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Farm Buildings

Forge Sound, the oldest dwelling house in East Meon.Drawing by Nigel Fradgley.

The development of farm buildings reflects changing practices employed by farmers. Few original buildings survive; old made way for new as the introduction of machinery and productivity, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, demanded larger covered spaces. We have concentrated our study of farm buildings on the tithings of East Meon and Oxenbourne.

Medieval agriculture required few buildings for the shelter of animals, which were left out of doors or shared their owners’ accommodation. The Court House curia had buildings for animals and farm equipment as well as services such as dairy and cider-making. There were a few ‘messuages’, or enclosures belonging to the most successful villeins, some of which had out- houses; these tended to be constructed in courtyards partly for security. As we have seen, few farmsteads stood alone in the fields; villeins and serfs alike lived in clusters of dwellings, designated as ‘townships’ or tithings. ‘Tofts’ belonging to prosperous yeomen often included a barn for storing grain. On all the bishop’s granges, tithe barns were been strategically placed among the open fields, for the collection, storage and later threshing of the grain paid to the diocese as tithes by tenant farmers.

The simplest type of farm building was the longhouse, a single chamber built around a timber framework formed of sturdy posts, stuck into the ground and tied by cross-beams into bays, fastened together with wooden pegs; these ‘hall houses’ had a fire in the centre, open from the beaten soil floor to the rafters which supported roofs of thatch or turf. Outside walls were constructed from any combination of clay, malmstone (quarried in Langrish), and flint, which was readily available on the downs. Great ingenuity was shown in the use of irregular flint, either whole or ‘knapped’, to provide a flat, attractive surface.

Some houses had a parlour added at one or both ends for the private use of the owner’s family; internal walls were made of hazel wattle and daub of mud and dung. Some also had a ceiling of beams and planks over the parlour, thus creating a chamber, or ‘soller’, or loft, not originally for sleeping but for the storage of seed-corn, wool, cheese, bacon, saffron and other produce which could too precious to be entrusted to the barn, where they might be a prey to rats, damp   and thieves.

Four fourteenth-century houses in East Meon illustrate the architecture of this period, Forge Sound and Riverside are described in this section. The Tudor House was a farm household, originally built in 1333 but enlarged in the 1580s; The Court Hall was built in 1395/7 to enable the Bishop’s steward to preside over courts leet.

A PDF of the full report on Farm Buildings in East Meon can be downloaded, click here.