Photo:The traditional three-plank door, found in many Orwell cottages.

The traditional three-plank door, found in many Orwell cottages.

From the Village Hall to the Malton Road.

By David Miller

Exactly opposite the Village Hall, and endways on to the road, is Toot Cottage, listed Grade II. Dating from early 1600, this cottage has been extended sympathetically rearwards, leaving the appearance from the road unaffected. Internally, it retains some of its traditional three plank doors with the original ironwork.

The fireplace is typical of many Orwell cottages.

'Toot' refers to the name of the hill behind the cottage. Note the insurance office fire plaque on the end wall facing the road. The insurance company would pay for the fire brigade to attend a fire - but only if their plaque was displayed on the property!

Photo:The niches either side of the fire were to keep your salt and your gunpowder dry!

The niches either side of the fire were to keep your salt and your gunpowder dry!


Next to Toot Cottage is a good example of a more modern style of cottage.  Built probably in the mid 1800's, and using 'modern' materials of yellow gault clay brick and Welsh slate on the roof, such properties have proved very durable and a good number of them have survived largely unaltered in appearance, although many of them have been extended rearwards. Typically, they are symmetrical when viewed from the front. This one is No.35, and another pair of cottages of similar construction is at No.39, now combined into a single dwelling, although the two front doors (both now disused) have been retained.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'HIGH STREET WALK PART TWO.' page
This is one of a number of houses on this side of the road which have extensive land at the rear, reaching up the hill behind. Opposite this property, on the other side of the road, there used to be the Village Lockup.

No.43 High Street is a small cottage with asbestos sheet over the existing thatched roof.

Photo:No.43. The thatch is still there - but covered by asbestos sheet!

No.43. The thatch is still there - but covered by asbestos sheet!

This cottage, like many of the others of this size in this village, started off as a one or two roomed dwelling, open to the roof. The chimney, upstairs floor, and dormer windows were all added as subsequent improvements. There was once a window in the eastern end wall of the cottage upstairs, but this was blocked when the house next door (No.45) was built, so a third dormer was added to give the necessary light. This accounts for the third dormer looking something like an afterthought compared with the others. 


Photo:The blocked window  adjoining Chan's Barn.

The blocked window adjoining Chan's Barn.


In order to improve the downstairs headroom, the ground floor has been dug out so that there is a considerable step down from the front door.  This cottage was divided into two for a time, and one of the halves was occupied by a family with ten children. The Listed Buildings list comments upon the size of some of the timbers - see photo.

Photo:Lamb's tongue stop carving on a main beam at No.43.

Lamb's tongue stop carving on a main beam at No.43.

Across the road from No. 45 (Chan's Barn,) there was The Nag's Head, but it is now a modern house, and only the name survives. We have some memories from the last publican, however. So stay on the north side of the road, to look at number 49 High Street.

Photo:No.49 was once three cottages!

No.49 was once three cottages!

On the face of it, this is a modern house with the unusual feature of a tunnel to reach the rear of the property, but in fact it was until recently three small yellow brick cottages similar to the ones at No.39. They have now been combined into one, and it serves to show how much properties can change and be adapted within a very short space of time. No wonder the house numbering in this street jumps so oddly!

The cottage opposite (Quinneys) was built as a pair of back-to-back houses, but is now just one. This is one of three buildings in similar "cottage orné" style which exist in the village, and were put up, it is thought, by The Revd. Bendyshe from Barrington. There is another one at the end of this walk, opposite to the Malton Road turning, which bears the date 1843. There was a movement about this time among some benevolent landowners to improve the conditions of habitation of their workers by providing better cottages, and the cottage orné style was frequently employed for such properties. 

Photo:Quinneys - one of three 'Bendyshe' cottages in Orwell.

Quinneys - one of three 'Bendyshe' cottages in Orwell.

It is described in British History Online as "cottage gothic" which is very apt.

The house next to Quinneys and No. 50 High Street, is a new timber framed house, being put up in 2015.  A typical 1960's house was demolished to create the plot, and the timber framing was made off the site by Westwind Oak Buildings with all the joints pre cut.  It was erected within three days, which must give an idea of how quickly a timber framed building could have gone up in the past.  There is a photo in the High Street Gallery.

The next two houses, numbers 55 and 59 on the North side of the road, were typical of the larger kind of medieval house in Orwell.  See also Barnards and The Old Post Office which are similar in layout. All of these were built to a 'T' shaped floor plan, with a crosswing having the gable end facing the road, and a hall, or range, built along the stem of the 'T' parallel with the road.  No. 55 has had its original range replaced with a brick built, somewhat larger and higher version, while No. 59 has lost its crosswing, which has been replaced by a squarish claybat structure.  If you can mentally put together the crosswing of No. 55, and the range of No. 59, you will have a good approximation of how both these houses would have looked when first built. This old illustration of a farm in Haslingfield may help:

Photo:Illustration by F.L.Griggs from 'Highways and Byways' by the Revd. Edward Conybeare, 1910.

Illustration by F.L.Griggs from 'Highways and Byways' by the Revd. Edward Conybeare, 1910.

Photo:No.55, as it is in 2012.

No.55, as it is in 2012.

Photo:The fireplace is partly brick and partly clunch.

