REPORT by ARCHAEOLOGY SOUTH EAST 1999
OLD STEAM HOUSE,
PARK, HERSTMONCEUX, EAST SUSSEX
(Centred at TQ 6365 1223)
EAST SUSSEX COUNTY COUNCIL
Project REF. 1146
by David Martin FSA IHBC MIFA
Barbara Martin AIFA
report which follows was commissioned by Andrew Woodcock, County
Archaeologist for East Sussex. The
brief was to carry out a rapid inspection of The Old Steam House, Lime
Park, Herstmonceux, with the aim of ascertaining as far as possible how
much of the original fabric of the two-gabled part of the building
survives, and to identify clues as to its original form.
The survey excluded any evidence for plant, unless forming part
of the standing elements of the structure.
inspection was carried out by David and Barbara Martin, Historic
Buildings Officers with Archaeology South-East, University College London, on Wednesday 29th September 1999 and was limited to
three-and-a-half hours on site.
Old Steam House is centred at grid reference TQ 635 1223, approximately
150 metres to the north of the house known as Lime Park. And immediately
to the north-west of a dwelling now called ‘The Old Rectory’.
It comprises a complex of attached single-storeyed tin clad
structures, part aligned with its roof ridges running NE-SE (for
convenience hereafter assumed to be N-S) and part aligned with its roof
ridge running SE-NW (for convenience hereafter assumed to be E-W) –
other sections have gently sloping mono-pitched roofs.
That part of the complex which forms the subject of this present
report forms the northern element of the building as it currently stands
and consists of a single block covered by two adjoining parallel roofs,
both with their ridges running north-south (figure 2).
Formerly, there was a further range attached to the north of the
complex, but only the foundations of this now survive.
LIMITATIONS OF THIS REPORT
Interpretation of the structure was based upon a visual inspection and (apart from removing two small areas of loose coverings) included no intrusive techniques. Externally the majority of the walls and all the roofs are clad in corrugated tin, whilst internally below roof level most of the constructional details of the walls are today masked by modern sheet claddings. Only within a small area of the north wall is a section of framing
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With the exception of the roof trusses and purlins, most of the
constructional detail within the attic areas is masked by original
boarding. Only within the
southern gable of the western roof and small areas where boarding within
the roof slopes is missing is any constructional detail visible.
These factors greatly hindered assessment of the extent of the
original fabric and interpretation of the structures sequence of
development and original form. These
restraints should be borne in mind when considering the findings
AND DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE
building is not shown on the 1899 25” O.S. plan surveyed in 1872/3 and
fully revised in 1898 (O.S. Sussex Sheet 56/11 – 2nd
Edition). A building is
indicated upon the site by 1909 (Ibid 3rd Edition) but
this scale only c.8.00 metres east-west x c4.00 metres north-south
(excluding a small southward projection at the eastern end): the core
section of the surviving building measures 11.75 metres x 6.25 metres.
In addition to this size variation, the building depicted on the
1909 O.S. plan is shown with a much larger gap than now between it and
the adjacent Old rectory, whilst its rear (northern) wall is shown
further south than that of the present building.
Even allowing for inaccurate surveying, the number of variations
between the 1909 depiction and the present building make it all but
certain that the 1909 representation is of a building which pre-dated
the present structure.
later editions of the relevant 25” O.S. plan (showing revisions of
between 1910 and 1940) were readily available at the time this report
was written, and thus it is not currently known when the present
building was first depicted on the 25” O.S. plans.
However, a report in the Sussex Express for October 10th
villages of the size of Herstmonceux can boast of being so up to date as
to have electricity installed, not only in the streets, but also in the
private houses. This was
made possible by the enterprise of Mr C W von Roemer [the owner of Lime
Park], who by his electric plant supplies electricity by motor.
the week demonstrations in cooking by electricity have been given… and
Mr von Roemer has generously offered to fit an electric stove in any
house in the parish free, and to make a charge of 11/2d [per] unit for
the use of the electricity. Many
people in the village have already accepted the offer, and the results
obtained by this new means of cooking are very satisfactory”
[Quote supplied by Nelson Kruschandl, via Andrew Woodcock].
There can be no doubt from the physical evidence of the bases and pits for former electricity-generating plant remaining on site, of artefacts relating to electricity generation, and from the signed affidavit of Ronald Saunders whose father worked the plant and who remembers the equipment in situ, that the electricity generating plant referred to in the
newspaper article was located within the building which is the subject
of this present report. Although
a precise date for the building is not possible based on the typological
evidence, the surviving architectural details are entirely consistent
with an early-20th-century date.
It therefore seems fair to suggest that the building shown on the
1909 25” O.S. plan was purposely rebuilt in or a little before 1913 in
order to house the electricity generating plant.
