The House

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The House and History

During renovations it became necessary to remove the entire outer cladding of the house. Originally lime plaster on timber laths attached to the wooden frame, it had been coated in an impermeable material to effect pragmatic and cost-effective repairs. That allowed build up of damp inside the structure which caused considerable damage. Moisture from within the house condensed on the inside of the outer cladding, running down to the lowest point where it remained rotting the wooden sole plates and providing the perfect environment for the destructive death watch beetle. Once the outer cladding was removed the frame of the house was carefully surveyed.

What it revealed was interesting as it showed so much of the structure and condition that could only otherwise be speculated. It showed various phases of the house construction and modification.

Front elevation of house revealing wooden frame

When all the external cladding of old lath, plaster and mystery applications of the centuries had been removed, the underlying frame was revealed, opening the secrets of construction.

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Lady Margaret’s endowment was used in 1510 to extensively modify the house and in particular to incorporate the large Dining Hall. What was not totally clear was what pre-dated these alterations, how much was done at that time and what was done subsequently.

We can see from the house structure that it was constructed in at least four major phases. The first was the original house (now the study), which is probably the oldest part dating from about 1430. The second was the extensive alterations made on behalf of Lady Margaret, including the Dining Hall. The third incorporated what is now the Entrance Hall, which can be seen from the structure to have been built using soft wood and probably dates from the 17th or 18th Century. The final part is the single-storey extension (now the Kitchen and Utility Room) built of clay bat bricks and which probably dates from the late 19th or early 20th Century.

The oldest part of the house, early 15th Century    Spacers at the roof line accommodating the raised roof line when the extension was added in the early 16th century

In this picture the oldest part of the house at the NE end (now the Study) constructed in the 15th Century, can be seen joined to the slightly newer section, the Dining Hall added in 1510.  The join between the two is quite clearly seen and the top of the older section was raised (as shown in next picture) to allow for the higher roof line, although the roof was orientated the opposite way after the alterations.

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What is less clear is the date the Snug was constructed, or whether the Drawing Room, together with its second and third floors were built at the same time as the Dining Hall. This face of the house is brick-clad and not uncovered during our renovations and therefore we were unable to see the frame, other than the side elevation on the NE end.

Lady Margaret acquired the manor of Malton in two parts, and therefore it is reasonable to suggest that there were two houses at that time. It is also worth noting that the part of the house now the Study and the Snug are built with their roof structures in the opposite orientation to the rest of the house, ie NW/SE rather than NE/SW. One house would have been owned and occupied by Ralph Chamberlain and the other by Thomas Tyrell, we have no idea which was which.

The SE side of the house showing the separate structure    The roof timbers prior to renovation

The SE side of the house, now the Snug, showing quite clearly the original structure of the second house on the site which was joined up to the original house at the NE end when the main alterations were done in 1510.  This part of the house again had the roof at the opposite orientation and was found to be extensively deteriorated by rot.  This was in part due to the age, partly due to the prevailing weather.  When the cladding was removed some of the timbers were so rotted the tenons just fell out of their mortises.  The bottom floor is a clay bat wall built up to the jetty of the second floor, the original ground floor wall having been removed.  This undoubtedly contributed to some of the rotting of the timbers by retaining moisture.

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When you examine the survey drawings of the two parts of the house it is improbable that they were built in this way subsequent to the construction of the bulk of the house, ie after 1510. So one may conclude that the Lady Margaret endowment was used to join the two existing houses, to add the Dining Hall and the rooms above and to add the complete SE side of the house, including the third floor. Although it is possible that the SE side was constructed at a different time, and perhaps in more than one phase, I do not believe the evidence of the structure or the history of the use of the house would bear this out.

NE end elevation of the house

The NE end elevation of the SE side of the house.  This structure is in keeping with and contemporaneous with the rest of the main extension work of 1510.

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Lady Margaret left the house and her endowment to Christ’s College to act as a refuge for the entire college; masters, students, staff, from the plague when it struck the city of Cambridge. There are records of the house being used as a refuge for the college several times during the 16th Century and it seems inconceivable that it could have served this function unless the majority of the house standing today was available. It is clear that the first and second storeys of the SE side were used as dormitory quarters for the students and probably masters also.

The area now the Entrance Hall was probably a lean-to, or outside animal shelter or stables following the 1510 modifications. It could have been simply open. It was built up to fit the outline of the house during the 17th or 18th Century and still includes the original quarry–tiled floor.

Part of the house, now the Entrance Hall, made from soft wood around the 17th century

The 'newer' softwood extension probably built in the 17th or 18th Century.

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The Dining Hall is the most magnificent of the rooms with a wonderful carved oak ceiling. It resembles a church ceiling and even shows areas where the carving does not extend, as if it were used elsewhere. Malton’s church, St Nicholas’s, was deconsecrated in 1510 and it is a fair guess that the house benefited from the ceiling becoming available from the church. The area of uncarved sections probably having been in a concealed part of the church originally. This can only be speculation at this time, but in those days every last piece of building material would be re-used as and where possible. It is not uncommon for example, for old ship’s timbers to appear in such houses, although it is not clear if there are necessarily any in Malton Farm.

The original houses were both jettied, ie the first floor extended over the ground floor. The NE house had the jetty removed by moving the first floor front inwards and the SW house, when the SW extension was added, had the brick wall built up to the jetty and the inner ground floor wall removed.

The decorative panel, probably salvaged from another part of the house during early renovations and rebuilds

Interesting carved panel revealed behind the outer cladding.  Although obviously serving no decorative purpose behind the lath and plaster, this may have been salvaged from the original extended jettied parts of the older house.

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Over the years numerous other changes were made. The original house in 1510 probably had a huge central inglenook fireplace with a large central chimney. The fireplace was later altered and a tunnel built between the Dining Hall and the Drawing Room. Numerous other fireplaces and chimneys were added. Later water, electricity and drainage.

Georgian tastes dictated that timber-framed, plastered houses were unfashionable and the SE face was clad in local white bricks. It was probably also about this time that the sash windows were added, which in some cases required alteration to the frame of the house to fit them in. Some rooms, such as the Drawing Room, also have the oak beams boxed in with carefully constructed, "neat and tidy", modern panelling. So much due to changes in fashion.

When the house was renovated it was undertaken to be as sympathetic to the history of it as possible within sensible constraints. Malton Farm has lived through many generations and today is a beautiful and functional house of the 21st Century. Today it includes central heating, telephones and computer networking. However, where appropriate the renovations used traditional materials, such as lime plaster inside and out, lime paint on the outside, distemper inside, English oak floors and traditional natural materials elsewhere.

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