth (5). One house, Bulwick (12), was exceptional in having an original
passage in a lean-to at the back. In the 19th century many houses had passages cut out of rooms
to create privacy, but they have mostly been removed in recent years.
The accommodation described so far was domestic. In some houses rooms were appropriated
to the trade of the occupant. About 45% of 17th-century probate inventories mention dairies,
but they are now difficult to identify. Some were in the main body of the house and had
chambers above, like that at Lutton (2), but many must have been in lean-to structures like the
dairy at Yarwell (13). Few cheese chambers for curing cheeses are mentioned and they are now
unidentifiable. Shops, meaning workshops, could be located anywhere, and sometimes shops
can be shown to have been within the house itself. Weaving and woodturning could be carried
out within houses (King's Cliffe (34)) but brewing and blacksmithing were usually done in a
Analysis of the surviving houses indicates that the average size of new houses declined from
the 17th to the 19th centuries. The size range of two-room houses for instance decreased from
between 23 to 88 square metres overall in the 17th century to between 23 to 70 square metres in
the 19th century. The earliest central unheated service room houses of class 5 vary from 62 to
81 square metres; in the 18th century the average size increased, with a range from 54 to 102
square metres, but in the 19th century the few examples are smaller. Double-pile plans of class 8
remained a fashionable house type from the 17th to the 19th century, and although the average
size decreased steadily some of the biggest and smallest examples date from the 19th century.
The earliest evidence for maids living-in comes from Warmington and Fotheringhay in the mid
15th century (LRS 14 (1918), 103, 108). Probate inventories show that in the second half of the
17th century both maids and farm labourers were sometimes found living-in in the larger
farmhouses. Positive evidence comes from 9% of available inventories, the same proportion as
in Writtle, Essex (F. W. Steer, Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex (1950), passim) but this
does not make it possible to judge how common the practice was. The identification of
servants' accommodation in existing buildings depends on that accommodation being separated
from the rooms of the family, and such physical separation did not always occur.
There is no evidence for domestic or agricultural servants living-in in a house of less than
three-room plan in the 17th century. Several houses have a secondary staircase, rising from the
kitchen, giving access to a room or rooms which apparently could originally be reached in no
other way, Duddington (29) and Warmington Manor (26) of 1677 for example.
In Warmington Manor the stair rose from the kitchen to the room above and thence to the
attic and a similar arrangement existed at Polebrook (25) and Warmington (32). Cotterstock
Vicarage (11) was rebuilt in 1831 with two maids' rooms above the kitchen. By contrast many
houses had a single stair shared by the maids and family, as at Collyweston Rectory of 1832.
Probate inventories also mention mens' parlours, indicating that agricultural servants were
sometimes allocated a ground-floor room. No physical evidence for this has been identified.
The dual circulation-patterns described would also have proved convenient when houses were
sub-divided between heirs or different members of the same family.
There are too few buildings of the 15th and 16th centuries in the area to give a picture of
housing in the late Middle Ages or to enable their plan forms to be classified. One house,
Duddington (11), was apparently of three-room plan with a central open hall. Its size and
architectural details indicate that it was a house of some social importance, but later alterations
have obscured the original arrangements. The only other open-hall houses are fragmentary, and
both may have been of two-room plan. At Hall Farm, King's Cliffe (16), the hall appears to
have been at the N. end of the building, and the position of the inserted stack suggests service
accommodation to the E. King's Cliffe (51) is set back from the road and its original
arrangement, although perhaps similar, is no longer recoverable.
Nassington Manor House (4) is storeyed throughout and was built in two stages, which may
in part account for its unusual plan, with the cross passage separating the hall from the parlour.
The hall may have been unheated originally. King's Cliffe (77) is of two room plan; the
importance of the room over the hall is shown by its roof, and the service room may have been
roofed as a cross wing although this is not certain. Both of these houses are substantially
complete. The Priest's House at Easton-on-the-Hill (58) is a high-quality two-storey building of
single-room plan intended for a celibate priest; it lacks kitchen and service accommodation and
so may be incomplete.
Classification of Post-medieval Houses (Fig. 5)
An attempt has been made to classify all but the larger post-medieval houses according to their
basic plan-form. Some houses have been so altered that their original arrangement is no longer
identifiable, and others, especially deliberately designed buildings of the 19th century, cannot be
easily included in any classificatory scheme. The remainder fell readily into eight broad
categories. The classification devised to deal with the lowland area covered in RCHM, Cambs I
and II proved not to be directly applicable to the houses in the Jurassic stone belt. The aim of
the present classification is to group houses into broad 'families' according to those features of
plan that appear to be most significant in terms of development. The main criteria used are the
relationship between entrance and main chimney stack, and the positions of stacks and,
especially in some later houses, the staircase. Within these major groups variations are indicated
by the use of letters. It is hoped that this arrangement will prove sufficiently flexible to be used,
with modifications, over a wider area. The grouping of house plans can be summarized as
Class 1 Cross-passage houses entered by a passage behind the living-room fireplace.