As will be noted below, some alterations (currently not entirely
understood) were made to the building subsequently.
section of building which forms the subject of this present report is a
rectangular structure measuring 11.75 metres (38’6”) east-west and
6.25 metres (20’6”) north-south.
It is single storeyed and is covered by two parallel roofs
aligned north-south and divided by a central valley.
There is today an attic floor supported by joists inserted during
the 1990s, though these replaced a loosely-laid earlier attic floor [pers.
Comm. Nelson Kruschandl]. The
visible structural evidence suggests that this earlier floor was not
original and that the building was initially open to its roof.
The storey height from floor to underside of the tiebeam is 2.73
far as can be seen from the
visible evidence, this section of the building is entirely of timber
stud construction built off a brick ground wall.
Horizontal rails are morticed and tenoned (joints pegged) between
the studs in order to carry vertical internal and external boarding.
The boards, where they survive, are beaded.
Most of the studwork and noggings are 104mm x 52mm (4” x 2”)
scantling, but incorporated into the walls are heavier studs 104mm x
c.225mm (4” x 9”) [only one of these (in the north wall) was
visible: Nelson Kruschandl knows others exist}.
A small area of structural detail is visible at the north-western
corner, and here there is no corner post, but instead a series of heavy
horizontal noggings have been roughly sawn through and clearly formerly
extended westwards. They
still support external boarding identical to that elsewhere in the
building. Insufficient is
visible to ascertain why the wall detail is varied at this point, but
the westward extension is known to have formed part of a now-demolished
range which stood to the north. Although
it would need to be confirmed by intrusive investigation, it would
appear from the available evidence that this northern range of building
was of the same date as that section which forms the subject of this
Both sections of roof within that part of the building here under investigation are of similar construction, but with some minor variations in detail (see figure 4 and below). They are framed in three bays and have studwork gables to north and south. They are of textbook kingpost construction with splay-cut jowls at the base of the posts (to support struts) and similar jowls at the head (carrying the inset principal rafters). The principal rafters and purlins are exposed to view, but the common rafters which the purlins carry are hidden from view by beaded under-boarding identical to that used on the walls. Investigation
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small broken areas allow the constructional details to be ascertained.
There are no wallplates, but instead the common rafters are
carried over the backs of the lower tier of purlins.
In addition, there is a central line of purlins.
At the head the common rafters meet at a ridgeboard.
The common rafters are set at approximately 660mm centres.
Located centrally within each slope of each bay within the
western roof is an (apparently original) rooflight.
These are an identical number of rooflights within the eastern
roof, but these are located less symmetrically.
original joinery details still survive.
The external and internal boarding and the rooflights have
already been mentioned. In
the northern gable of the western roof is a shuttered hatch.
The shutter is top hung, opens inwards and was operated from the
ground by a pulley (still extant).
In the southern gable of the same roof and within the northern
gable of the eastern roof survive original four-pane windows, and there
is another original window towards the eastern end of the northern
ground-floor wall. Many of
the openings retain their moulded architraves, whilst the ground-floor
window also retains external architraves.
ground floors contain evidence in the form of plinths, pits and ducts as
to the original form of the power plant, but these are beyond the scope
of the present report. In
the main, the floor within the western part is of flag stones
(interrupted by plant pits etc and at one point made good where a
machine base has been removed), whilst
the eastern part is of concrete. Between
the two is an infilled internal ramp which allowed access to the eastern
and western rooms. The
eastern concrete floor incorporates a 160-170mm upstand along its
eastern and southern sides, together with a drain-down gully in the
south-west corner and a raised plinth in the north-east corner.
According to Ron Saunder’s signed affidavit, when he knew the
building this area was used to house accumulators.
There is some structural evidence to hint that the section of building under investigation is of two phases of construction, though if so the two phases are of very similar date. The evidence, which is found both in the constructional details and in the building’s design, is not conclusive. The variations in constructional details are slight, but may be significant. The joints to the roof trusses within the eastern roof are pegged, though those within the western roof are not, whilst in the western roof the struts meet the principle rafters in line with the central purlins, whereas within the eastern roof they joint into the principle rafters above the central purlins. The design anomalies are more puzzling. Although the two roofs run parallel to one another (being separated by a central valley) they are of different spans and heights – the overall span of the western roof is 5.50 metres (18’0”) compared with 6.25 metres (20’6”) for the eastern roof. If of one period, this would only make sense if there was an internal partition beneath the central valley, but such an interpretation is not supported by the surviving evidence – the widest room was beneath the narrowest pitch and encroached in to the eastern roof pitch. Taken together these two pieces of evidence suggest that the structure was built in two phases and that when the addition was made the internal layout was modified. Unfortunately, because the structural detail is not visible,
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evidence to confirm or deny this hypothesis is not currently available.
