No.1 High Street (The Town House.)

Photo:The building has changed little from its first build. Note the position of the doors, and the pattern of the windows.

The building has changed little from its first build. Note the position of the doors, and the pattern of the windows.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'No.1 High Street (The Town House.)' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'No.1 High Street (The Town House.)' page
Photo:Town House is the first house on the left.

Town House is the first house on the left.

By David Miller

Although the house currently here (2012) is not impressive, it nevertheless occupies one of the most important and historic sites in the village.  A large plot, situate right next to the Church, and with a view in former times right down the village green, it was the obvious place for an important building.

From the Chicheley Map of circa 1686, we know that the building was the Town House, and fortunately there are two photos of it before it was destroyed by fire in 1936.  The building was a timber framed house with cross gables at each end (unique in this village, all the other large houses having only one cross gable.)  There is no ornamental decoration appearing on the photo, unlike for example the Guildhall at Whittlesford which is richly carved, so it is unlikely to have been used for trading or as a corn exchange.  It could well have been used for other village purposes, possibly for the Manor Court, and so on.  It was used in more recent days as two houses for needy inhabitants of the village, and one of the tenants accidentally set fire to it in 1936, losing his life in the process. See here.

We have extensive references to the building of a chimney for the Town House in the Orwell Churchwardens' accounts of 1732. Note the large numbers of bricks which had to be bought. You can see how substantial these chimneys were from the photographs of the house after it had been burned down.

Photo:Churchwardens accounts for 1732, showing the building of the chimneys at the Town House.

Churchwardens accounts for 1732, showing the building of the chimneys at the Town House.

Since the Town House is shown on the 1686 map, these chimneys must have been an addition to an already existing building.  There is also a brief mention of a "shed over the oven", which was thought to be on the land behind the Town House. It may have served as a breadoven and a bakehouse. There was also a Town Barn, probably on the same site.

This page was added by David Miller on 06/12/2012.

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