1a with three rooms in line.
1b with two rooms, central stack and passage.
1c two or one room, end stack and passage.
Class 2 Internal-stack houses entered by a door at the end of the living room farthest from the
Class 3 Baffle-entry houses, with the entrance against an internal chimney stack.
3a with three rooms in line.
3b with two rooms.
Class 4 Houses with one stack at a gable end.
4a entered in the middle of a long wall.
4b entered at a gable end.
4c of single-room plan.
Class 5 Central unheated service-room houses, with two gable stacks.
Class 6 Central entrance houses with two gable stacks and central stairway.
6a with entrance hall.
6b without entrance hall.
Class 7 Urban houses.
7a with entrance hall and front parlour.
7b without entrance hall.
Class 8 Double pile houses.
Fig. 5 Classification of post-medieval house plans
The diagrams are based on the plans of the following houses:
1a. Glapthorn (11); 1b. Easton-on-the-Hill (44); 1c. Easton-on-the-Hill (43); 2. Collyweston (7); 3a. Ashton
(2); 3b. Woodnewton (41); 4a. Collyweston (3); 4b. Wakerley (5); 4c. Warmington (27); 5. Tansor (15); 6a.
Warmington (22); 6b. Easton-on-the-Hill (34); 7a. King's Cliffe (61); 7b. Easton-on-the-Hill (63); 8. Collyweston (21).
This classification only applies to post-medieval houses. There are too few medieval buildings in
the area to warrant their inclusion in such a scheme, and the criteria for their grouping would
be different from those used for later houses.
The majority of the earliest post-medieval small houses to survive in the area are two and three
room cross-passage houses.
Although it is usually suggested that this form is derived from long-houses with a byre at one
end and living accommodation at the other, no evidence for such a derivation has been found in
the area. The plan first appears fully developed in the late 16th century, having a central heated
hall or living room, an inner parlour, and a service room with entrance passage. The stairs
usually rise beside the stack. The parlour was heated only in the larger houses such as Lutton
(2); in smaller houses it could remain unheated until the 19th century as at Easton-on-the-Hill
(29). Lutton (6) is exceptional in that both parlour and service ends each began as two rooms,
although this arrangement did not last long and a normal plan was created in the early 17th
century by removing walls.
The size of the service room varies from being the largest room in the house, as at Lutton (2)
and King's Cliffe (71), to being the smallest as at King's Cliffe (34), (69). Most houses with
small service rooms are relatively late in date. In the late 16th and early 17th century this room
was often, perhaps usually, unheated. Its precise function when unheated is not clear; at King's
Cliffe (71) it is very long and had become a shop by the early 19th century, while at
Woodnewton (12) and King's Cliffe (69) it is small and served as a pantry. Fireplaces were
introduced from the early 17th century, marking the transference of cooking from the hall or a
detached kitchen to this room. In some houses a second staircase is found beside this kitchen
stack, and where it is not a result of subdivision of the house is an indication of servants
occupying the room above. The cross passage can sometimes be seen to have been screened
from the room originally, as at Lutton (6) and Yarwell (13), but sometimes the evidence
suggests that there never was a screen.
A number of two-room houses in the area are clearly contracted forms of this three-room
plan. This form is arrived at by omitting one of the end rooms, either the parlour, as in class
1b, or the service room, as in class 1c, but retaining the characteristic cross passage behind the
hall stack in all cases. One house, Easton-on-the-Hill (3) consists of only hall and passage, and
has been ascribed to class 1c. The largest group, some 20 houses, had no parlours, and in these
small houses of class 1b the service room remained unheated until the 19th century or even, as
at Easton-on-the-Hill (43), to the present day. At Nassington (27) this room was partitioned
from the passage and was heated from the beginning. In the 18th century the service room of
Easton-on-the-Hill (44) was converted to a heated parlour, a conversion which may have
necessitated a new service room in a now-rebuilt rear wing. The group of five houses of class 1c
retain the cross passage at one end; although this arrangement was created by partial demolition
at Easton-on-the-Hill (38), this is not the case in the remaining houses. Nor is this a local
aberration, for apart from examples at Uppingham and Stamford (RCHM, Stamford, lv), the
type has been recognized as far away as Dorset (R. Machin, Yetminster Houses (1978), 110f).
