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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Stoke and Staffordshire

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Stoke and Staffordshire
Ancient High House
© Courtesy of Staffordshire Borough Council.
Ancient High House - The Elizabethan E

Passers-by on Greengate Street in Stafford can easily miss the hidden structure of a house tucked away between 20th Century shop frontages. However, a bird's eye view captures the distinctive Ancient High House in all its glory. The reputed largest remaining, timber-framed town house in England is shaped in the letter E.

Historic Building Consultant, Bob Meeson, explains why the E shape was a fashionable building design of the Tudor period:

"Town houses had to fit a particular plot. The high house is a development of the medieval stage of housing. A grand central entrance into a reception hall, and then to left and right wings on each side, and at the back in the middle there is a staircase which makes the central portion of the E plan."

Listen to further information on the Elizabethan E plan.

The Dorrington family built the house in 1595. As affluent merchants, the characteristics of the house reflected their wealth and status.

Local building materials, including oak from nearby Doxey Woods, are combined with a Renaissance influence of large expanding windows and panelling.

Timber from the original structure
© Courtesy of Staffordshire Borough Council.
The timber was built on a stone plinth to prevent the wood from becoming damp and rotten. As you look up, the building leans over your head. This jetty system increased floor space and helped protect the building by throwing rainwater off into the street.

Listen to further information on the jetty system.

The highly decorated walls lie on a timber framed structure. The gaps between the panels were filled in with wattle and daub, made of a mixture of sand, lime and horse or cow hair. These were replaced with more modern materials in the restoration of the house between 1975 and 1985.

Listen to further information on timber framed buildings

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