2 Waterside and 58 Fore Hill


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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Statutory Address:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Cambridgeshire (District Authority)
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Two adjoining houses originating as two-bay timber framed dwellings in the late C16, subdivided into four cottages in the C18, with the eastern three bays united into a single dwelling in the late C20.

Reasons for Designation

2 Waterside and 58 Fore Hill, two houses originating in the late C16, later altered and extended, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: it has evolved over four centuries, reflecting the changing needs of succeeding occupants and retaining fabric and structural detail from each phase, thus providing important evidence for historic building traditions; * Historic interest: it lies within the area of settlement depicted on John Speed’s map of 1610/1611, a street pattern established by the early C15, and makes an important contribution to the historical development of the townscape; * Group value: it is one of 198 listed buildings in the city illustrating building traditions spanning several centuries, out of which it has particular group value with nos 4 and 6, 7-11, and 8 and 12 Waterside.


The present city of Ely rises 20m above the surrounding fen on an island of Kimmeridge clay. Although well connected by river and waterways, until the C17 only causeways connected the island to the mainland, and in the early years of Christianity its isolation made it an ideal refuge for those seeking a secluded monastic life. The first successful attempt to establish a religious settlement here was made by Etheldreda in c.673, re-endowed by King Edgar 100 years after its destruction by the Danes in 870. Despite threats of further invasion in the C11, and later political turmoil, this monastery survived until its dissolution in 1539. The presence of a monastic community occupying substantial buildings required the support of a lay community, and as that grew, so did the needs of the lay-people for accommodation and services. A detailed survey of 1416 recorded 457 buildings and described an established street pattern; by 1563 the number of households had grown to 800. Despite this growth in population, John Speed’s map of Ely, published in 1611/12, is very similar in both layout and extent to that of the first edition Ordnance Survey (OS) Map of 1885, where the only significant expansion is towards the railway (1845): however, in Speed’s map, houses lining the streets enclose spaces of apparently horticultural and even agricultural production, and while these are still present on the 1885 map they have been pushed to the margins of the city. These maps graphically illustrate the continuing importance of agriculture and agriculturally related industries in the early C17 and beyond, and also show that the later growth in population took place mainly within the confines of the early city street plan. Before the later C19, the only significant rival to agriculture was the pottery industry, in production from the C12 to 1860.

Following the dissolution of the monastery, Ely remained the centre of the diocese, but the loss of the community, and of pilgrims to the shrine of St Etheldreda, would have had a considerable impact on the city’s economy. The consequent decline in management of the fen and its waterways led to an increase in flooding, and attempts at drainage in the C17 and C18 seem to have had limited effect, creating constraints on the ability of the city to thrive. Successive literary travellers commented on the poor drainage, including Celia Fiennes in the mid-C17, who described the city as a “perfect quagmire”, and Daniel Defoe in the early C18, who noted both the city’s market gardens and its overflowing wells. By the mid-C19 the city was in a state of recovery and regeneration: several possible contributory factors include successful drainage, enclosure (1848) and the arrival of the railway with the opening of the Cambridge to Ely line in 1845. This was followed slightly later by other lines, making the city a transport hub. Despite this, the physical expansion of Ely beyond its medieval core was slow through the mid-C20, accelerating through the late C20 and into the C21, as Ely developed as a dormitory town for Cambridge.

Despite the differentiation in street address, 2 Waterside and 58 Forehill have a shared structural history, and form part of a mixed terrace of buildings running from the junction of Broad Street and Fore Hill down to the river. This part of the town is low-lying to the river and was drained and reclaimed from the C12 onwards. The 1416/17 survey of Ely identifies the tenants living on the street ‘from Brodlanesende to Brodhithe on the south side’. Reconstructed evidence from the survey suggests that the area of 58 Fore Hill was part of ‘Alice Symme’s tenement, part of the above three cottages under one roof’ and that 2 Waterside roughly corresponds to ‘John Chesteyn’s tenement’. Waterside underwent substantial investment in reconstruction in the late C16 and C17, broadly based on the plot layout which survived from the medieval period. By the C18 the area was in decline and many of the houses were subdivided into smaller cottage units.