Room use and social status of these houses is the same as the commoner two-room houses of
Houses of class 1 were rarely built after 1700, and account for 30% of all 17th-century
houses. The three-room houses of class 1a account for 14% of 17th-century houses and include
some of the larger and more imposing buildings of the early years of the century. Lutton (2)
and King's Cliffe (84) are both tall two-storey houses of distinction, and Yarwell (11) was
architecturally remarkable. In the 19th century a modified variation of this plan was used by a
few farmers who clearly wanted a house of traditional form. Laxton (16), Nassington (46) and
perhaps Tansor (19) are generously large houses of this plan but are architecturally
A small group of three-cell houses, amounting to 4% of buildings recorded, has the entrance to
the hall at the end farthest from the fireplace. Elsewhere, as in East Anglia, this plan-form can
be seen to derive from hall-houses where the chimney is inserted at the upper end of the hall,
and some examples even have a structural passage across the hall at the entrance end (RCHM,
Cambs. II, xlv). The Northamptonshire examples doubtless have the same origin but the earlier
stages of development no longer exist. A number of these houses are ambiguous in that they
combine a 'screens' entry into the lower end of the hall on one side, and a baffle entry against
the stack on the other. This combination of characteristics of class 2 and 3 is not often found in
East Anglia; Northamptonshire houses have been arbitrarily classified according to which form
of entrance was found on the front of the house.
Class 2 houses account for 10% of the 17th-century houses and 7% of 18th-century houses in
the area; most are of two storeys and some are fairly distinguished like King's Cliffe (45), while
in the 18th century this plan was used for the house of the miller at Duddington (2).
A relatively uncommon group of houses in the area is entered by a doorway immediately
against the side of an internal chimney stack. These class 3 plans account for 10% of all 17th-century houses, and only 4% of all houses recorded. In Cambridgeshire they formed one-third
of all houses (RCHM, Cambs. II, passim), and the type can thus be seen to be closely associated
with the timber-framed building region. Furthermore although the plan remained in restricted
use in Cambridgeshire into the 19th century, in Northamptonshire there are very few examples
later than the 17th century. In Cambridgeshire there are about twice as many three-cell houses
of class 3a as of two-cell houses of class 3b, while in Northamptonshire their numbers are
almost equal. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries the two-room form of class 3b was
generally used for houses of some distinction, whether of stone or timber-frame. The earliest
are probably late 16th century and of timber-frame; the first stone examples in this area are of
the early 17th century. King's Cliffe (8) mimics a timber-framed house with jettied cross wings.
and Haunt Hill House, Weldon, is another virtuoso-house of this plan. The three-room form,
class 3a, was used for impressive farmhouses such as Harringworth (22) of the late 17th century.
The majority of class 3 houses in the area are more modest. A large number of class 3b houses
had only one heated room, the arrangement of access and rooms resembling houses of class 1b.
Indeed Polebrook (24) has a long and originally unheated service room which makes the house
seem closer to the very different class 1 houses. At Warmington (5) the unheated room was a
Just over one-third of all houses in the area were originally of two-room plan with a single
hearth. The majority of them, amounting to 44% of all 17th and 18th-century houses, are of
class 4a and 4b, having one stack in the gable wall, unlike the internal-stack houses of classes 1,
2 and 3. Most houses are of class 4a and entered into the main room by a door near the centre
of the front wall, although a few are entered by the unheated room like Collyweston (4) of the
early 19th century. In these last houses it seems that the unheated room was a service room
rather than a parlour. Half-a-dozen early 17th-century houses were entered by a door in the
gable, beside the stack, as at Warmington (36). Probably there were originally many more such
houses, here ascribed to class 4b, but subsequent alteration of the door position makes their
identification very difficult. Gable entrance is very rare after the 17th century. The origins of
these houses doubtless lies in smaller late-medieval houses of two bays, and they can be
compared with the larger early post-medieval houses of class 1a.
Inventories suggest that the unheated room was normally a parlour, and this is confirmed by
surviving evidence and by the fact that in a very few cases, nevertheless ascribed to class 4a, this
room appears to have been heated from the start. In most houses the parlour remained unheated
until the 19th century. Usually the staircase was originally beside the stack, even when the door
was also in that position. In some houses the stair rose along the rear wall of the parlour
(Fotheringhay (11)) or in a corner of the hall. By the early 19th century some houses of class 4a
were being modernized to bring them closer to the more fashionable symmetrical houses of
class 6. The stair was moved to a central position opposite the main entrance, and in some
houses a parlour fireplace was inserted at the same time, for example at Collyweston (14). The
resulting plan, with unheated parlour and central stair, was also used for some new houses in
the 19th century. Although new class 4a houses were as numerous in the 19th century as they
had been in the 17th century, they only accounted for 20% of new buildings because of the
enormous increase in numbers of single-room houses of class 4c that survive, amounting to
40% of all 19th-century houses.
