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The Medieval Peasant House in Midland England

The Medieval Peasant House in Midland England

Nat Alcock
Dan Miles
John Chenevix Trench
Christopher Currie
Chris Dyer
Bob Laxton
Cliff Litton
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Oxbow Books
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The Medieval Peasant House in Midland England
    Book Description:

    The aim of this lavishly illustrated book is to provide an in-depth study of the many medieval peasant houses still standing in Midland villages, and of their historical context. In particular, the combination of tree-ring and radiocarbon dating, detailed architectural study and documentary research illuminates both their nature and their status. The results are brought together to provide a new and detailed view of the medieval peasant house, resolving the contradiction between the archaeological and architectural evidence, and illustrating how its social organisation developed in the period before we have extensive documentary evidence for the use of space within the house. Nat Alcock and Dan Miles' work on Medieval Peasant Houses in Midland England has been nominated for the 2014 Current Archaeology Research Project of the Year.

    eISBN: 978-1-78297-119-1
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-vii)
    Nat Alcock and Dan Miles
  4. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. viii-x)
    (pp. 2-2)
  6. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    When our project on theMedieval Peasant Housebegan, the long-held view of historians and archaeologists was that houses such as that to be built by Thomas Hopkyns at Long Itchington would have lasted for no more than a generation.¹ However, the investigation of documentary sources was undermining these views,² as was evidence that most of the several hundred cruck houses in the Midlands were of medieval date and, simply from their numbers, they could not all be of superior social status. Writing in 2011, the position is reversed. The new orthodoxy is that peasant houses were substantial, and built...

  7. 2 Sampling and Dating of the Surveyed Houses
    (pp. 11-24)
    Nat Alcock, Dan Miles, Bob Laxton and Cliff Litton

    In the first part of this chapter, the survey results and the statistical validity of the survey sample are examined, through a comparison of the number of buildings surveyed for the project with the totality of cruck houses recorded in the project region. The results, for buildings either successfully dated or failing to date, and their distributions are then considered.

    The numerical data for the project are summarised in the first and second parts of Table 2.1. Within the four principal counties, 477 cruck houses have been recognised (and also 48 barns), but of these 63 have been demolished or...

  8. 3 The Planning and Organisation of the Surveyed Houses
    (pp. 25-40)

    The structural choices made in a medieval house are intimately related to its plan form. Thus, a two-bay hall requires an open central truss, while the provision of a floored chamber imposes constraints on the height (and therefore the width) of the building. The direct evidence for plan and layout is discussed here followed, in the next chapter, by an examination of the structural variations. More specific aspects of carpentry and wood technology are considered in chapter 5.

    Identifying patterns in layout and room use in these medieval houses is often difficult, because alteration and replacement has a greater effect...

  9. 4 The Structure of the Surveyed Houses
    (pp. 41-50)

    This chapter gives a structural overview of Midland peasant houses and of their variation with place, time and status. It starts with true cruck houses, followed by those with box-framing, the intermediate and hybrid trusses found in a few houses, and finally the aisled halls and base crucks. The more technical aspects of timber conversion, jointing, wall-framing and related topics (including decoration) are considered in chapter 5. Cross-sections at uniform 1: 100 scale are presented in Figures A-U for cruck trusses, V-ZZ for other types of structure; Table 2.2 identifies which page includes a particular building. Some characteristic examples are...

    (pp. 51-78)
  11. 5 The Carpentry of the Medieval House
    (pp. 79-104)

    The principal concern of this chapter is the examination of carpentry details in the cruck-built medieval houses that make up the great majority of the buildings investigated. It also considers parallels, drawn mainly from the cruckbuilding zone. The chapter begins with the carpentry of the cruck trusses themselves, followed by the longitudinal timbers connecting them; the wall-framing, windows and doors; roof timbers and smoke louvres. The occasional decorative details are then considered. Taken together, these features illuminate the character of these houses, demonstrating that they are more sophisticated in their carpentry and detailing than the term ‘peasant’ might suggest. Carpentry...

  12. 6 Documentary Evidence
    (pp. 105-152)

    The term ‘peasant house’ was coined in the early days of the study of smaller rural buildings by such authors as S. O. Addy, and was given a new impetus in the late twentieth century by architectural historians, such as J. T. Smith and Jane Grenville, and particularly by the archaeologist J. G. Hurst. Similarly, the title of one of the most important contributions by a documentary historian to the subject, by R. K. Field, uses the phrase ‘peasant buildings’.¹ Recent studies have more often characterised buildings according to their construction, such as ‘timber framed’ or ‘cruck’ buildings, or their...

  13. 7 Conclusions: The Medieval Peasant House in Midland England
    (pp. 153-160)

    The great majority of the 118 houses recorded during this project satisfy both the criteria necessary for them to be identified as standing medieval peasant houses: they are medieval, and they were built by or for people of peasant status. Some of the householders and their houses have been shown to be of very modest status, although alongside them we see a few houses, such as Tudor House, Steventon (STEB), whose builders must have had both greater aspirations and more resources that most of their neighbours. That the peasant houses in the Midlands were invariably cruck-built has proved to be...

  14. 8 Selected House Reports
    (pp. 162-262)

    The following case studies present examples both of the most typical and the most remarkable houses examined as part of our project. The documentary history of STE-B and STE-D is examined following their architectural description, a study which illustrates in particular the important documentary resources available for Steventon houses. The reports for all the project houses are included on the CD-ROM. The Cottage, Aston Tirrold (Fig. 8.1.1–2) is a multi-phase building consisting of a chamber block (bays I–II) dated by dendrochronology with felling dates from 1282 to 1286 (indicating construction probably in 1286), an early sixteenth century box-framed...

  15. Appendix 1 The Application of Scientific Dating in the Project
    (pp. 263-273)
    Nat Alcock, Cliff Litton, Dan Miles and Bob Laxton
  16. Appendix 2 Location and Dimension Tables
    (pp. 274-282)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 283-298)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 299-305)
  19. Indexes
    (pp. 306-326)