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HER Number:MDV6982
Name:Church House, South Tawton

Summary

Church House in South Tawton was built of granite ashlar under a thatch roof in the late 15th or early 16th century and converted to almshouses in the 19th century. Felling dates of 1480-1699 were obtained in 2005 through dendrochronological analysis of samples; two roof timbers were dated to 1480-1490, two floor beams to 1468-1502 and the fireplace lintel to 1699. It was agreed that the Church House did not have an open hall phase and was built as a floored building from the beginning.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 652 944
Map Sheet:SX69SE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishSouth Tawton
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishSOUTH TAWTON

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX69SE/76
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II*): 95025

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CHURCH HOUSE (XV - 1480 AD to 1490 AD (Between)) + Sci.Date

Full description

Ordnance Survey, 1880-1899, First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

Rectangular building shown on 19th century map.


Lega-Weekes, E., 1909, Introduction to the Churchwardens' Accounts of South Tawton. Part IV, 365-6 (Article in Serial). SDV347877.


Tyler, F. C., 1936 - 1937, Granite Stones at South Zeal and South Tawton, 80-81 (Article in Serial). SDV347826.

Rough granite boulders built into the wall of the church house possibly have some local sacred significance.


Lector, 1938 - 1939, Untitled Source (Article in Serial). SDV347880.


Blackwell, A. E., 1952, Seventeenth Annual Report of the North Devon Branch, 337 (Article in Serial). SDV7168.


Copeland, G. W., 1960, Devonshire Church-Houses: Part 1, 130 (Article in Serial). SDV298102.

Finest example of a church house, now a parish hall. South-west of church, abutting into the churchyard. Granite, mostly ashlar, with a thatched roof. In two storeys, the upper floor reached by a double flight of lateral steps over a granite doorway, itself reached by a short flight of granite steps over the road. Two small stone-framed windows one of them cusped, and the remains of a two-light one with cusped heads and pierced spandrels may be seen on the south side. To the north is a blocked single light. At the east end of the upper room is a striking window of three lights, with cinquefoil heads, above which is ogee tracery under a square head with a moulded label. The windows have inner shutters. The ground floor is divided into two rooms by a plank-screen, in which is a blocked shouldered oak door- way. Each room has its own fireplace and is paved with small rough stones. The fireplace at west is narrower than the oak lintel, which extends across the whole length of the room; in this fireplace is a small oven contained in an outside projection. The lower room at the west is entered by a doorway which looks like a later addition; east of it is a higher level and reached by an additional flight of steps is another doorway, also a later addition possibly. Both the original lower and upper doorways have depressed pointed heads. The upper chamber retains its original open-timber roof with collar- beams, all unmoulded. On the roof-ridge are two coeval chimneys with conical caps. The churchwardens' accounts during the latter half of the 16th century record payments for thatching the church house, for paving the pentice (which no longer exists) etc. Other details: Figures 26-28.


Department of Environment, 1960, Okehampton RD (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV275388.

A small late Medieval house of granite ashlar with thatched roof. Other details: Provisional List.


1978, Untitled Source (Photograph). SDV347879.


South Tawton Parish Council, 1984, South Tawton Heritage Trail (Pamphlet). SDV240657.

The Church House. This splendid building built of Dartmoor granite with an external stairway to the first floor is probably 14th century, although the earliest written reference is in 1558. Part may have been used as a residence by clergy, and it is reputed to have been used for brewing liquor and baking bread at festival gatherings known as 'church ales'. There is a massive fireplace. The building is still used for church meetings and Sunday school.


Department of Environment, 1988, South Tawton (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV336452.


Liffe, L., 2002, Untitled Source (Correspondence). SDV270887.

Evidence of smoke blackened thatch which is rare nationally with only 180 surviving examples in Devon. Negotiations underway with English Heritage (October 2000) to fund an historical analysis and dendrochronological survey of the building.


Cox, J. + Thorp, J. R. L., 2003, Church House, South Tawton (Report - Survey). SDV347881.

The thatched Church House in South Tawton was built in the Late Medieval period and converted to almshouses in the 19th century. The only dateable feature is the 17th century scroll top on the western fireplace of the inserted axial stack. The product of successive conversions was to produce six heated rooms consistent with its documented use as one-room almshouse in 1804.
Four Phases of development were identified.
Phase 1 - The Late Medieval building was an open hall house heated by an open hearth fire and any internal divisions were low partition screens. The roof trusses suggest the first building was only two bays long which was extended before refurbishment in the 16th century.
Phase 2 - The Early 16th century building included a first floor level accessed by a double flight of external steps. The ground floor was provided with a massive fireplace in a new stack at the west end. All the granite windows date from this phase.
Phase 3 - The 17th century schoolhouse and later poorhouse included the insertion of a new axial chimneystack which was positioned east of centre to produce a lobby entrance arrangement on each level. The chimneystack provided back-to-back fireplaces on each floor. By the early 19th century there were three almshouses on each floor and the fireplace in the ground floor west end room had a bread oven.
Phase 4 - Later alterations were undertaken until the second half of the 20th century.


