Canterbury Archeological Trust

No. 70 Castle Street
R. W. Austin

Hillside Systems

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No 70 Castle Street

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These two adjoining properties are located on the north-west side of Castle Street at its intersection with St John's Lane. Recent refurbishment of No. 70 Castle Street has afforded an opportunity to study in more detail a building of known historical interest. A measured survey of the surviving timber frame initially revealed a two storey building of late fifteenth century date jettied along the street with a crown-post roof and a two storey lean-to extension at the rear of the property. The building probably consisted of a rear open hall and a shop on the street frontage with a chamber over it. A through-passage still survives between the two properties and a further early seventeenth century extension has been added to the north-east end of No. 71.

The study of the carpenter's marks on the rafters and crown-posts proved to be interesting with regard to the south-westernmost limit of the property. The surviving numbers indicate the existence of another two bays of what was originally a row of four units. This is fairly typical of late medieval multiple unit developments found in Canterbury and is reflected in buildings previously examined e.g. Turnagain Lane (Annual Report 1985-6, 26). The evidence for this is further substantiated by boundaries marked on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map for 1874; a mortice indicating a brace on the south-western crown-post, and a continuation of the crown-plate itself.

Further examination of the outshot to the rear of No 70 suggests that it is contemporary with the main structure, and not a later extension as was previously thought. The absence of any studding for a rear second floor wall, and the layout of the first floor framing, namely the principal joist which is central to the building as a whole, tend towards this conclusion. The common joists contemporary with the original frame are laid flat and are pegged with unrefined tenons into the principal. Those in the extension are clearly inserted with a smaller profile laid on edge and secured by tenons with reduced haunches. The extension was presumably open to the roof and separated from the chamber above by the extant partition.

Removal of the wall covering on the first floor revealed the presence of additional fenestration. The earliest fenestration must have occupied the position of the present sash window, the existence of its shutter groove on the soffit of the eaves-plate confirms this. Late sixteenth to seventeenth century improvements probably included modifications to this, and the addition of the flanking fenestration now visible. The exposed mullions are in good condition and exhibit ovolo mouldings externally and a simple cavetto style internally, something not previously observed. This could be indicative of a craftsman's slow change to more fashionable styles of the period or the financial restraints imposed bv the clients. The use of simple but competent carpentry, lacking embellishment, is consistent with a modest dwelling reflecting the social status of its occupiers. Indeed the rear lean-to arrangement is a cheap but effective way of providing additional space within the building.

Unfortunately very little of the original fabric survives at ground level. The insertion of a later shop front and underpinning of ground floor partitions with brick has removed or obscured any evidence of earlier work. The recent insertion of brick chimney stacks has removed some of the structural members in the roof, including a portion of the crown-plate. However, the majority of the framework is intact. A section of plate from the rear of the outshot, now removed, provided evidence for earlier ground floor fenestration, this consisting of square-sectioned mullions interrupting the studding of the external wall.

Collars and rafters are half-lapped and secured with square-sectioned pegs. Splayed scarfs with squinted abutments are used, though any evidence of face pegs on them was obscured. A face-halved bridle scarf was used at the rear of the extension. The tie-beam lap dovetail assembly used is typical of buildings of this period; the whole assemblage remains in situ.

Nos 70 and 71 Castle Street are two surviving elements of a late fifteenth century row of four units. These structures which contained both retail and domestic elements in each unit, were all covered by a single continuous roof. These surviving elements of an artisan row are excellent examples of Canterbury's surviving vernacular heritage, even though they are of a modest type. Despite the ravages of time, and the modifications of many hands, much of the original building form survives. This survey was funded by J.F. Berry Esq.

See this place today Click on the logo to see this place today.   The information on this page is Copyright © Canterbury Archaeological Trust Ltd. 1989 Reproduced with permission.
The text and pictures were taken from Canterbury's Archaeology 1987/1988, The 12th Annual Report of Canterbury Archaeological Trust Ltd.

Peter Collinson Last change: 7th September 2008