Monday, 1 June 2015

A visit to a rescued and restored
mediaeval cottage in Lichfield

Cruck House … a rescued and restored mediaeval house in Stowe Street, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

After visiting Dr Milley’s Hospital on Beacon Street, Lichfield, on Saturday, I also visited another surviving mediaeval house in Lichfield that has been restored carefully in the past few decades.

Cruck House is a restored Grade II* timber-framed mediaeval cottage at 71 Stowe Street, which is a continuation of Lombard Street, and close to south side of Stowe Pool.

Cruck House is an impressive sight on Stowe Street in the midst of modern residential and commercial buildings. Yet, despite first impressions, this is a surprisingly small building.

This jointed cruck and part-box-framed house fell into disrepair before it was rescued from demolition in 1971. It was discovered during the redevelopment of Stowe Street and was restored to its original state.

In the mid-1950s, many of the old buildings in Stowe Street pulled down. During the demolition work, the Cruck House was revealed within the outer cladding of a building whose outer walls had obscured the framework supporting it.

Whoever spotted the house during the demolition process and called a halt had saved a rare building dating back to the late 14th or early 15th century.

Cruck House, Lichfield … a unique example of its type in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

In the past, there were two main types of timber buildings in England – the box frame construction, and cruck.

Box frame was a construction of mainly pre-fabricated sections that were made up, and then erected on the site to form the shell of the building, with the roof supported on beams carried on to the top plates – or wall plates on the upper frames, thus transmitting the roof load down to the ground via the framework below.

Cruck buildings were mainly made up in-situ. The roof load was carried directly from the apex to the ground via pairs of arching beams such as those at the exposed end of the Cruck House. This building is what is known as jointed cruck, since the main beams are jointed instead of being in one piece.

Although it looks bigger this is a single-storey, two-bay building with a half loft. There are two windows of two lights with an upper three-light window between, all with leaded glazing. The left return has a cruck truss with a tie beam, cruck spurs, collar and yoke with short king post.

The right return is similar, with braces to a king post, and two two-light ground floor windows. At the back of the house, the entrance is connected through a 20th century glazed porch connecting with the terrace behind Cruck House.

Some of the timber has been renewed in the restoration work in recent decades, especially the sill plates and the rear framing.

There were other examples of cruck-style buildings in Lichfield in the past. For example, when an old pub was being demolished on the corner of Frog Lane and Saint John Street, cruck beams were visible in the party wall between the old pub and the building immediately to the north of it. It was swiftly demolished and removed, although not before the pieces were photographed before they were removed.



Cruck House was open to the public last year as part of the Lichfield Heritage Weekend. Dave Moore, who was involved in Saturday’s visit to Dr Milley’s Hospital and who has interviewed me about my Lichfield links, recently gave an interesting talk to Friends 2 Friends, explaining how Cruck House was built.

Cruck House is now a day care centre and is used by a variety of community groups, including Friends 2 Friends (F2F), which supports adults with learning difficulties. In recent years it was also used for Sunday meetings for worship by the Society of Friends (Quakers), although they have since moved to the Martin Heath Hall in Christchurch Lane.

Cruck House is close to Stowe Pool, to the east of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

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