Thorp, J. R. L., 2003, New Discoveries at Church House, South Tawton (Correspondence). SDV347885.

Discussion of the roof over the east end room and smoke blackening and the evidence of the early 16th century fireplace/smoke bay.


Letts, J., 2003, South Tawton Church House (Correspondence). SDV347887.

The base coat of the thatch at the Church House is heavily blackened throughout and the roof holds evidence of two Medieval phases. The first are the battens and timberwork and the second the blackened base coat of the thatch.. A sloping 'drying floor' is a key requirement of a major brewing operation and the sloping slots in the floor joists may be evidence for the early insertion of a 'malting floor' on the upper level. Five phases of thatching work were identified with three repairs to the base coat and 1-2 Medieval phases. It was suggested that the building should be rethatched with high quality combed wheat reed.


Thorp, J. R. L., 2005, Interim Review of the Interpretation of Church House, South Tawton (Report - Interim). SDV347890.

Building repairs under way in June 2005 with Heritage Lottery Funding. The building works revealed new archaeological information relating to the construction and dating of the stucture. The sooting of the thatch appears to have taken place when the Church House was already two storeys high and the east end chimneystck was in operation. A cobbled floor was exposed under the floor of the east end room laid directly onto the subsoil.


Gaskell-Brown, C., 2005, South Tawton Church House (Correspondence). SDV347889.

Includes two reports on the Tree Ring Dating and Thatch Analysis.Two roof timbers dated to 1480-1490, two floor beams to 1468-1502 and the fireplace lintel to 1699. It was agreed that the Church House did not have an open hall phase and was built as a floored building from the beginning. Restoration work bagan in May 2005.


Letts, J., 2005, Thatch Analysis at South Tawton Church House (Report - Interim). SDV347896.

The Church House functioned as a social focus for the parish where brewing, cooking and feasting took place to raise funds for St Andrews Church. The thatched roof rests on sawn common rafters supported by two sets of threaded purlins, four sets of jointed cruck trusses and ston gables. The thatch is carried on riven oak battens nailed to the rafters at regular intervals throughout all five bays and dates to the late 15th century. All the older timber and exposed thatch is coated with soot indicating an original open hearth venting into the roof space. At least seven distinct layers of weathered combed wheat reed thatch were identified below the surface layer. The stratigraphy was disturbed by rodent activity but three thin layers of combed wheat reed survived over the smoke blackened base coat of rye.


Tyers, I., 2005, The Tree-Ring Analysis of Timbers from Church House, South Tawton (Report - Scientific). SDV347900.

Church House is a complicated building and although the tree-ring analysis clarifies certain aspects of the building it does not simplify the overall history. The felling dates for the roof trusses was between AD1463 and AD1513. The felling dates for the eastern floor timbers were between AD1466 and AD1504. The felling dates for the axial chimney bressumers were between AD1693 and AD1729.


2005, Tree ring date lists 2005 (Article in Serial). SDV361592.

The following tree ring dates resulted from work undertaken at the Church House, South Tawton (SX652944):
(a) Roof trusses Felling date range: 1480–90
(b) East floor Felling date range: 1468–1502
(c) Inserted chimney Felling date: Winter 1699


Cox, J. + Thorp, J. R. L., 2005, Watching Brief at Church House, South Tawton (Report - Watching Brief). SDV347893.

A reappraisal of the development of the Church House was undertaken in 2005. During building work two small original blocked windows were exposed in the north wall of the first floor and cob was exposed between the top of the granite ashlar of the exterior walls and the eaves of the long walls and the verges of the end walls. The cob had been patched in places with rubble and brick.


Ordnance Survey, 2011, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV346129.

'Church House' shown on modern mapping as a rectangular building to the south-west of the church.


English Heritage, 2011, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV347072.