The accommodation provided by class 4a houses was the minimum for comfort, but these
houses served a considerable social range. The poorest were labourers' cottages, such as Easton-on-the-Hill (4), but the best were comfortable small houses with a heated bedroom and an
architectural quality that set them apart from their neighbours, for example Easton-on-the-Hill
(23). The occupants of these better houses seem to have been craftsmen and small farmers
(Collyweston (9)). A number of houses of this group have been enlarged by adding wings,
commonly a kitchen as at Duddington (29), giving the same accommodation as a house of class
1a, and implying a corresponding rise in status.
Single-room cottages rarely survive from before 1800; although they represent 40% of the
19th-century tenements recorded, only 3% of the 17th-century houses had a single room. The
majority of these have been grouped in class 4c, having a chimney stack on one gable. A few of
the early houses were entered by a door on the gable beside the stack and so are single-room
versions of class 4b such as Easton-on-the-Hill (39). One house has a cross passage behind the
stack and so belongs to class 1c (Easton (3)). Before the early 19th century many single-room
cottages were being built with their stairs against the wall opposite the fireplace, giving a
distinctive elevation with the door set in from the corner of the house. In such cottages the
fireplace is often set centrally in its wall. Single-room cottages were built in pairs, but rarely in
threes or terraces. However, a high proportion of the single-room tenements of which there is
evidence were subdivisions of older and larger houses, a single room making one new cottage.
How many tenements were created in this way is now impossible to estimate.
Symmetry, in planning or elevation, was usually an incidental feature of vernacular building
before the early 19th century. Two-room houses with a central stack (class 3b) have a
symmetrical plan and elevation; two-room houses with near-central door and one end stack are
almost symmetrical in elevation only. A more fundamental symmetry is found in the area in the
late 17th century in a group of new plans here assigned to class 5. Their distinctive feature is a
central unheated service room, flanked by two living rooms each with a gable stack. The
entrance is roughly central, into a passage which gives access across the front of the house to all
three rooms. The heated rooms are a parlour and a hall-living room. Few villages have more
than one house of this plan, which was clearly used for houses of modestly high standing. The
earliest houses of this plan in the area date from the late 17th century, although earlier examples
have been discovered in Dorset (R. Machin, Yetminster Houses (1978), 68). Their origins are not
clear, but the distribution of the plan is associated with the Jurassic stone belt; it is absent from
the easternmost villages in Northamptonshire, and in Huntingdonshire is confined to the stone
villages to the N. (RCHM, Peterborough New Town, passim; RCHM, Huntingdonshire, passim) and
is very rare in East Anglia. The latest houses of this plan date from the opening years of the
The first small houses to have real symmetry of plan and elevation were those of class 6, first
found in the area in the 18th century. Again the origins of the plan-form are obscure, although
some of the earliest examples may be in towns. The larger houses in the group, of class 6a,
have an entrance hall and are usually spacious; some are two rooms deep on the ground floor,
the rear rooms being covered by a catslide roof. These houses are sometimes superior in
architectural quality to smaller ones in their class and have the same ground-floor
accommodation as a class 8 house but as they are not double-pile they are included here rather
than under class 8; they are essentially polite houses, and it is possible to associate many with
occupations other than farming. The forest keeper's lodge at Southwick (9) of 1729 is of this
form, and the later Easton-on-the-Hill (48) was probably a public house. Most houses of class 6
are of the 19th century and of the contracted form without a separate stair hall. Usually the
stairs rise from a lobby inside the door which also separates living room and parlour, but
sometimes in the poorer examples they rise direct from the living room. A few houses which
have been attributed to this class 6b have the stairs rising not between the rooms but against the
rear wall of the living room; they are a small proportion of the total. Class 6 houses account for
almost a quarter of all early 19th-century houses in the area, and are present in almost every
village, although the larger numbers are in those with the highest proportions of craftsmen and
tradesmen in the 1831 census. Several class 4a houses were converted to this plan in the 19th
century by the addition of a parlour fireplace and by moving the stairs to a central position.
This conversion can be difficult to detect in class 4a houses that are themselves of 19th-century
Some of the larger houses of class 6a have a two-storey rear wing, giving an L-shaped plan.
