Historic Buildings

This was a form of house layout that developed in the early mediaeval period and continued into the 17th century, or later in some locations.  Originally it was where the building had a front and a backdoor opposite each other with a passageway between them and commonly found in what are known as Hall Houses.

Sometimes there were storerooms known as the buttery and pantry that were separated from the main hall area by the cross passage.  As time went on, and the style of houses developed, there was often a screen erected between the hall and the cross passage.  This was sometimes to shield the people at the top of the table from the draughts from the doors and at other times it was to create greater privacy.  This arrangement led to the cross passage, often being called the screens passage.

To determine whether the building is listed you can go to your local authority’s planning department and ask them, and they will check a copy of the definitive schedule of listed properties that are in their area.  If the building is listed then the schedule will as a minimum give:

  • the site address
  • an indication of its age/s
  • a brief architectural description of the building and any particular features of interest it contains or are known. The interior is not always described, but it is still protected.
  • date it was listed or revised

You can also apply for a copy of the listing description of any property from body that is responsible for undertaking the work where you live i.e. English Heritage, CADW, Historic Environment Scotland, States Parliament for the Channel Isles, etc.

If you are buying a property (assumed to be residential) that requires work to be done on it, then it is very unlikely that any money in the form of grants will be available to help with repairs or similar work.  This is applicable even to properties of higher listed status than this grade II building.

The background to this is that such projects are considered as being self supporting and costs of repairs, etc should be reflected in the initial purchase price and will be recouped as an when it is re-sold.  Therefore apart from exceptional buildings of national importance or where a charity or community body is involved then this is regarded as a private profit funding matter.

For centuries people have used their properties as a means of making a statement about themselves, such as how fashionable they are or how much money they have.  A cosmetic building makeover was often the cheapest and easiest option when trying to make such a statement.

In this case, the owner at the end of the 18th century decided a timber frame house did not give the image they wanted at a time when brick was very affordable and a fashionable building material.  Therefore it was easy and cost effective to re-face an old building and make it look current and trendy, while at the same time being able to enlarge and possibly re-positioning the windows.  Sometimes even the height of the front was increased with the addition of a parapet to create what was effectively a new house.  However, as with many building makeovers the external appearance is only a veneer and it is probable that a large proportion of the original timber frame still remains in the front of your house!

Depending on the area where the property is and the designating body, the protected building can be described as: Listed, Protected or Scheduled (this should not be confused with a Scheduled Monument).  A listed building is an individual property (or structure) or group, that has been identified as being of special architectural and / or historic interest.  The criteria for listing are extremely broad and do not necessarily rely on a particular age of a building.

For England these can be found at: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/apply-for-listing/

You are fortunate having a house in a town as it is easier to find pictures of urban areas than rural places.  Also by the time you indicate your house was being built photography was very common so the chance of finding some early pictures of it is quite good.

Whilst you may not find a picture of your actual house, you may be able to find some of neighbouring houses or the street in general.  A good place to start looking is the local history section of your library where there may be books of photographs that have been compiled by history groups in the area.  Some commercial firms and photographic collections also produce books of historical pictures that may cover your location.

The next stage is to undertake some more detailed research such as with the local history group, museum or the archive / record office and even neighbours and their families.  Added to that there are national collections of photographs such as those held by Historic England and Historic Environment Scotland.

You may not find is that it is not possible to go back to the very early years with the pictures of your house, but even relatively modern photographs from say the 1920s to the 1950s can give a good indication of what the original appearance was like.  That is because they will pre-date the movement that started in the mid to late 1950s for major home improvements and ‘make over’.