The fireplace is partly brick and partly clunch.

To deal with No. 55 first, this had not only a range and crosswing, but also a later stair turret in the angle between the two, at the rear. The red brick chimney stack was open to the road, and still carries some of its original pargeting, even though this is now covered in by the larger, brick range, built probably in the mid 1800's. You can see a small window in the upstairs corner of the crosswing, which has been partly covered by the brickwork. The front door is a sporting oak from one of the Cambridge colleges, and there are numerous pinholes in the door just below the letterbox, where students pinned their notes for each other. There was no texting then!  The house has been extensively researched, and the details can be found here. The Listed Buildings entry is here.

No.59 is one of those houses which has been divided, then sub-divided, and then brought back as a single house over a period of years. At one time, it was four houses, one of them serving as a shop as well!  This is what it looked like at that time. Miss Giddings, who ran the shop, has recorded her memories here.

Photo:No. 59 High Street, with four front doors!

No. 59 High Street, with four front doors!

    And this is how it looks today. The big chimney has gone, as well as several front doors.
Photo:No.59 in 2010

No.59 in 2010

The Listed Buildings entry states that there is a wall painting inside, but this can no longer be seen.  The timber structure is very substantial, and there is roll moulding (unusual in Orwell) on one of the window frames.

Photo:The window in the west wall of No.59.

The window in the west wall of No.59.

No.50, in the listed buildings guide, is said to be timber framed, with claybat construction. Claybat consists of large size bricks made of clay and straw, and is susceptible to losing much of its strength when damp. However, the owner says that the front part of the building is in fact clunch, which is the local hard chalk stone.  The timber and thatch part of the cottage can only be seen from the back garden.

Photo:No.50 High Street from the rear in the 1960s

No.50 High Street from the rear in the 1960s

Photo:An early photo of No.50.  Note the two totally different styles of construction.

An early photo of No.50. Note the two totally different styles of construction.










The next cottage, Lilac Farm Cottage, was rebuilt during the first quarter of 2013.  Extensive timber decay was found up to first floor level, and the timber was replaced with new oak.

Photo:Lilac Farm Cottage in 2009

Lilac Farm Cottage in 2009

This was a farmer's home until 2006, and the sheds at the side housed some cows. 
Photo:Cliff Breed,with his stock at Lilac Farm Cottage.

Cliff Breed,with his stock at Lilac Farm Cottage.

For details of the farming operation itself, see here. For the Historic Buildings listing, see here, and for some interior photos both before and after the restoration, see here. Note the sliding sash casements on the ground floor, typical of properties in this area.

Just beyond the former cow sheds adjoining Lilac Farm Cottage, there is a small orchard.  Between the orchard and the road itself is the location of a former duck pond, now filled in.  Actually, it is more likely from its location to have been a cart and horse wash, so that the mud from the fields was not carried down the High Street. It was known as Norman's Pond. There is now (2020) a new cottage under construction on this land.

The present day Lilac Farm is worked from No.60 High Street, another of the yellow brick and slate roof houses from the 19th century.  Note the detail brickwork, which has survived well.

Still on the south side of the road, we come next to a very fine thatched property where we are lucky enough to have a photo of it at the time it was stripped for renovation. 

Photo:No.62 from the rear.

No.62 from the rear.

  It does not fit in with the usual Orwell pattern of range and crosswing, but seems to have always been built as a long property of five bays beside the road.  There is a jetty, but it does not face the road, which is unusual, since a part of the reason for having a jetty was for show. This would have been the 'posh' end of the house, where the family lived and slept. 
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'HIGH STREET WALK PART TWO.' page
Photo:The wooden bread oven door. The inside of the bread  oven is still complete.

The wooden bread oven door. The inside of the bread oven is still complete.

It has a breadoven,  and the Listed Buildings entry is able to give the property two dates, the earlier being in the late 16th century.

The next house along, on the same side, is a large red brick fronted property, perversely called West Farm, even though it is at the east end of the village.  See here for details of the farm in its heyday. 

Photo:The age of elegance. West Farm, Orwell.

The age of elegance. West Farm, Orwell.

It is thought that the red brick front is built upon the frame of an earlier timber house, but there is little evidence of this.  The photo shows the house just after 1871, the date being a precise one because the horse was purchased from the estate of Charles Dickens, shortly after his death. It must have been an important property even back in 1686, to judge by the careful thumbnail sketch on the Chicheley Map.

There are two more houses to mention before we get to the Malton Road, and the end of this walk.  The first is No. 85, one of the most attractive of our smaller cottages. 

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'HIGH STREET WALK PART TWO.' page

It has lent itself well to investigation, and it is clear that it was at one time a one- or two roomed cottage open to the roof, and that the chimney, first floor, and dormer windows have all been added later as improvements, plus of course the brick extension on the end with the slate roof.  More detail photos of the inside are here. At one time, it was a public house called "The Old English Gentleman."

Finally, right opposite the Malton Road junction, there is another 'Bendyshe' property, bearing the date 1843.  See our notes to 'Quinneys' as to the history of this type of cottage.

Thank you for coming this far ! ! !

Photo:Boundary Cottage in the 1930s

Boundary Cottage in the 1930s

This page was added by David Miller on 07/01/2013.

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