Forge Cottage was known as Pillstyle Cottage, derived from the Romano-British word “pill” – a ditch, hole, or pool – reflecting its position on the edge of a steep dip
Closed Hall House
Forge Cottage is a thatched, timber-framed house, built around 1600. It represents a significant advance in design from traditional hall-houses, of which East Meon has many, For a thousand years these had open fires in the middle of beaten-earth floors, vented through the thatch, which guaranteed a smoky environment and precluded an upper floor in the heated areas of the house. Forge Cottage is a ‘closed hall-house’ and has fireplaces with chimneys. This practice had started in the mid 16th century and was made possible by increased production of bricks by the Tudors.
The first brick works in this area was opened in 1571 when “the Lord of the Manor surrendered part of Stroud Common to John Robynet for the making of bricks and tyles”. The massive brick chimney in Forge Cottage was almost certainly built with Robynet bricks. The walls of the house are timber-framed, in-filled with wattle and daub, most of which remains.
This chimney forms a stack in the centre of the building with large inglenook fireplaces either side and smaller fireplaces above in the upstairs bedrooms. The bedrooms were probably ventilated and illuminated by narrow “letter-box” windows (probably unglazed). Downstairs, one fire heated a hall characterised by fashionable (and expensive) chamfered ceiling beams, the other the kitchen which still contains a bread oven which, again innovatively, allowed the householders to bake their own bread.
In 1752 a new section (or at least the fireplace and chimney) was added at a lower level by the side of the road, probably with tiled roof from its outset. The fireplace mantle is inscribed with the construction date and the initials “RD” (almost certainly Richard Dance). The mantel over the inglenook in the hall has “Trinity marks” – three triangulated parallel vertical lines burned into the massive oak beam; these occur in other houses in the area. The invocation of the Trinity was believed to protect the house from evil spirits.
In addition to hall, kitchen, and bedrooms a single storey annexe on the west end contained a narrow room, almost certainly a pantry or dairy. In 1752 a new section (or at least the fireplace and chimney) was added at a lower level by the side of the road, probably with tiled roof from its outset.
The house was probably built and occupied by a yeoman, farming a small number of acres around or near the house. This was one level above husbandry; a yeoman grew cash crops and may have employed a few labourers.
This house reflected the prosperity of the yeoman’s, matched by the village as a whole. Succeeding centuries saw economic decline and by the 19th century the house had been converted into two, and then three cramped dwellings
In 1853 it was owned by Randall Vinn; he lived at Drayton House and rented Forge Cottage to others. In 1841 and 1851 the divided house was occupied by carpenter William Luff and wife Sarah (nee Budd) and William and Martha Spiers. The newly-married Henry and Harriott Hiscock probably also occupied part of the building in 1841. They all probably still lived here in 1871, Luff now running a sawyer’s business and Spiers described as a pauper. By 1891 Walter and Sarah Kille lived in one half, with and six children, with James Spiers next door. Walter was a thatcher: James a bricklayer. In 1901 Henry Steele had replaced James whilst Walter was now a farm labourer. His widow Sarah still lived here in 1911 with her unmarried son, Samuel. James Blackman, his wife Harriett and son Ernest shared the property.
In 1934 it was occupied by Pollard and Kille, Mrs Holder and Mr William Nicholson and the thatched shed was occupied by Jim Hobbs the blacksmith In the 1950s the house was owned by Celia Trubshawe.
The house name was changed to “Forge Cottage” in 1960 when purchased by Frederick Gould Standfield for £4150. Freddie Stanfield’s work “The History of East Meon” was written here.