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Fitznell's, Chessington Road, Ewell: II

1989/1 pp2–3


Fitznells, Chessington Road, Ewell: II


In the early seventeenth century the hall range was demolished and the present triple gabled block erected (Phase III) onto the west side of the remaining buildings. Willis, in his book on Ewell, states that these gables once had decorated barge boards which were a feature often found on buildings of this date. The new building consisted of two main floors and an attic half storey (2½ floors), but retained the overall height of the existing structures. This obviously caused reduced ceiling heights on the principal floor in the new building from the existing one. In the south bay the first floor was set 200mm above the floors in the rest of the range (about the same level as the original solar) perhaps indicating that an entrance was created in this part of the building. The attic floor was similarly raised in height and the window at first floor level was also higher than the other two bays.


The west elevation was formed into ‘square’ panels with face-fixed windows on the ground and first floors (indicated by mortice holes on the front face of the timbers) and unglazed windows at attic level. Provision was made for the whole frame to be infilled with lath and daub, but at an early date the ground floor was infilled with narrow (50mm) irregular red bricks; these were regarded as a superior material for infilling. A bit of this brickwork has been replaced in the succeeding years but its use was not confined to the new section as two panels remained in Phase II on the east wall, perhaps indicating an overall updating of the property in the seventeenth century. The wall on which the timber work rests was originally of flint, which tends to indicate that the brick infilling is slightly later than the construction of this phase. Brick infilling to a timber frame is well illustrated at Pendene, at the Open Air Museum at Singleton, where only the ground floor was so treated.


The roof would have been tiled with clay peg tiles similar to those remaining on other parts of the building. The roof structure is known as a clasped side purlin roof with queen struts below the collars. At the north end some timbers from a crown post roof have been used as rafters. These are probably from the demolished building. As the wall places between the roofs also formed the valleys, the whole is constructed as a ‘reversed assembly’ roof; this is one where the wall plates rest on top of the tie beams, where usually the opposite situation is found. At this time the original south gable on the solar was cut back to form a hipped end, and adjustments were probably made to the roof at the north end of Phase II. The original south tie beam was relocated about 1.5m to the north to give support to a prop that held the truncated end of the collar purlin over the solar.


The junction between the old and new timbers is formed by the use of lap joints and shows a lower standard of construction than generally found in the building. However, the quality of the timber is not as good as the previous works, as bark still remains on some of the timbers. It is likely that the jetty at the south end of the solar was underbuilt at this time to level up the elevation to the road, as the new block lined up with the upper face of the jetty.


Internally there were nine new rooms although at the north end on the ground floor the original west wall of Phase II was rebuilt to give a larger room. Access to the first floor must have been via a stair in Phase II, as there was not provision for a stair in the new building. The attics were reached by individual stairs entered from within the existing structure in the two northern bays, but the south bay has been reformed and detail lost. An attic floor was inserted into Phase II at this time and the solar was probably divided into two compartments at this time. The first floor room of the southern bay was entered by a relocated door of similar date to the solar and probably taken from the old hall range. A chimney stack was provided at the north end of the new block and it incorporates a mantle beam from an earlier hearth, probably in the demolished buildings. This back-to-back hearth indicates that there will have been a single storey structure to the north of the northern bay since the time this wing was built.


The original solar window on the west wall had probably been blocked prior to the construction of this range, but the blocking was modified to allow support to be given to the spine beam for the attic floor in the southern rooms. Here some original paintwork remains: blue painted timbers with the blue paint going about 10mm over the edge of the white painted plasterwork. This detail was repeated on the infill above time beam level on the central truss in the solar and on the west wall of the southern part of this room. Here a beam was painted straight even though it was bent, necessitating part of the wood to be painted white and a tapering strip of plaster to be painted blue.



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