Church House in South Tawton was Listed on 22nd February 1967. It still used as parish rooms. Built in the late 15th - early 16th century and much altered in the mid 16th century of large blocks of coursed granite ashlar and patched here and there with granite stone rubble; granite stacks with granite ashlar chimneyshafts; thatch roof.
Plan and development: the building is built down a gentle hillslope and faces south-east backing onto and terraced into the churchyard. The mid 16th century church house had a 3-room plan but now the centre and left (south-western) room have been knocked together. Left end gable-end stack and an axial stack between the other rooms serves back-to-back fireplaces. Lobby entrance right of centre onto the side of the stack. External first floor access. A blocked disturbance in the left end wall behind the stack might represent the site of a former internal stair there. Originally the house was open to the roof, heated by an open hearth fire and any internal partitions were low screens. It was floored in the mid 16th century when the fireplaces were inserted and is therefore now two storeys.
Exterior: irregular 3-window front of 20th century casements containing rectangular panes of leaded glass. Those on the ground floor occupy 16th century embrasures with chamfered granite reveals, the centre one with the headpiece of a 2-light window with trefoil- headed lights. The main front doorway is right of centre and is probably original; a granite'2-centred arch with chamfered surround and contains an ancient studded oak plank door. Secondary ground floor doorway containing a 20th century door left of centre. The main front doorway is flanked by the double flight of external lateral granite steps rising to the main first floor doorway; a granite Tudor arch containing a 20th century door. To right a secondary first floor doorway. The steps have plain 19th century iron rails. In fact the ground floor doorways also have steps from the road; these set with upended cobbles with granite kerbs. The roof is gable-ended. The right (north-eastern) gable end contains a good 16th century first floor window; square-headed 3- light granite-mullioned window with Perpendicular tracery and a hoodmould.
Interior is largely mid 16th century. Of the three fireplaces only the one for the centre room is exposed; it is granite ashlar with a plain soffit-chamfered oak lintel. The left end one, though blocked, is larger than the others. All ground floor crossbeams are of large scantling with plain soffit chamfers. There is no sign of the partition between centre and left rooms although Copeland reports an oak plank-and-muntin screen containing a shoulder-headed doorway. First floor is open to the roof. The roof structure is now interrupted by the axial stack but was formerly a continuous 5-bay roof with true cruck trusses. The whole of this roof structure is smoke-blackened from the original open hearth fire. Other details: LBS Number 95025.


Vernacular Architecture Group, 2017, Dendrochronology Database (Un-published). SDV360697.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV240657Pamphlet: South Tawton Parish Council. 1984. South Tawton Heritage Trail. Unknown.
SDV270887Correspondence: Liffe, L.. 2002. Letter re Church House, South Tawton. Letter.
SDV275388List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1960. Okehampton RD. Historic Houses Register. Unknown.
SDV298102Article in Serial: Copeland, G. W.. 1960. Devonshire Church-Houses: Part 1. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 92. A5 Hardback. 130.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV336452List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1988. South Tawton. Historic Houses Register. A4 Comb Bound.
SDV346129Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2011. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #99165 ]
SDV347072National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2011. National Heritage List for England. Website.
SDV347826Article in Serial: Tyler, F. C.. 1936 - 1937. Granite Stones at South Zeal and South Tawton. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 19. Unknown. 80-81.
SDV347877Article in Serial: Lega-Weekes, E.. 1909. Introduction to the Churchwardens' Accounts of South Tawton. Part IV. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 41. A5 Hardback. 365-6.
SDV347879Photograph: 1978. Slide.
SDV347880Article in Serial: Lector. 1938 - 1939. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 20. Unknown.
SDV347881Report - Survey: Cox, J. + Thorp, J. R. L.. 2003. Church House, South Tawton. Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants Report. K670. A4 Spiral Bound.
SDV347885Correspondence: Thorp, J. R. L.. 2003. New Discoveries at Church House, South Tawton. Letter. A4 Stapled.
SDV347887Correspondence: Letts, J.. 2003. South Tawton Church House. Email. A4 Stapled.
SDV347889Correspondence: Gaskell-Brown, C.. 2005. South Tawton Church House. Letter. A4 Stapled.
SDV347890Report - Interim: Thorp, J. R. L.. 2005. Interim Review of the Interpretation of Church House, South Tawton. Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants Report. K670/2. A4 Stapled.
SDV347893Report - Watching Brief: Cox, J. + Thorp, J. R. L.. 2005. Watching Brief at Church House, South Tawton. Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants Report. K670/3. A4 Spiral Bound.
SDV347896Report - Interim: Letts, J.. 2005. Thatch Analysis at South Tawton Church House. Historic Thatch Consultants (Oxford). A4 Stapled.
SDV347900Report - Scientific: Tyers, I.. 2005. The Tree-Ring Analysis of Timbers from Church House, South Tawton. ARCUS Report. 853J. A4 Stapled.
SDV360697Un-published: Vernacular Architecture Group. 2017. Dendrochronology Database. Dendrochronology Database. Digital.
SDV361592Article in Serial: 2005. Tree ring date lists 2005. Vernacular Architecture. 36. Unknown.
SDV7168Article in Serial: Blackwell, A. E.. 1952. Seventeenth Annual Report of the North Devon Branch. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 84. A5 Hardback. 337.

Associated Monuments

MDV33601Related to: 1-2 Town Barton, South Tawton (Building)
MDV114816Related to: Seven Stars Inn, South Tawton (Building)
MDV6980Related to: St Andrew's Church, South Tawton (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV5349 - Building Survey at Church House, South Tawton
  • EDV5350 - Thatch Analysis at Church House, South Tawton
  • EDV5351 - Tree-Ring Analysis at Church House, South Tawton
  • EDV5353 - Watching Brief at Church House, South Tawton

Date Last Edited:Jul 19 2018 4:22PM