Bob Young sends us this document which follows a visit by Mac Dowdy to the Horseshoes. Mac suggests that the main part of the house is over 500 hundred years old!
OBSERVATIONS ON THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENTS OF THE HORSESHOES LITTLE THETFORD
25th July 2013
One and half storeys: ground floor with dormers.
The sills of the dormers are at WALL-PLATE level, and not on the slope of the roof, indicating an early introduction into the house; c.1620–40.
The main range is a single span wide, but longer than the customary long-house. The roof is thatched with classical long straw capping along the ridge. The alignment is roughly North–South. The roof describes two levels of ridge, the North very slightly higher than the South. Their ratios are 1:1 and like two adjacent 18th century cottages (but the interior shows them not to be).
Two chimneys, one integral with the North gable end, the other placed in a ridge position, centrally to the slightly lower South part of the house. They are of basic 19th century proportions, but could be of any age from the 1880s.
All windows are modern (post early 19th century), sashes or half sashes all but one have segmental heads, a shape supported by the thatch with the dormers. The odd one cut a flat horizontal—and could easily have been a door.
Features on the West garden side echo the street front in style. There are modern additions including an extension.
INTERIOR GROUD FLOOR.
Low ceilings throughout, and revealed timbers in the quarters except the kitchen. The kitchen has been modernized but the proportions remain no later than the early 18th century. It is indoubtably an extension keeping to the existing dimensions. Anyone creating a modern extension as early as 1910 would be likely to use the current modernizing fashions.
None of the construction ceiling patterns in TIMBER are later than the first quarter of the 17th century. The two chimney-pieces have no easily-seen datable materials, but their positions within their end walls (and not abutting from the exterior) give them a date close to 1600.
The ground floor plan indicates six constructional bays; which is a lot by most standards.
The tie-beam and the boxed-in replacement tie-beam are conservatively about 1520, but the slender joists between them are about 200 years later—about 1720 remodeling or improvement, that’s A and B. C is an axial beam of very early 17th century date—if providing an upper storey at the same time as the introduction of brick chimneys. The proportions of the joists could be as early as 1560–70. I would have expected D to have joists positioned like the A/B (probably of older proportion joists—not replacements). This section could easily have been two storey from inception.
Adding to the exterior information. The small area of brick-work I examined was clearly in alternating course of headers (the ends) and stretchers (the lengths). This is English bond (see brickwork), which became fashionable about 1580s until the 1640s. Brick was very expensive until the last quarter of the 17th century.
I feel sure that it is not easy to imagine the Horseshoes without, or out of, its present surrounding. Its environment. The first thing to do is to remove the road and this junction. Then throw out all houses not giving the slightest clue to existing about 1500. If you have not done this then the villagers might like take a walk through the streets some evening and attempt to discover the place where they live.
Even without a thorough survey this house reveals itself to be a significant building of social and economic importance to the settlement by 1500. It is a hall-house of substance, more than likely the manor house to St George’s Church. Timber-framed with no brickwork, therefore no chimneys. Simply an open to the rafters hall, with a central floor-hearth, and two storeys at each end. It is unlikely to be an inn.
Around 1600 the open hall had the axial-beam introduced and it got its complete upper story. The introduction of the brick chimney-pieces and possibly the casting in English bond took place around this time. Certainly in the early 18th century restoration and changes to the proportion and appearance of windows took place. It may have become an inn about this time with the development of roads and coach travel.
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