Town Green Road - its old houses and some items of interest.

By David Miller


The Town Green Road starts at the Church, and follows the line of what was once the Town Green down to The Brook.  It crossed The Brook by means of a ford. By around 1686, half of The Green had been fenced in by private owners.



Starting at the Church, you will see on either side of the road the two former school buildings, built in Victorian times. One was a Church of England School, and the other was a Board School. They are described here. Next to the former Church School is a small shop, now trading as a hairdressers under the name of Hairwaves. The building was previously a part of the 'Top Shop,' and was used as a display area and store. The next building along is the former Top Shop, which for many years was one of Orwell's two general store and grocery shops.

Photo:The last days of the Top Shop, 1985.

The last days of the Top Shop, 1985.

It is described in detail here.  The building must have been constructed shortly after 1896, when the previous shop was burned down.

On the opposite side of the road, there is Lordship Close. This is sheltered housing, but the site itself is of interest, and the history is here.

The first of the old houses to be seen is Lordship Cottage, a tiny house which was once called 'The Nest.' To look at it, you might call it 'a house of two halves.'

Photo:Lordship Cottage in the 1960's

Lordship Cottage in the 1960's

Like many of the cottages in Orwell, it comprises an old timber and thatched cottage, with the addition of a later brick built and tiled section. It looks as if half of the thatched cottage was demolished, and the later structure is a replacement. The reason for so many of these brick extensions in the village is not known, but it might just be connected with a sudden era of prosperity when the coprolite mining boom took place.

Inside, there are two cupboards with old doors each side of the Rayburn stove, and the stairs are behind a similar door, curling up behind the chimney stack.  The

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'TOWN GREEN ROAD STREET WALK' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'TOWN GREEN ROAD STREET WALK' page
cottage was well placed for a good water supply, since it backed on to the dip well in what is now called Chapel Orchard. The photo below shows Tom Bescoby taking a pail of water from the well, with the cottage in the background.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'TOWN GREEN ROAD STREET WALK' page

Next to Lordship Cottage is 'Barnards,' a fine example of one of the larger houses from around the 16th Century. This house is particularly well documented on this website, with recollections by Tom Harland, further details and a set of photos, and an inventory taken in 1693 here, and copies of the wills of former owners here. It is listed Grade 2. Note the typical 'T' shaped layout of an old timber house, with a crosswing containing the more private rooms, and a range parallel with the road which would have contained the everyday working rooms and areas. A chimney stack is at the junction of the two with fireplaces facing each way. The inventory shows that the range was not open to the roof, so it was not a hall house even though this was suggested in the Listed Buildings list. 

Photo:Barnards, formerly The White House, in 1960.

Barnards, formerly The White House, in 1960.

The inventory lists a number of rooms, and the pre enclosure map shows a number of outbuildings.

It is likely that the room to the right of the present door was either the kitchen or a dairy. There is also a cellar, which is unusual for Orwell.

Photo:1836 map. Note all the barns behind Barnards and Town Green Farm.

1836 map. Note all the barns behind Barnards and Town Green Farm.

All of the land on this side of the road, from the High Street down as far as the Chapel, was owned by South Cambs. District Council. It still owns Chapel Orchard, but the Parish Council has taken the Orchard on a long lease in order to provide a green area for the use of the village.  The full story is here. The Chapel Orchard gets its name from the Methodist Chapel which is the next building along, and it is known that the orchard was used for the burials of several non-conformists, either because the use of the churchyard was denied to them, or because they preferred not to be too closely associated with the Anglican Church.  Feelings over religion ran very high at times!  In more modern times, it was suspected that the Orchard might contain some of the body parts of one of the Kray Twins' victims, and it was dug over by the police, who did not find anything.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the road, the presence of modern houses indicates that this side of the Green was not built upon until recently, the land having been used for an orchard until the mid 20th century. The little passageway, however, is of some significance, it being the last trace of one of the medieval roads which are shown on the 1686 Chicheley map. The map can been seen here.

Back across the road, then, to the Methodist Chapel. Non-conformism has always been very strong in this village, and services are still very well supported. It has a whole section to itself here. Next to the Chapel is a modern house which is still known to some people in the village as the Chicken House, after the name of the family who lived there. But the Chickens have moved on.

Opposite the Chapel is No.25. It is now largely hidden by gates and hedges, but in more open times it looked like this:

Photo:No.25, Rowan House, in 1964

No.25, Rowan House, in 1964

Photo:Inglenook bread oven at Orchard Cottage. Note the access below to remove ashes, and the smoke blackened bricks above the opening.

