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West Country Households, 1500-1700

West Country Households, 1500-1700

Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 504
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  • Book Info
    West Country Households, 1500-1700
    Book Description:

    During the last forty years, South-West England has been the focus of some of the most significant work on the early modern house and household in Britain. Its remarkable wealth of vernacular buildings has been the object of much attention, while the area has also seen productive excavations of early modern household goods, shedding new light on domestic history. This collection of papers, written by many of the leading specialists in these fields, presents a number of essays summarizing the overall understanding of particular themes and places, alongside case studies which publish some of the most remarkable discoveries. They include the extraordinary survival of wall-hangings in a South Devon farm, the discovery of painted rooms in an Elizabethan town house, and a study of a table-setting mirrored on its ceiling. Also considered are forms of decoration which seem specific to particular areas of the West Country houses. Taken together, the papers offer a holistic view of the household in the early modern period. John Allan is Consultant Archaeologist to the Dean & Chapter of Exeter Cathedral; Nat Alcock is Emeritus Reader in the Department of Chemistry, University of Warwick; David Dawson is an independent archaeologist and museum and heritage consultant. Contributors: Ann Adams, Nat Alcock, John Allan, James Ayres, Stuart Blaylock, Peter Brears, Tania Manuel Casimiro, Cynthia Cramp, Christopher Green, Oliver Kent, Kate Osborne, Richard Parker, Isabel Richardson, John Schofield, Eddie Sinclair, John R.L. Thorp, Hugh Wilmott,

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-457-4
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, Archaeology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xxii)
  4. List of Contributors
    (pp. xxiii-xxiii)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xxiv-xxiv)
    (pp. 1-6)
    John Allan, Nat Alcock and David Dawson

    On 14–17 September 2007 the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology held its annual conference in Exeter and Taunton. Entitled ‘West Country Households, 1500–1700’, the event brought together almost 200 people, including specialists in vernacular architecture, interior decoration, textiles, furniture history, the analysis of inventories, household accounts, food history, and metal, glass and ceramic artefacts. Alongside independent researchers, academics from several disciplines and members of archaeological units were staff from architects’ practices, museums, conservation studios and the antiques trade. Colleagues from Canada, France, Portugal and the USA added an international flavour to the occasion. The gathering of people with so...

  7. I The Form and Development of West Country Houses

    • 1 The Development of the Vernacular House in South-West England, 1500–1700
      (pp. 9-34)
      Nat Alcock

      In 1647, Robert Herrick, the poet and vicar of Dean Prior, Devon, published a poem entitled ‘A Thanksgiving to God for his House’, part of which reads:

      Lord thou has given me a cell

      Wherein to dwell;

      An little house, whose humble Roof

      Is weather-proof

      Under the sparres of which I lie

      Both soft, and dry

      Low is my porch, as is my Fate,

      Both void of State;

      And yet the threshold of my door

      Is worn by th’ poor

      Who thither come, and freely get

      Good words, or meat;

      Likeas my Parlour, so my Hall

      And Kitchin’s small;


    • 2 The Transformation of the Building Stock of Exeter, 1450–1700
      (pp. 35-68)
      Richard Parker and John Allan

      In the late 19th century Exeter was an exceptionally well-preserved historic city. Although it had been one of the five or six leading towns of England throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, its decline in status and wealth afterc. 1720, accompanied by the steady departure of wealthy citizens from its centre, precluded extensive Georgian and Victorian replacement of its old buildings. Within its circuit of Roman and medieval walls and in the historic suburbs its streets therefore retained numerous closely packed ancient houses, ranging from the large clergy mansions of Cathedral Close to tiny cottages in the industrial districts...

    • 3 The Appearances of Godolphin, Cornwall, c. 1300–c. 1630
      (pp. 69-98)
      John Schofield

      Godolphin lies in the lee of its hill, 4km from the sea, east of the isthmus between Mount’s Bay and St Ives Bay, near the west end of the Cornish peninsula. Though its family moved away and died out in the 18th century, they had risen swiftly to prominence from the late 15th century through wealth generated from tin. This paper describes how this process is reflected in the evidence of the place itself.

      In 1997 the Cornwall Archaeological Unit (CAU), in the person of Peter Herring, produced a detailed archaeological and historical assessment of Godolphin, building on an earlier...

