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Colchester Archaeological Trust

CAT Report 443: summary

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Bumpstead Hall Farm, Helions Bumpstead, Essex: archaeological record
by Leigh Alston MA

Date report completed: November 2007
Location: Helions Bumpstead, Essex
Map reference(s): TL6626641202
File size: 34,792KB kb
Project type: Building Survey
Significance of the results: *
Keywords: listed building

Summary. Bumpstead Hall occupies the site of a medieval manor of the same name, otherwise known as Earls Bumpstead. The present farmhouse was much altered during the mid 19th century, but preserves a well-framed mid to late 15th-century jettied parlour cross-wing and a 16th century floored hall. Of the several farm buildings shown on maps of 1812 and 1841, only two substantial barns survived a major mid 19th-century reconstruction which saw the addition of various cattle yards, shelters and sheds to the south of the barns and a range of brick sheds to the north. A second major refurbishment of the early 20th century saw the demolition of almost all the mid 19th-century buildings to the south and their replacement with a new stable and a pair of open-sided shelter sheds. The 20th-century shelters still survive, and preserve good boarded cattle mangers and hay-racks, but the stable was demolished after the storm of 1987. The northern brick sheds of the mid 19th century still remain, albeit much altered, as does an unusually large enclosure of early 20th-century pig-sties. In the light of the 20th-century demolitions, the ancillary farm buildings are not of particular historic significance when compared with others in the region. The two timber-framed and weather-boarded barns remain fine examples of the early 16th and early 17th centuries respectively, despite extensive reconstruction and the replacement of both roofs in the early 20th century. The western barn (barn 1) is the older of the two and was a particularly expensive and ostentatious structure when first built, but its merits are now less obvious than those of its neighbour and it is not listed (despite the retention of its original tie-beam braces). This barn extended to 24.2 m in length by 7.5 in width (79 feet 6 inches by 24 feet 6 inches) and contained five bays with a central southern entrance, although a secondary porch of the late 17th century now projects to the north. Each of the four outer bays contains an unusual intermediate post, and the original roof, now lost, was of crown-post construction. A lean-to addition to the north can probably be dated to 1801 by an inscription on an associated storey post. This building remains a fine late-medieval barn of considerable structural and historic interest that pre-dates the sale of the property by the Earls of Oxford. The later of the two barns (barn 2) lies to the east of the site and dates from the early 17th century, although its grade II listing wrongly ascribes it to the 16th century. This building consists of four aisled bays and extends to 18.5 m in overall length by 9.4 m in width (60 feet 9 inches by 31 feet). There is evidence of an original southern entrance in the penultimate western bay. Like barn 1, its roof (originally of side-purlin construction) and many of its wall studs were replaced at the beginning of the 20th century; the height of its external walls was also raised, thereby completely transforming its external appearance. The framing of the original walls consists largely of re-used timbers that are of interest in themselves as many derive from an early 14th-century aisled structure which possessed lap joints and passing braces, although it is now impossible to reconstruct its precise form.