Sunday, December 30, 2007

Captain Mains-waring

(As you’ve probably gathered we’re running out of reasonably intelligent puns for these titles.)

Now then…previously on this board we’ve mentioned that the Fylde and Wyre Antiquarian are currently investigating and attempting to add to the history of Mains Hall in Little Singleton. Furthermore we’ve already posted a potted history here consisting of the known facts as recorded in various legal documents and/or by historians over the centuries.
So what can we add to all this? Well, documents only go back so far and there might well have been a Saxon/Norse/Roman or Celtic dwelling on the site long before the Banastres began their thuggish reign.
Let’s start with the flagstones that were removed from the floor of one particular room in the main hall and the discovery that the ground below consisted of nothing more substantial than earth. Not the sort of thing you’d expect from a Tudor hall, most of which was constructed from expensive bricks. However, in the central section of the house the walls are constructed from wooden joists with wattle and daub laths between them, indicating, perhaps, that the original building was a Saxon longhouse.
One particular wall (behind Adele’s kitchen in the inner corridor) had recently had its plaster removed, allowing us to view the joists. Equidistant holes were bored into the cross beams where the original poles from which the laths were strung would have been inserted.
The wall itself is now shored up with a variety of bricks. We took some measurements and realised that a number of the bricks dated from the Tudor period, others from Victorian times and others still from the 13th century.

The photograph above shows one of these ‘early’ bricks, measuring eight inches in length by three and a half inches in depth. At least three other bricks in this exposed section measured ten and a half inches in length by two and a half inches in depth.
Because we’re not experts, we consulted the Collins’ Field-guide to Archaeology, which informed us: “Brick making died out with the Romans, and was reintroduced from Flanders about 1220. These were large bricks, 10 ½ -- 12 ½ X 5 – 6 X 1 ¾ -- 2 ¾ in.; later a size 8 – 9 ¾ X 3 ¾ -- 4 ¾ X 1 ½ -- 2 ½ in. was used.”
Thornber mentions extensive renovations to the hall in one of his Lancashire & Cheshire Historical transactions (the title of which is, predictably, extremely long winded and not worth repeating). The fact that Victorian bricks can be found amongst the others indicates that these timber-framed walls were shored up during the renovations of 1853.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t answer the question as to where the 13th century bricks originated. Because of the variety of bricks used, it’s seems likely that they were salvaged from the grounds of the hall, possibly from the ruins of the already demolished so called ‘Tudor Banqueting Hall’.
This raises another interesting point, that being, if the banqueting hall dates back to the 13th century and was constructed from bricks contemporary to the age, then why wasn’t the main hall constructed in the same manner? All of which leads us back to the idea that, originally, the main hall was an earlier Saxon long house, built from timber framing and wattle and daub because they were the only resources available at the time.
As far as we can tell, the timber framed, wattle and daub walls all fall within a specific area, which we’ve approximated in the diagram below.

Because of the complicated nature of the building (it’s considerably more confusing in reality than it is on our diagram) we can’t be certain of the layout of these walls and more investigation is needed before we reach any definite conclusions.
So…as well as recording the areas of wattle and daub, and the areas that don’t have any foundation, more accurately than we have done above, our first trench should really be dug straight into the floor inside the house. Imagine that…actually digging a trench inside somebody’s house…it’s a bit like one of those dreams where you wake up and think ‘How ridiculous was that?’ Even more ridiculous, perhaps, is the fact that Adele is more than willing to let us go ahead. Now there’s someone who’s dedicated to learning the full history of her property.
Obviously that’s not the full extent of our research so far. We’ve got a number of other trenches (outside mainly) planned. But, again, we’ve run out of room, so the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’ will have to wait for another time.


John said...

Happy new Year!

I'm thinking, of course, of how many people would see Wattle & Daub and think 'junk', or 'old', and not realize just what it was that they were looking at.

Great job of reasoning and exploration, and another nice addition to the Mains story.

With all the work and rework and preservation and additioning, etc., I hope an accurate record is being kept of what remains, so that a better picture of the place can one day be determined.

I also wonder how many others would have seen a Saxon long house in the midst of all this? Good eye!

More please, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...

We have a bit more evidence for the Saxon longhouse theory yet, John...but that'll have to wait until the next Mains Hall posting. (We're trying to build the suspense, you see...although I strongly suspect we're just sending most people to sleep.)

JahTeh said...

Oh to be in England now that trenching's here!

Any odd Roman stones in that wall?

Brian Hughes said...


Roman stones? Not sure about that. Probably not...but you never can tell. Only one section of the wall had been uncovered.

There was some glass buried outside that had a very distinctive patina and didn't half look Roman. When we had it analysed by the Museum Services, however, we were told it was Victorian.'ve got to accept what the 'experts' say haven't you...but we haven't completely drawn a veil over the possibilities yet.

Bwca said...

My Dear Sir,
From my study of your diagram, it is absolutely clear to me that modern building regulations have taken all the character out of domestic architecture.

Brian Hughes said...


I don't think modern building regulations apply. Not unless you call 16th century additions (which all of those bits surrounding the suspect longhouse are) 'modern'.

The chances are, the original Saxon building (isolated as it is from the Saxon village of Little Singleton) was a fuller's mill or something similar...which would have had plenty of aromatic character, so you could be right.

Ozfemme said...

Please come and dig a big rectangular trench in our back yard. Cement it, tile it, fill it with water and put a diving board at one end and some steps at the other. You can keep any coins, human remains and interesting shaped rocks that you find.


Ozfemme said...

Interestingly shaped rocks, I meant.

Oh, very nice post by the way.

You have those dreams about digging trenches in people's houses too?! They freak me out... especially when I realise I'm naked in them...

Brian Hughes said...


Can't say I've had any dreams whereby I'm digging a trench in somebody's house and you're there naked yet...although I must admit, I'm looking forward to the next one now.