    • 4 Boiling Furnaces, Smoking Chambers and Malt Kilns in West Country Households
      (pp. 99-114)
      Peter Brears

      Over the past 40 years the study of the vernacular kitchen fireplace and its appurtenances in the South-West has produced a number of well-observed and pioneering papers.¹ Written by fieldworkers in vernacular architecture, they have made valuable contributions to an understanding of the subject by searching out a variety of structural features associated with the fireplace and by publishing excellent descriptions, measured drawings and photographs of them. Their work has provided an established nomenclature for these features and led to widely held beliefs about their functions.

      The present paper challenges some of the fundamental conclusions arising from this body of...

  8. II The Decoration of West Country Houses

    • 5 The Polychrome-Decorated Plank-and-Muntin Screen at Marker’s Cottage, Broadclyst, Devon, and its Context
      (pp. 117-140)
      Eddie Sinclair and Isabel Richardson

      The plank-and-muntin screen,¹ separating the principal ground-floor rooms, is a characteristic feature of the late medieval West Country house. Although many examples have survived,² only a few preserve their painted decoration, since most have been stripped to the bare oak below, or retain only fragmentary traces of painted ornament. This paper records a remarkable addition to the small canon of decorated screens, found at Marker’s Cottage, Broadclyst. The scheme dates fromc. 1520–50 and displays a combination of religious and secular themes which appears to be unique in a vernacular context in the West Country.

      The screen was discovered...

    • 6 The Interior Decoration of an Elizabethan Merchant’s House: the Evidence from 41–2 High Street, Exeter
      (pp. 141-154)
      John R. L. Thorp

      Nos 41 and 42 High Street are a pair of houses occupying a prime trading site on the south side of Exeter’s principal street, less than 100m from its medieval Guildhall.¹ They are fine examples of a kind of town house built for Devon merchants between the mid-16th and the late 17th century. According to a carved door head from no. 41, now in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, they were constructed in 1564, and this date has been confirmed by dendrochronological analysis.²

      In 1976 an extensive programme of repairs and shopfitting uncovered much of their original fabric. They...

    • 7 Sgraffito-Decorated and Painted Plaster on Devon Fireplaces
      (pp. 155-188)
      Ann Adams

      All classes of internal decoration are ephemeral, prone as they are to being swept away by the predations of damp, damage and changes of fashion, but, of the many kinds which were employed in past centuries to enliven the interiors of houses, the most fragile were surely those on walls. In their survival, wall paintings and their successors, wallpapers, come near the bottom of the scale, and fireplace paintings must be the worst preserved of all. Nonetheless, a considerable number of schemes decorating the fireplace are now known from Devon and further examples appear from time to time. They have...

    • 8 North Devon Relief-Decorated Ceramics in the Household
      (pp. 189-222)
      Cynthia Cramp

      In the 17th and early 18th centuries lead-glazed relief-decorated tiles were made in the north Devon potteries of Barnstaple, Bideford and Great Torrington. They are remarkable in a national context, since the production of decorative lead-glazed floor-tiles had ceased in most other parts of Britain at a much earlier date – in most areas by the mid-16th century. Prior to the recent past, such tiles were regarded principally as a form of church flooring, since the most numerous and best-known examples are those still to be seen in the churches of north Devon and the adjacent part of Cornwall. They...

    • PLATES
      (pp. None)
    • 9 The Stained Hangings at Yarde Farm, Malborough, South Devon
      (pp. 223-252)
      James Ayres

      Inventories show that stained hangings were ubiquitous in early modern England. As their name implies, these textiles were decorated by means of dyes and stains so that the weave of the canvas remained visible; in this way they resembled the far more expensive dyed-in-the-wool woven tapestry. However, although they were once commonplace, surviving examples are extraordinarily rare. Of those which remain in the houses in which they were first shown, only two or three examples are known to the author anywhere in England (below). Consequently those that survive are of considerable importance, quite apart from their great charm.¹ The most...

  9. III The Material Culture of West Country Households

    • 10 Culinary Artefacts in West Country Households, 1550–1700: Form, Function and Nomenclature
      (pp. 255-270)
      Peter Brears

      In the study of artefacts recovered from excavations, or surviving in public and private collections, the need to develop uniform names for groups of object with the same shape has been fundamental to the development of the subject. The practice has been to adopt names that are relatively modern introductions and bear no resemblance to those by which the objects were originally known. A classic example is the medieval ‘jug’. We know what the word means, but jugs are not referred to in any medieval source: the word ‘jug’ is first recorded only in the 1530s, when it appears to...