This wing invariably contains the kitchen, as with the rear wings of earlier houses of class 4a.
One of the earliest houses of class 6a to have a wing is Apethorpe Manor House (8), and
examples are found in the 19th century.
After about 1820 cottages were built in the area on a plan that is best described as urban, having
been used for perhaps the majority of urban terraced cottages of the time. Two main forms are
found: the earlier plan had an entrance hall creating a parlour at the front of the house (class 7a)
and tends to be a middle-class form; the contracted version used for working-class housing has
no entrance hall, the front room being a living room entered directly from the street (class 7b).
The third alternative plan, with the stairs rising between front and back rooms, has not been
identified in the area. These cottages were usually built in pairs, and no terraces are found
before 1850. They only account for 6% of all early 19th-century tenements, and most of them
are in larger villages such as Easton-on-the-Hill and King's Cliffe.
Square houses of double-pile plan first appear in the area at the end of the 17th century. They
are often associated with the clergy and minor gentry, and are usually fashionable houses in an
up-to-date architectural style. By the 19th century the plan was also used for larger farmhouses
such as those built for tenants at Fotheringhay. Usually the stair rises centrally but sometimes as
at Harringworth (16) it rises to one side of the entrance passage at the rear of the house. Roofs
commonly have two parallel ridges, but occasionally where effect was important a U-shaped
roof hipped at all corners was used, as at Harringworth (16) and Wakerley (3). Glebe House,
Easton-on-the-Hill (57), is unusual in having kitchens in a basement, and the main rooms at the
back of the house. Usually the service rooms are on the ground floor at the rear, sometimes
extending into a lower wing.
In the early 19th century this plan was also used for very small houses only three bays wide,
although the owners still could lay claim to politeness. Polebrook (14) for instance is only 30
feet (9.1 m.) wide and 20 feet (6 m.) deep but has stables behind.
Estate cottages, in the sense of deliberately planned regular or attractive dwellings, were built in
only three villages in the 19th century. Most of these cottages have a kitchen, parlour and
pantry or similar service room, but this superior accommodation is offset by their small size.
The houses at Laxton average 590 sq. ft. (54.8 sq. m.) including all walls, which is about the
average size for other early 19th-century two-room cottages but smaller than three-room
houses. The slightly later cottages at Blatherwycke and Fotheringhay are mainly similar in their
relative size and the accommodation provided.
Alterations and Additions
All of the houses in the area have undergone change since they were first built. Alterations are
either improvements or they mark a stage in the decline of a house; additions are commonly
improvements but can be associated with the subdivision, and so downgrading, of a house.
Improvements by addition usually involved building new parlours or service rooms. Apart
from providing accommodation for an increasingly numerous or affluent family, an added
parlour with chamber above raised the status of the house. At Easton-on-the-Hill (14) a two-room house was thus extended in 1680 to give a conventional three-room plan, the new work
boasting stone mullioned windows which the older building seems not to have had. In the late
18th and early 19th centuries one end room – usually the parlour – of some older houses was
replaced by a new wing containing two parlours and a new main entrance; the new wing is
usually at right angles to the old house, and placed facing the street where it has maximum
visual effect (Collyweston (23), (24) and Glapthorn (19)). A process of progressive piecemeal
replacement of houses has resulted in the survival of rooms which must have been additions to
buildings which have now vanished; this makes interpretation of the surviving fabric difficult
and probably accounts for many unclassified houses such as King's Cliffe (86). Sometimes an
older house was kept in use as a service wing to the new building, as at King's Cliffe (84) and
Glapthorn (8). Increasing the height of a house by adding a complete storey as at Collyweston
(9) seems to have been unusual. More often an attic was improved to become a semi-attic, or a
semi-attic raised to a full storey, but evidence for this change is not always forthcoming. Added
service-rooms are often lean-to structures of uncertain date and function. Kitchens are easily
recognized, and many two-room houses had kitchens added in the 17th and 18th centuries as at
Duddington (29) and Easton-on-the-Hill (74). The addition of a kitchen to a two-room house of
class 4a plan was a significant improvement in that it released the hall from its service functions.
