The substantial remains of a timber-framed aisled barn, believed to date to the C16 or earlier, and now forming part of a complex of motor repair buildings at Crown Street, in Lowestoft.
Reasons for Designation
The remains of the timber-framed aisled barn now forming part of the Crown Street Motors site at Crown Street West in Lowestoft are listed for the following principal reasons:
* as a significant survival of an early phase of Lowestoft's development, pre-dating the expansion of the town in the C18 and early C19 and as a indicator of the area's agricultural past, rather than its better-known fishing industry associations.
* as a surviving example of aisled timber-framed construction representing the pre-industrial vernacular building traditions of the area but now located in a wholly urban context.
The name Lowestoft is Scandinavian in origin and may be translated as Hloover’s toft – the homestead of Hoover. The town relocated to the cliff-top from an earlier site, about a mile to the south-west, during the period 1300-1350, partly because of increasing maritime activity (especially herring-fishing) and the need it created to be closer to the sea, and partly because of the difficulty of accommodating an expanding population in-situ without building houses on valuable agricultural land. The area chosen for the new site was low-grade coastal heath, used mainly for the rough-grazing of livestock which became a more useful asset to the manorial lord as building-land. The main street is of sinuous alignment, following the natural curves of the cliff. The better-off members of the community lived along the High Street whilst the less affluent largely resided in a gridiron side-street area to the west. Lowestoft was thus a planned late medieval town.
The High Street was lined with burgage plots containing prosperous merchants’ houses for much of the medieval and early modern period, and the cliff-face was made usable by terracing. The cliff-top itself provided an area behind the houses for the storage of household goods and materials; and the first step down was multi-purpose, sometimes planted with fruit trees and used as an amenity area, but also functioning as a place for putting all kinds of household waste. The second and third stages down were mainly taken up with the buildings that serviced fishing and other maritime enterprise: curing-houses, net-stores, stables and the like. Access from the cliff-top to the sea was provided by footways known as scores (three of them widened for use by carts) – a word deriving from the Old Norse ‘skora’, meaning ‘to cut’ or ‘to incise’. These had originally started life as surface-water gullies down the soft face of the cliff – a natural process that lent itself to use as tracks.
The chief trade of Lowestoft and the source of its prosperity remained herring fishing until the C19. Then in 1827 the harbour was created, and in 1832 the navigation continued through to Oulton Broad, giving access to the River Waveney and Norwich. Samuel Morton Peto was brought in to construct the outer harbour, and he ensured the arrival of the railway in 1847 as well as developing the land south of the harbour as a seaside resort. The town was bombarded by the Germans in 1916 and suffered considerable damage from 178 enemy raids in the Second World War. Post-war reconstruction involved new roads being cut through the northern part of the town. In the later years of the C20 the fishing industry has almost completely declined.
Within the premises of Crown Street Motors, attached to the rear of Nos 30-32 is a three-bay section of an aisled barn, embedded within an evolved C19 and C20 complex of buildings which include a former smithy, a car repair workshop, office, stores and a C20 canopy structure over a former open yard. The buildings now all form part of a motor repair garage and car sales business established in 1976, but the association with wheeled vehicles dates back to the mid-C19 when the barn at the heart of the present complex was sold to John William Ratcliffe, a coach builder.
The barn seems to have became known as the Tithe Barn in the early C18 after the building and surrounding land had been purchased by William and Margaret Church of Pakefield, the right to the tithes having passed to several owners prior to their acquisition by William Church's father. The barn on the land had been used for the storage of the tithes, and was subsequently referred to as the 'Tithe Barn'. From the 1850's onwards, the barn was owned by a succession of coach builders, and latterly, car repair mechanics and engineers. The Ordnance Survey 25 inch (1905) records the presence of a smithy on the site adjacent to the barn, and the remodelling of the southern end of the barn by the creation of workshop facilities fronting onto Crown Street. Further alterations have taken place since that time, most notably the creation of a canopy covering the yard to the south-west of the barn. At the time of inspection (12th November 2018), the building remained in use as part of the motor repair business on the site.
The substantial remains of a timber-framed aisled barn, believed to date to the C16 or earlier and now forming part of a larger motor engineering and sales complex between Crown Street and Dove Street in Lowestoft.
MATERIALS: timber framing, beneath a pantile roof covering, with associated brick and flint walling.
PLAN: linear plan form, aligned north-south, and set between remodelled buildings at either end which stand on the site of removed sections of the timber frame.
EXTERIOR: the timber-framed structure is enclosed within side walling to the east composed of red brick incorporating scattered flint work. The walling is painted externally, and incorporates a short section of a low stone plinth, possibly associated with now- removed wall framing. The wall continues southwards to meet the gable of the street frontage of the building of which the timber-framed section forms part, and extends southwards to meet rear wall of the former smithy building. This section of walling has a blocked window opening with a shallow-arched head, beyond which the walling material is predominately flint rubble. The west side of the timber-framed structure is open, with the arcade posts marking the extent of the surviving historic fabric on that side. The north and south ends of the timber frame are supported by sections of masonry walling forming part of the former forge to the north, and the works office to the south, neither of which are considered to be of special interest.
INTERIOR: the timber frame is three bays in extent, but is thought, on the evidence of carpenter's marks numbering 5 and 4 in the correct sequence in the north bay, to have originally been a five-bay aisled building, of which three bays and the east aisle survive as part of the larger motor engineering complex. The timber frame is comprised of the arcade posts, arcade plates and tie beams of the northernmost three bays of the former aisled building, together with spur ties connecting the four eastern arcade posts to the east aisle wall plate. The west aisle is now missing, but three arcade posts survive, the fourth at the south end having been removed when the building was truncated and the present works office constructed. Braces, both arched and straight - the latter presumed to be replacement frame members- rise from the arcade posts to support the arcade plates and tie beams. Empty mortices indicate the positions of missing braces, and, in the western arcade posts to the centre bay, pairs of empty mortices may indicate the location of a former porch to a threshing bay. There appear to be original frame components or roof timbers above arcade plate level. The present roof structure is of late C19 or C20, and there is an inserted floor of similar date to the north end bay.