Timber Framed Buildings in Saffron Walden

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08 February 2016
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Timber framed building in the UK is nothing new – indeed recent archaeological discoveries have included relics of timber framed buildings from the Bronze Age. Saffron Walden is incredibly rich in this respect, with many buildings dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries. Hibbs and Walsh have been lucky enough to work on a number of such buildings, and in the process adding to their knowledge of the history of the town.

One street in particular stands out – and that is Castle Street. Following roughly the line of the outer bailey of the mediaeval castle, the street is lined with hall houses of different types and dates, all timber framed structures. Originally built for wealthy inhabitants of the town (Saffron Walden was a wealthy area due to the wool trade) most have subsequently been subdivided into tenements – one or two bedroom cottages each with its own front door, back addition, outside toilet and well. They are very desirable properties today.

Castle Street, Saffron Walden. Image Source: visitessex.com

One group of houses stands out because of the relatively unaltered façade. On one side there is the remains of a 15th century ‘Wealden’ house, with the typical two storey accommodation projecting at each end of a small central hall, with the roof carried over to create a covered area in the centre of the front of the property. Next to it is a later timber framed house, built with the first floor jettied over the street. Both properties have been subdivided, so there are now four houses. One, in the end of the jettied building, is very narrow, with one tiny front room entered from the street and one at the back. Upstairs there is one room. Investigation in the roof indicates that the whole house has been formed from the smoke bay – the primitive chimney – of the original building. Next to it, and part of the Wealden building, is a house formed from the Solar and the service rooms of the original building. It is equipped with a fireplace on both the ground floor and the first floor, with the stack built in what was the hall, about 1m away from a Spere truss, complete with a crown post roof.

The survival of buildings like these is rare, yet in Saffron Walden there are hundreds of such buildings.

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