If the structure is indeed of two phases, then it is the eastern
section which is the earlier part, for the two tiebeams which cross the
building east-west are each formed from two timbers (one to the eastern
roof and one to the western roof).
These two sections of timber extend past one another and are
joined together by means of three bolts.
In both instances the eastern section of tiebeam terminates in
line with the valley, whereas the western section projects by some
distance into the eastern roof. There
are slight traces of stain on the side faces of the eastern tiebeams, a
little from the end, possibly indicating the ghost of a removed wall.
Given the doubts, for convenience both elements of the section of
building under investigation are deemed to have been constructed during
phase 1, but the eastern (possibly earlier part) will be referred to as
being phase1A and the western (possibly later part) as phase 1B (figure
of the internal layout is hampered by the degree to which the structural
details are hidden. One
alteration causes no problems, having been made during the last five
years or so. This involved
removing the wall between the western room and central service ramp and
replacing it by a new wall some distance to the west, thereby narrowing
the western room and widening the central area [pers. comm.
Nelson Kruschandl – compare figures 3A and 3B].
The line of the earlier wall is clearly visible as a stain on the
tiebeams. If the structure
is indeed of two main phases, then even this earlier wall may have dated
from phase 1B, replacing a phase 1A running beneath the western end of
the eastern tiebeams. There
is some slight staining on the side of the phase-1A tiebeams to support
this conclusion, but the evidence is far from conclusive.
There is structural evidence to show that there has been modification to the layout within the eastern part of the building. A heavy structural post in the northern wall and located approximately beneath the ridge line of the eastern roof is notched for a heavy (c150mm x c. 310mm) bearer running north-south immediately beneath the tiebeams. Although, now hidden, there is a corresponding post in the south wall [pers. comm. Nelson Kruschandl]. The line of the bearer is shown as a stain on the underside of the southern tiebeam – the soffit of the northern tiebeam is masked by later work. Further, the marks of a light fitting on the southern tiebeam are located centre span between the stain left by the bearer and the eastern wall. As additional proof, the southern upstand on the concrete floor is made good on the line of the removed bearer. Given this evidence, there can be little doubt that the removed bearer formed the headplate of a now lost partition (figure3C). What is clear from the evidence contained within the structural ground floors is that the modified layout as shown in figure 3B belonged to the period when the building was still in use for the generation of electricity.
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BRIEF NOTE ON OTHER PARTS OF THE BUILDING
to the north of the section under investigation, and projecting slightly
to the west, was a second attached building or range.
This has been demolished, though its foundations and plant bases
still survive. From the
structural evidence visible at the north-western corner of the surviving
building (see above) this demolished range appears to have been
contemporary with the surviving phase-1B section.
Attached to the south wall of the section under consideration is
a further building or range, roofed east-west and apparently
representing an addition to the main part made whilst the building was
still in use as an electricity generating station.
Beyond this to east and south are later ‘flat roofed’
additions (figure 2). At
the extreme southern end of the complex is a ‘faggot store’: located
upon the site of a building shown on the 1909 25” O.S. plan and may
incorporate some external brickwork of that period.
alterations to the original internal layout, there can be little doubt
that much of the original structure still survives.
Despite some minor modifications, the roof structure and internal
finishings within the roof void remain largely intact.
Regarding the external walls, the west wall has been completely
rebuilt during the last 10 years, but although elsewhere within the
external walls little of the structural evidence is visible, the
survival of early external boarding beneath the later corrugated
coverings indicate that most of the early structure still remains.
To judge from the small area exposed (which shows evidence of a
lost partition) this hidden detail will contain much information which
would allow the development of the building to be better understood.
Likewise, although excluded from the present report, the floors
contain much significant surviving evidence.
will be clear from the contents of this report that, although the
building was in use for the generation of electricity over a relatively
short time between 1909x1913 [O.S. plan and newspaper report] c.. 1925
[sworn affidavit says about 1920, but from other evidence probably
nearer 1930] the plant appears to have developed and expanded during
that period. The generation
of electricity lies outside the competence of the present writers, but
it is interesting to note that the 1913 newspaper article refers to the
generation of electricity ‘by motor’ whereas the sworn affidavit
relating to the plant late in its life refers to generation by steam
engine. Was the take-up by
the local community sufficient to require an initial small-scale
operation to be considerably enlarge and improved, thus accounting for
the apparent major expansion hinted by the architectural remains?
This present report is limited to an investigation of the standing remains of one part of the surviving complex ad is entirely dependant upon the visible evidence. The significance of the remains which survive lies outside the scope of this document.
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