Fig. 6 Farmyard plans
Of the alterations that did not involve additional building, the insertions of floors and
chimneys in open houses is little represented in this area. In 1532 John Phesante, an affluent
yeoman, covenanted to build a chimney in the hall of a house he leased in Woodnewton, and
apparently to floor-over both hall and parlour as well (NRO, W(A) 4.XVI.5). There is no
evidence to suggest the survival of open halls after 1600, the date of the earliest small houses
now surviving. The insertion of stacks was a continuous process until the late 19th century. In
the early 17th century even houses of three-room plan often had a single hearth, and in 1673
about 70% of all houses in the area had only one fireplace. In many houses the parlour was only
heated in the 19th century. The service room of many three-room houses of class 1a was
originally unheated; from the early 17th century onwards this room was converted into a
kitchen by the addition of a fireplace, marking the abandoning of either the hall or a detached
kitchen as the cooking room.
Changes in door-position and window-form were probably mainly made with fashion rather
than convenience in mind. Internally, the creation of passages by erecting partitions across
rooms was done for comfort and convenience, and most surviving secondary passages date
from the 19th century.
The only farm buildings to survive in the area from before the end of the 18th century are
barns, such storage buildings usually being the principal non-domestic buildings on a farm.
Sixteenth and 17th-century surveys of the parishes in and adjacent to the area describe most
farms and several cottages as having barns (NRO, W(A) 4.XVI.5; PRO, LR 2/221; Scottish
R.O., GD45/22/1). In the 17th century, probate inventories usually distinguished between barns
and hovels, that is large and small storage buildings, for grain, peas, beans and sometimes hay.
Masonry was the normal material for barns (NRO, W(A) 7.XV), but Bluefield Barn,
Apethorpe, an aisled building of 1732, is of timber frame and only the gable walls are of
masonry. The former existence of other framed barns is shown by the contract for a barn 57 ft.
by 17 ft., on 3 ft. masonry footings, to be built at Deene in 1726 (NRS, 24 (1971), 79). Hovels
on the other hand seem to have been commonly of timber to judge by references in probate
inventories; they were possibly single-bay structures. The barns generally have a single
threshing floor in the centre, marked by a wide wagon opening with harr-hung doors. On the
opposite side was either a similar opening or, especially if the barn is built against a property
boundary, a single 3 ft. wide door to give cross-ventilation for winnowing. In the 17th century
barns had rows of triangular ventilation-holes, but by the early 19th century tall rectangular
ventilation-slits had become usual.
The stables at Sulehay Lodge, Nassington (56), are unusual in their early date, 1642, and in
their size and architectural elaboration. As they were connected with a forester's lodge they
were probably domestic rather than agricultural. The largest stable range, at Apethorpe Hall,
has been altered. Stables are mentioned in the surveys and inventories as belonging to the more
prosperous men, but with the exception of those at Sulehay and Apethorpe none survives in
recognizable form before the end of the 18th century. Frequently they were almost square in
plan, and had a store-room above. Although conventionally called a granary, this store room
was used for other goods such as wool (NRO, W(A) 7.XV). This combination of stable and
granary is found as early as 1500 at Collyweston (St. John's Coll. Camb., MS 102.9, 91.14).
Often the stable and granary is the earliest surviving building in a farmyard, perhaps because
their importance led them to be well-built. Granaries often have plaster floors and external
Fig. 7 Dovecotes
In the 19th century most small farms had informal yards defined by their farm buildings, but
these arrangements rarely survive intact. Barns, granaries and open sheds for implements or
cattle appear to have been the main elements, and a typical grouping is at Manor Farm, Yarwell
(13) (Fig. 6), where the buildings range in date from the 18th to the mid 19th century. Large
planned farmsteads dating from the second quarter of the 19th century are generally on sites
away from the villages and follow the ideas promulgated in contemporary literature. They are
dominated by large barns, and divided into yards by open cattle shelters, and by stables,
looseboxes, calf boxes, granaries and implement sheds. All, like Park Lodge, Fotheringhay (20)
(Fig. 6), serve mixed farms, although the economy at Fotheringhay (19) may have been
predominantly pastoral. The most architectural in design is Laxton Home Farm (18).
Some houses were built with barns in line under the same roof, but subsequent adaptations
make identification very difficult. The house and barn at Easton-on-the-Hill (69) has physical
and documentary evidence for its original arrangement in 1742. Other examples probably
include Easton (49). Yet other houses, such as Easton (77) and (36), had attached barns, not
under the same roof. These buildings seem to represent the farms of smallholders with only a
few acres, and are the smallest farming units identified in the area.
Dovecotes (Fig. 7)
Although the earliest surviving dovecotes in the area are generally associated with a manor or
parsonage, the majority date from the 18th and 19th centuries and are associated with farms. At
Woodnewton one dovecote was let to a cottager as early as 1551 (NRO, W(A) XVI.5) and in
1744 the incumbent of King's Cliffe complained that 'some parishioners who have lately built
dovecotes refuse to pay tithe pigeons' (NRO, terrier).