The earliest extant phase in 2 Waterside and 58 Fore Hill appears to date to the late C16. The two east bays of 2 Waterside appear to have comprised a timber-framed house of two equal bays, jettied towards the street and probably heated from a stack in the easternmost bay. Although the external walling and west bay in particular have been subject to later alteration, substantial portions of the timber frame of this phase survive. The third (west) bay of the house originally formed part of 58 Fore Hill which also originated as a two-bay building. Much of the original form of this building is difficult to establish due to later alterations but the two bays were heated by a large central chimney stack.

The C18 saw a significant remodelling to the exterior and interior of both buildings. Externally they were refaced in brick which necessitate.d the removal of the original jetty on 2 Waterside, with the structural timbers at first-floor level truncated in order to allow the creation of a level façade. This could also be achieved by building out the ground floor of the building, leaving the jetty intact, but in this case the property holder was probably prevented from encroaching on the street in this way. Internally, the two bays of 58 Fore Hill were subdivided, with the eastern bay, along with the two bays of 2 Waterside, being remodelled to provide four one-bay cottages. Much of the evidence for this phase has been removed by alterations in the C20 but the best surviving evidence is the insertion of two separate, but apparently contemporary, staircases. In the bay that now forms part of 2 Waterside a stair was inserted (or replaced) at the side of the chimney stack, and a bread oven was inserted in the fireplace. In 58 Fore Hill a stair was inserted against the fireplace.

Mapping evidence shows that the four cottages continued in separate use throughout the C19 with the addition of various one or two-storey rear extensions. These have since been removed, and the successive alterations have resulted in the removal of much of the rear wall frame. The roof was probably also rebuilt during this period with a much shallower pitch than its predecessor. In the late 1980s the three cottages that now form 2 Waterside were united into a single dwelling. This involved the reintroduction of some historic timbers to recreate part of the lost framing of the original building. The rear extensions were largely demolished, although the extension behind the central bay was reconstructed to form a first-floor bathroom. 58 Fore Hill has continued as a separate property and has been refurbished in 2016, including the addition of a two-storey rear extension.


Two adjoining houses originating as two-bay timber framed dwellings in the late C16, subdivided into four cottages in the C18, with the eastern three bays united into a single dwelling in the late C20.

MATERIALS: timber frame encased in local handmade yellow brick laid in English bond, and roof covering of red clay plain tiles.

PLAN: the houses form part of a terrace on the south side of the street. 2 Waterside has a rectangular plan with a rear extension and, to the west, 58 Fore Hill has a square plan. This has a large rear extension (2016)* which is excluded from the listing and is not shown on the current Ordnance Survey map.

EXTERIOR: the building is four structural (but five window) bays wide and has two storeys and an attic under a pitched roof. The tumbled-in eastern gable of the original, steeper roof rises above the current roof pitch and has a tall ridge stack with an older red brick base. There is another ridge stack between the third and fourth structural bays, and a smaller, probably C19, ridge stack at the west gable end. A skylight is positioned in the roof of the fourth bay. A platband demarcates the ground and first floor, and the third and fourth bays have a brick eaves cornice. The fenestration consists of five six-over-six pane sash windows on the ground floor and three-over-six pane sashes directly above on the first floor. The windows are set flush with the wall and are C20 replacements. To the right of the second window bay is the C20 front door (to 2 Waterside) which has four flush panels, and to the right of the fourth window bay is the C20 neo-Classical style moulded doorcase with a plain frieze and square pilasters, and a two panel door (to 58 Fore Hill). The position of the former doorways dating from when the building was divided into four cottages is indicated in the brickwork to the right of the first window bay and to the left of the third.

The rear of 58 Fore Hill is now mostly obscured by a large two-storey gabled extension (2016)*, but to the right of this part of the cogged eaves cornice is visible. The rear of 2 Waterside has a catslide roof over a later kitchen extension lit by a three-over-three pane sash. A three-storey gabled extension projects from the centre of the elevation supported on one side by timber posts and lit by C20 windows. To the right is a C20 glazed door with timber glazing bars and a lintel formed of the partially exposed mid-rail. A small window lights the first floor above, and the attic is lit by two hipped dormers wholly within the roof space, also C20 in date.

