208/4/27 CHURCH STREET
30-JUL-84 (South side)
House, formerly the gatehouse range, to Missenden Abbey, which was founded in 1133. Early C15, probably with an earlier core, adapted for domestic use after the Dissolution and refronted in the C18. Extended later C19. Refurbished early 1990s.
MATERIALS: stone rubble, faced in flint with brick and ashlar dressings; brick facing at the rear . Timber frame at the rear internally and in the gable walls, where it is infilled with brick nogging and on the west gable is partly rendered. Steep pitched plain tile roofs.
PLAN: Abbey Farmhouse is a single range of two storeys and attics, the north elevation in 5 unequal bays with the former gatehouse incorporated in the central bay. The east gable wall is offset, reflecting the line of the Abbey precinct boundary wall. To the east is a two bay upper chamber, probably originally reached by external stairs. Above the entrance was an unheated chamber which was, however, decorated, and to the west a smaller first-floor heated chamber, also decorated. A later C17 or C18 wing which has been partly rebuilt, extends south from the south-west end of the main range.
EXTERIOR: The north elevation of Abbey Farmhouse is of stone rubble, faced in flint with brick and ashlar dressings and has a deep timber modillion cornice. Vertical stone joints indicate the former north gatehouse entrance which was possibly initially of timber post and lintel construction. North windows are renewed 6 over 6 pane sashes under slightly cambered arches, the left hand and central bays in a near symmetrical arrangement with the entrance. The C18 moulded doorcase was adjusted to compensate for the accumulated ground level which had built up to the north of the house; the door is of six flush panels beneath an added overlight. A window has been inserted in the blocked, former gatehouse entrance.
The south elevation was timber framed, later faced in flint with brick dressings and is divided by vertical brick bands and blocks of brickwork which may reflect the replacement of the early timber frame. South windows are C19 and late C20 timber casements, with tile cills, the C18 window openings also with cambered heads. Three south-facing narrow, steeply-pitched dormers were inserted above the purlins in the 1990s and have timber casements.
The east gable wall is timber framed and brick-nogged. The external brick stack, of which the lower courses are flint rubble, the upper courses in brick, with brick tumbling at the angles, was largely reconstructed when the building was restored.
The west gable wall was also timber framed, and brick-nogged and retains part of the render which was applied to the building in the C18 but removed elsewhere in the 1990s.
INTERIOR: Substantial internal timber-framed partitions supported on renewed posts flank the square-cut stone jambs of the former north entrance. The ground floor ceiling to the east of the entrance has very heavy, plain joists which span the building; mortices in the mid-rail indicate the former, lower, floor level. A brick gable wall fireplace has a chamfered arched opening and a herringbone tiled back; there is evidence of a former doorway in the gable wall and of small arched opening, possibly a squint (a narrow aperture in the wall, to provide a view out). A remnant of a wave moulded fireplace arch was recorded on the north wall (1992). The west ground floor room also has narrow squints or openings for ventilation in the outer walls. The first floor chamber to the east is heated by a large, external stack in the gable wall which blocks a former window or door head. The ceiling has a chamfered spine beam and joists, and a cambered tie beam which has a heavy, arched brace to the south rising from a chamfered pier with a moulded base, which appear to be earlier than the ceiling. There is evidence of similar arched braces in the south wall, springing from the post. The internal transverse partition wall is also arch-braced. The chamfered stone jamb and flue of the former north fireplace is exposed. The north wall of the first floor west chamber is decorated in red paint on an ochre base; the truss of the central bay has traces of red and black geometric painted decoration and text (also recorded in 1992). A plank door with HL hinges leads to oak attic stair; other doors have strap hinges. Throughout the house window shutters are of 2 plain panels.
The roof is in 5 bays, the central bay over the entrance being wider and enclosed by rough-hewn horizontally-boarded partitions. The roof, which is now partially enclosed, is of queen post truss construction with wind-braced, trenched purlins and diminished principal rafters and no ridge piece; trimmer bays in the roof reflect the position of N stacks and some smoke blackening was recorded on the westernmost bay (recorded in 1992).
The south wing, C17 or C18, refurbished later C20, has a large brick stack in narrow red/brown brick (similar to the east gable wall fireplace) but with the piers rebuilt, and a shallow basket arched opening, reinforced with a metal plate. To the S of the south wing a separate single storey building in flint and brick is dated 1867.
HISTORY: Abbey Farmhouse incorporates the gatehouse to Missenden Abbey, which was converted to a farmhouse after the Dissolution. By 1883 there were two ranges extending south from the south-west angle of the main range and a shorter range extending south from the east end on the alignment of the east gable wall.
The abbey was founded in 1133, and was one of the first and largest of the Arrouaisian (later Augustinian) houses in England; the main buildings lay to the south of the gatehouse which appears to have been at the northern end of the precinct. In the C18 and C19 the main abbey buildings and precinct were adapted as a country house set in landscaped grounds, first in Venetian manner, and in the early C19 in Gothic style. The building (Grade II) was extensively rebuilt following a fire in 1985. Sections of precinct walls (which are separately listed at Grade II), survive to the south of the farmhouse and excavation revealed that the wall probably continued northward on the line of the east gable wall of Abbey Farmhouse where it is reflected in the street plan of Church Street. After the Dissolution, Abbey Farmhouse and its grounds developed separately from the abbey.
Prior to an extensive programme of restoration in the early 1990s, the house was surveyed (RCHM historic building report, 1992). Dates from subsequent dendrochronological sampling of the roof timbers and first-floor joists, which gave a felling date of 1406 and rebuilding of the north chimney stack in or after 1534/5, altered the sequence suggested in the RCHM report.
The entrance occupied the central bay, by the early C15 with a chamber above it. The RCHM report suggested that to the west there had been a kitchen, possibly rising through two storeys, although at a relatively early date there was an upper floor chamber. The north-west ground floor has also been interpreted as a lock-up on account of the squint or ventilation hole in the outer wall. To the east was a large upper floor hall, probably reached by external stairs. Each was served by a large fireplace on the north wall, that to the east removed c1534/5. When the ground floor ceiling was raised, by c18" (c 0.45m), the timber frame of the rear wall was altered accordingly. The chamber over the gatehouse was initially unheated, but in the C16,and probably post Dissolution, was decorated with red and black geometrical decoration and black letter text which survives on the roof trusses. The upper floor west chamber is also augmented by ochre and red painted wall decoration which was interrupted when the stack was inserted.
Abbey Farmhouse, Great Missenden, Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (RCHME) Historic Building Report (1992)
List 54, Tree ring dates from DH Miles and D Haddon-Reece, Vernacular Architecture (1993)
Abbey Farmhouse, Great Missenden, report on current S3a grant application, English Heritage (1992)
N Pevsner and E Williamson, Buildings of England, Buckinghamshire (1990) 352-3
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
Abbey Farmhouse, Great Missenden, which incorporates the former gatehouse of Missenden Abbey, founded in 1133, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: medieval abbey gatehouse range with high status upper floor chambers; built of timber dated to 1406, but probably in a building with an earlier core, and altered in the mid-C16;
* Decoration: painted wall surfaces and roof timbers, and the main components of a moulded timber frame and roof in the first-floor hall;
* Historic interest: Missenden Abbey, founded in 1133, was one of the first and largest of the Arrouaisian (later Augustinian) houses in England; the main buildings lay to the south of the gatehouse which appears to have been at the northern end of the precinct, whose boundary is reflected in the current street plan.