How to Read Houses

In July 2017 Ticknall Archaeological Research Group had a very interesting and informative day school, led by Janet Spavold and Sue Brown, on reading the history of vernacular houses.

In the first session of the morning Janet gave us a whistle-stop tour of how the style of houses changed from the Medieval period to the 1930s and the distinctive features that we should look for.

After coffee break, Janet went on to talk about the individual features of houses, including ceilings, chimneys and fireplaces, staircases, bricks and bricklaying bonds, and windows.

After the lunch break, Sue told us about the various documentary sources that could be used to trace the history of the people who occupied a house, and their business activities, over a number of generations. She illustrated this by looking at the documentary evidence for The Wheel pub. in Ticknall, including trades directories, maps and associated schedules, census returns 1841-1911, inventories attached to wills, ale house recognizances, parish registers, constables accounts and newspapers.

We then went to Dove Cottage in the village to examine the outside of the building and to apply our new knowledge in analysing how it had developed over the centuries. We were given a warm welcome by the owners, Clare and Bill Pattinson, who kindly gave us refreshments (and not too many clues!). The cottage was a well-chosen test piece as there was lots of evidence of extension and alteration that gave us plenty of food for thought and discussion.

Many thanks to Janet and Sue for organising a very interesting and informative day.

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