    • 11 The Archaeology of the West Country Bronze Foundries
      (pp. 271-308)
      Stuart Blaylock

      In the last 30 years or so the West Country has seen perhaps the greatest concentration of archaeological work on bronze vessel casting of any area in the British Isles (if not northwest Europe). During this period five foundry sites (in their broadest sense, including bell foundries) have been excavated in Exeter, with further sites elsewhere, notably at Crediton in Devon and Taunton and South Petherton in Somerset, serving to fill out the picture (Fig. 11.1). At the same time the collection of cast domestic vessels formed by Roderick and Valentine Butler and now acquired by Somerset County Museums (which...

    • 12 Cast Bronze Cooking Pots in England, 1500–1720
      (pp. 309-320)
      Christopher Green

      The cast bronze cooking pots made in England in the periodc. 1500–1720 are of three main types. First, the cauldron – a three-legged vessel with lug handles that could be either suspended above the hearth or stood in the embers (Fig. 12.1). Cauldrons varied considerably in size from capacities of less than a gallon up to monsters with capacities between 30 and 60 gallons (136–272li). Of the cauldrons in the Butler collection, about 40 in number, two-thirds have capacities between 1.5 gal and 7.5 gal (6.8–34li). Mould fragments from foundries excavated at Exeter² and York³ relate...

    • 13 Table Glass in the West Country Home, c. 1500–1700
      (pp. 321-338)
      Hugh Willmott

      The detailed examination of 16th- and 17th-century vessel glass has a relatively short pedigree, and it has only been in the last quarter of a century that a greater appreciation of the range and numbers of vessels used in England has developed. Since relatively few glasses dating to this period have survived in art historical collections, it is only through the study of the growing corpus of excavated archaeological material that is it possible to gain a more sophisticated appreciation of the patterns of consumption of early post-medieval glass. The late Robert Charleston was the pioneer of this process, studying...

    • 14 Portuguese Faience in South-West England
      (pp. 339-356)
      Tânia Manuel Casimiro

      In 1619 Philip III of Spain visited Lisbon during the feast of Corpus Christi; the chronicler João Baptista Lavanha gave an account of the occasion. During the festival, artisans representing various crafts exhibited their work within arches set up at the entrances to the city’s streets. Potters made their presentation at the entrance to the Street of the Misericórdia. It took the form of an arch through which people could pass; the two pedestals of its pillars bore the images of St Justa and St Rufina, the patron saints of the craft, holding coarse red earthenware vessels in their hands....

    • 15 Dinner on the Ceiling: the 17th-Century Plasterwork at 144 Fore Street, Exeter
      (pp. 357-366)
      Peter Brears

      In 1975 and 1995–6 John Thorp and Richard Parker of Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit made careful drawn and photographic records of the extraordinary limeplaster ceiling of 144 Fore Street, Exeter.¹ The ceiling’s major features are two oval tablesettings, one of fish, the other of fruit, each within a floral border surrounded by real and fabulous animals. Their design appears to be a unique depiction of a 17th-century English table-setting. This paper will discuss the culinary aspects of the various elements of the scheme and their bearing on the date and interpretation of the plasterwork.

      No. 144 Fore Street...

    • 16 Pots and Texts: Understanding Pots in Use
      (pp. 367-400)
      Oliver Kent

      The relationship which exists between material culture and the language used to define and identify it is a much looser one than we sometimes acknowledge. We recognize that there are culturally defined subtleties within the language of material culture and that these can represent regional, generational, occupational and other constituencies. Changes in usage are commonplace but are often assigned to the errors of younger generations, or of Americans, rather than as part of an ongoing process. In dealing with the past, it is not unusual to come across references to an ‘original’ meaning, or reliance on theOxford English Dictionary...

    • 17 Presenting an Elizabethan Interior: the Reinterpretation of St Nicholas Priory, Exeter
      (pp. 401-418)
      Kate Osborne and John Allan

      This paper offers a case study in the interpretation and presentation of a series of rooms in a wealthy urban household in a south-west English city. It arises from an educational project undertaken at St Nicholas Priory, Exeter, by the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM),¹ supported by the national government initiative Renaissance² and by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Like many monuments of this sort, the priory was previously presented as a bare structure, sparsely furnished with a selection of the museum’s collection.³ The aim of the project was to use all available sources of evidence – close examination of the...

    (pp. 419-431)
    (pp. 432-439)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 440-440)