The medieval dovecotes at Nassington (3) and Collyweston (2) are sturdy rectangular
structures with masonry nesting-boxes. The boxes are L-shaped in plan, and their floors are
formed of large slabs of stone which project to form continuous alighting ledges. This form of
construction remained standard until the 19th century, when brick was used as a convenient
material for making the walls of the boxes. Standard bricks were used at Cotterstock (12) and
(15), but at King's Cliffe (58) and (84) special large bricks were used, measuring 254 X 184 X 64
mm. (10 X 7¼ X 2½ ins.) and 203 X 203 X 51 mm. (8 X 8 X 2 ins) respectively. The wattle-and-daub boxes at Warmington (32) are more appropriate to the claylands further E. where
timber-framed construction is almost universal.
Four dovecotes are circular, one, Apethorpe (2) dating from 1740 and the others perhaps of
comparable date. The oblong dovecote at Duddington (6) is in two compartments, while the
smaller oblong building at Woodnewton (28) is a single compartment but has a ground stage
without nesting boxes. In 1740 Edward Frame charged £1 per rod for the foundations of the
Apethorpe dovecote, and £2.10s. per rod for the upper walling with holes (NRO, W(A) 7.XV).
This compares with Adam Elsham's price of £13 for the masonry of the dovecote at Wakerley
(13) in 1775; Thomas Archer charged £2.9s. for carpentry (BEO, Exeter Day Books). At
Collyweston (24) there is a row of nesting-holes above the doorway of the barn, and there are
holes in the gable of Apethorpe (12), which is a modest house.
Apart from agriculture, those trades formerly carried out in the area have left few significant
standing structures. Windmills and watermills, whether for grinding grain, fulling or
papermaking, are generally small and of 19th-century date. The watermills are on the Welland,
Nene and Willow Brook; the windmills are all smock mills and none retains machinery. Paper
was made at Perio for at least 150 years, and the paper mill at Wansford provided occupation
for people in Yarwell in the 19th century.
Weaving was an important occupation in the area throughout the 17th century, and probate
inventories mention many loomshops, frequently with a chamber above. None, however, has
been identified. Wood-turning was an important domestic craft at King's Cliffe in the 18th and
19th centuries, and one 19th-century turner's shop survives as a single-storey outbuilding
(King's Cliffe (75)). Often the lathes were in the house itself, as some looms must have been,
but there is now no physical evidence for this. At King's Cliffe (34) the turner worked in what
would otherwise have been the service room or kitchen.
Stone and slates were worked in the open; the slaters only worked in winter and set up
hurdles to provide temporary shelter.
Two gas works, at Easton-on-the-Hill (84) and King's Cliffe (9), date from the third quarter
of the 19th century.
Before the Poor Law Reform of 1834 rural communities were free to deal with the problem of
the poor and unemployed in several ways. The provision of outdoor relief did not involve the
use of special buildings, but in four parishes in the area earlier buildings adapted to serve as
workhouses still survive. In three, Duddington (8), Easton-on-the-Hill (9) and Polebrook (28),
the object was to provide subsidised accommodation for poor families. The most that each
family could have been provided with in these houses was a living room and a bedroom above,
but in some cases only a single room may have been given. At King's Cliffe (49) a house was
made a workhouse by 1782 and was converted to a public house by 1816. The removal of all
internal partitions may be associated with conversion to a workhouse, implying its possible use
as a workshop.
The ale houses and public houses within the area were all small establishments, originally
having no more than a single drinking room sometimes served from a separate bar. Most of
them were built as ordinary houses, specially designed buildings dating only from the 19th
century. These are usually of three-room plan, a common form resembling a class 6b house
with a kitchen at one end (Duddington (14), King's Cliffe (84), Woodnewton (15)). The Three
Horsehoes at Nassington (7) was built shortly before 1833 by Joseph Phillips, a Stamford
brewer who also built The Anchor at Stamford (RCHM, Stamford, (202)). Wakerley (9) and
Laxton (9) are picturesque village public houses.
At the White Horse, Tansor (8) the living room of a house was made into a drinking room,
with a small bar in one corner. Collyweston (14) is an L-shaped house, the bar being partitioned
out of the room in the rear wing and serving an adjacent room in the front range. At Apethorpe
(7) a small room with fireplace and counter has windows allowing supervision of the entrance
lobby and an adjacent room; it may have been a bar.
