Fox Cottage, No.31 High Street.

By David Miller

Photo:Photo thought to be dated around 1950

Photo thought to be dated around 1950

Fox Cottage is an excellent example of a small Orwell cottage.  There are clear indications that the first floor and the chimney have been added later, so the original cottage would have been open to the roof, with probably a small fire on a stone hearth in the middle of the room.  There might have been some storage in the roof space, but the fire would make it too sooty for general use. Several of these Orwell cottages still have soot blackening on their roof timbers.

From around 1600, brick chimneys became affordable, even for smaller properties.  Most brick chimneys were added in the century after that date. The insertion of a chimney would involve cutting into the main structure of the roof, but the chimney would then support the roof so that there was no risk of damage to the rest of the structure. The chimney would take away all the soot and smoke, so that an upstairs floor could be added, thus increasing the useable floor space. Access was probably by ladder, or open tread stairs.  A dormer window would be needed in order to light the first floor, and this again involved cutting in to the existing roof timbers.

The first floor could not be added at wall plate level (where the roof meets the walls) because there would be insufficient headroom, so the floor had to be put in at a lower level. This is evident from the photos, as is the additional support rail needed to hold up one end of the floor joists.  The other end is supported by a large beam running from the chimney out to the main walls opposite. In some cottages, the earth floor was lowered to increase the downstairs headroom.

The earlier photo shows two front doors. Although the original cottages were probably single dwellings to begin with, they were often divided into two. There is a recorded instance of one family with ten children being brought up in half of a divided cottage of this size.

The property is listed, Grade 2. See here.

Photo:Fox Cottage in 2012.

Fox Cottage in 2012.

Photo:Collar beam cut to permit construction of chimney

Collar beam cut to permit construction of chimney

Photo:And a main tie beam cut too! But the chimney will support the roof.

And a main tie beam cut too! But the chimney will support the roof.

Photo:First floor added at a later date. Note the support rail nailed to the original structure.

First floor added at a later date. Note the support rail nailed to the original structure.

Photo:The inserted floor is lower than wallplate level to provide headroom.

The inserted floor is lower than wallplate level to provide headroom.

Photo:A very modern convenience! A bread oven with an iron door.

A very modern convenience! A bread oven with an iron door.

This page was added by David Miller on 27/12/2012.

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