Inglenook bread oven at Orchard Cottage. Note the access below to remove ashes, and the smoke blackened bricks above the opening.

Orchard Cottage is just before we get to the Pub. It is a complex building of several dates, and has been altered extensively, according to the Listed Buildings list. Much of the structure dates from around 1600, but with additions in the next two centuries.

We are then at the Pub on one side of the road, and the Shop on the other. Both of these have their own separate descriptions, the Pub here, and the Shop here.

If the village has a centre at all, this is it.  However, the whole area could do with re-planning and improvement, if only to relieve the problems caused by parked cars, delivery vans and the bus all there at the same time. The ideal would be to undo some of the encroachment which has taken what was left of the village green.

It is worth looking behind the Shop, where there are remnants of the medieval roads and passageways shown on the 1686 map. There is also a charming thatched cottage number 35 Town Green Road, (see photos),

Photo:Cottages behind the Shop in 1920's

Cottages behind the Shop in 1920's

Photo:One cottage has gone, but fortunately No.35 survives.

One cottage has gone, but fortunately No.35 survives.

and also Town Green Farmhouse, which is well worth a close look. The farmhouse had a major make-over in 1936 which makes it look relatively modern, but it is actually of great age, with sturdy timberwork probably dating back to early 1500's.
Photo:Town Green Farmhouse in 1922

Town Green Farmhouse in 1922

Photo:Town Green Farmhouse, 2012.

Town Green Farmhouse, 2012.

There were many barns and outbuildings when it was a working farm, but most of these have now gone, although part of the yard and a few barns remain. From its prime location right in the middle of the old village green, one must assume that it was originally one of the most important farms in the village. It is listed Grade II, here. We have more photos and a further description here.

Manor Farm, on the same side of the road as the pub, is next. It is said to have an old timber structure at the rear, but all that can be seen from the road is the Victorian brick built property.  The listing is here. Its main claim to fame are the fine old barns, long awaiting a proper use now that farming has ceased. No doubt, planning difficulties abound. The full topic of the farm in its hey day is here (the puns come free.)

The remaining old house in the road is Manor Cottage. This is shown on the 1686 map as being in the hands of Widow Swann, and there is an Inventory of the goods and chattels of William Swann taken in 1691, which may well relate to this property. The Inventory lists the rooms as a Hall; Kitchin; Drinke House; Dayre; Room over the Kitchin; Room over the Hall; and a stable. William Swann was well off - five horses, seven cowes, 17 turkyes, 61 sheepe and quantities of corn etc was well above the average. The dairy was probably a part of the house, but it might have been open to the roof.

Photo:Manor Farm Cottage - then in dual occupation.

Manor Farm Cottage - then in dual occupation.

The Listed Buildings list gives the date as late 18th or early 19th century, with mid 19th century alterations. It looks earlier than that, and part if not all of the building might actually be shown on the 1686 map. The brick built section is actually late 19th century. Inside, there is a small section of the wall left bare so that the wattle construction can be seen (see photo.)

Photo:Wattle construction - waiting for the daub!

Wattle construction - waiting for the daub!

  The ease with which such panels could be broken through gave rise to the criminal charge of "breaking and entering" which is still an offence today.
Photo:The 1686 map of the village green.

The 1686 map of the village green.

The Town Green Road then crosses over The Brook. There would have been a ford there, (hence Green Ford) until the ford was bridged in 1837. Where the present road turns sharp right around the School playing field, the old map shows that there was also a sharp turning to the left, down another road. Fronting on this other road was another old building, part of which has survived, and is now called Stacies Barn.

Mention should be made of one more cottage, not actually on Town Green Road, but up a short gravel driveway beside the Brook. This is Cakebread Cottage, named after the plot of land shown on the 1686 map. Its late 17th/early 18th century timber frame was cased in gault brick up to eaves level in the 19th century and it has a gault brick ridge stack.  There are two bread ovens beside the chimney stack, proving that it was at one time a pair of cottages. The steep pitch of the roof shows that it would once have been thatched.

Photo:Cakebread Cottage, 2013

Cakebread Cottage, 2013

Photo:Top corner, Town Green Road

Top corner, Town Green Road

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'TOWN GREEN ROAD STREET WALK' page
This page was added by David Miller on 12/02/2013.

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