Very few club rooms, for meetings and similar functions, could be identified. Most of them
were probably contrived in existing buildings, in contrast to Cambridgeshire where a larger
number were specially built (RCHM, Cambs. II, lii). A first-floor club room was added to the
Golden Ball at King's Cliffe (6), and some former public houses have rooms of uncertain use, as
Warmington (18). The Cross Keys at King's Cliffe (46) otherwise a small inn, has an unusually
large E. room built in the 18th century.
Before the mid 19th century the needs of village education were met by either permanent
schools, supported by an endowment or other benefaction, or by temporary schools, run by
individual teachers, usually in their own houses, and dependent entirely on their pupils' fees. As
the number of permanent schools increased gradually, most villages were served by an
elementary school of some kind by 1800. During the early 19th century the remaining
deficiencies in this system were made good with help from the National Society. The
architectural requirements were minimal, a large enough room being the main necessity, so only
the permanent schools have left any physical evidence. Several schools were held in buildings
adapted to their new function. Bridges (II, p. 436) says that the Tryon Chapel in Collyweston
church was used as a school, presumably in the late 16th to mid 17th century; Richard Garford's
school was held in Easton church from its inception in 1670 until 1766. At Polebrook a room in
the master's house was used between 1836 and 1865 (Polebrook (28)).
The first specially built school of which details were found was a two-bay structure built by
the people of Warmington some time before 1607 (PRO, LR 2/221). Later school rooms were
often attached to a teacher's house. Ashton school of 1706 had a master's lodging above, and at
Easton-on-the-Hill (2) the Garford school was held in a room added to a small house in 1766.
The schools built at King's Cliffe (11) under William Law's inspiration are similar in
accommodation. Here Law's initial establishment of a girls' school in 1727 was probably
determined by the existence in the town of a private school for boys; this had probably closed
by 1742. Nineteenth-century schools generally follow the same pattern of single room and
adjacent master's house. Almost all have some elements of Gothic in their design, the most
notable being that at Laxton (14) by J. A. Repton. What seems to be a late private schoolroom
is at King's Cliffe (45).
The system of roads in the area developed in order to provide communication between villages
and with the nearby towns, especially Oundle and Stamford. Some changes in the relative
importance of these roads are discernible, for instance at Fotheringhay where the early
importance of the bridge at Walcot implies a preferred route to Nassington to the W. of the
present road. The most notable stretch of new road is Warmington Causeway, aligned on the
bridge at Fotheringhay and already needing repair by 1546. It was a large engineering project
and may have been built by a Duke of York to improve access to Fotheringhay from the S.
Small diversions have been made, such as the re-routing of the road from Woodnewton to
Apethorpe in 1778 to avoid passing near Apethorpe Hall and church. In the 18th century the
turnpikes seem to have kept to the lines of then existing roads.
The River Welland is crossed by a series of medieval bridges at Collyweston (43),
Duddington (33) and Wakerley (17). A fourth survives at Stamford (RCHM, Stamford, (49)) and
a fifth is recorded at Harringworth in 1410. These bridges are fairly close together and indicate
the extent to which access across this small river was considered desirable in the Middle Ages.
All of these bridges are of masonry; by contrast the bridge over the Nene at Fotheringhay was
of timber in the 16th century, and when rebuilt in 1573 had masonry piers and timber decking.
In the 18th century George Portwood of Stamford designed and built two bridges in the area, at
Fotheringhay (22) in 1722 and Woodnewton in 1734. This last bridge has been demolished but
Portwood's drawings and estimate survive. A small footbridge of clapper construction with
stone slabs on brick piers was built at King's Cliffe probably in the second half of the 19th
century (TL 003971).
Shallows and bridges prevented navigation of the Welland above Stamford. In the Middle
Ages the Nene was not navigable above Wansford, and stone and slate destined for Cambridge
and elsewhere were usually loaded further downstream at Gunwade Ferry or Bottle Bridge. The
Nene Navigation Act of 1724 initiated a programme of work beginning at Peterborough;
Cotterstock was reached in 1729 and Northampton in 1761. Navigable water was maintained by
means of pound locks and flash locks. These locks were last repaired in the 1830s and are now
mostly superseded (Industrial Archaeology 6 (1969), 248–252). Direct river contact with
Peterborough encouraged several coal and timber merchants to set up business in Nassington
((28–30), (41), (45)). Trade continued until the advent of the railway in 1845, when the
Peterborough to Blisworth line was opened. It entered the county at Nassington and passed
through Fotheringhay, Warmington, Tansor and Ashton. Now disused, only the earthworks of
it remain apart from Oundle Station and the adjacent hotel (Ashton (7), (8)). A branch-line
running westwards was opened in 1879 with stations at Nassington, King's Cliffe and