INTERIOR: the two houses have a shared structural history but the interiors are here described separately as they are now separate dwellings.

The three-bay plan of 2 Waterside consists of the two eastern bays which originally formed one dwelling, and the third western bay which originally belonged to 58 Fore Hill. What is now the central bay has been converted into a staircase hall and is flanked by reception rooms. The first floor has bedrooms in both end bays, and there are two more bedrooms in the attic. The later rear extension has a kitchen, a first-floor bathroom, and a sitting area in the attic. Although the central bay (formerly the west bay of the two-bay building) has in particular been subject to later alterations, substantial portions of the C16 timber frame survive. The central principal truss (dividing the first and second bays) survives, along with the wall plate and mid-rail of the south (rear) wall, and the central spine beam and joists of the east bay. Portions of the western truss (dividing the second and third bays) also survive, although this appears to have been partly replaced in the late C20, as well as the spine beams and some of the ground floor joists in the central bay.

In the east bay, to the left of the staircase hall, the exposed rear (south) wall plate is chamfered and stopped where it meets the central truss. It has a large edge-halved and bridled scarf joint towards the western end and a pair of peg holes which indicate the former position of a stud in the rear wall. The lower portion of the central bay division on the west side of the room has been truncated for the insertion of low brick walling but a shorter section of the south wall post survives immediately below the chamfered bridging beam. The ceiling joists and chamfered spine beam survive, although this has been truncated at the eastern end possibly to accommodate a larger fireplace. The tie beam has also been brought forward, probably for the same reason, and is positioned immediately west of the fireplace. The brick sides of the fireplace have been reconstructed in the same style as the original, and the bressumer replaced, in the late C20.

In the central bay, which contains the late C20 quarter turn staircase, the chamfered spine beam remains in situ, along with the joists on the northern side. The timbers in the rear wall show signs of reuse, including the wall plate and the ground-floor door lintel to the southern extension. The third (west) bay is more altered than the two eastern bays. The spine beam appears to be a later insertion (or replacement) and the joists are concealed. The principal original feature is the substantial fireplace which has brick jambs, chamfered on their inner edges, and an irregularly shaped chamfered bressumer with scroll stops and burn marks (thought to be ritual marks, associated with protection against spirits). The bread oven was inserted in the C18 when the building was converted into cottages. During the same phase the brick winder stair was built up against the southern jamb of the fireplace. Directly above this, the timber stair that leads from the first to the second floor is probably contemporary. On the first floor, the central truss has the upper part of a jowled post extant within the rear wall. This is chamfered on both inner edges and has scrolled stops where it meets the tie beam. This is also chamfered on both sides and stopped in the centre where it joins the spine beams of the east and central bays. The sides of the brick fireplace in the east room appear to have been reconstructed but the bresummer is likely to be original. The modified western truss retains the tie beam which is chamfered on its eastern face. During the late C20 restoration the original south post was replaced with a reused timber which has been given a jowl to match the profile of the original south post of the central truss. It is likely that the curving braces of the truss were also replaced as they are of narrow scantling and sit poorly within the original mortices. Towards the centre of the tie beam are two studs which are probably original. In the third bay the ceiling joists are exposed and run the full width of the room axially with no central spine beam. In the rear wall part of the wall plate is exposed. In the west bay of the attic, the C19 purlins and Queen struts are exposed.

58 Fore Hill consists of the western bay of the former two-bay dwelling. The ground-floor spine beam, which appears to be original, has moulded edges with a sunk ogee chamfer profile. The fireplace jambs are of variegated brick, chamfered on the inner edges, and the chamfered bressumer has a scrolled stop and burn marks. The C18 timber stair is positioned against the south side of the fireplace and it projects into the bay. It is enclosed by a partition of pine boards set diagonally, and rises through two storeys with the upper partition formed in the same way. Each partition has an C18 two-panelled door with H-L hinges. On the west side of the ground-floor bay there is a blocked up fireplace which is therefore difficult to date but may indicate that the room was formerly partitioned. There is a corresponding blocked fireplace in the first-floor bay and a partition wall in which a single timber post is exposed. This is chamfered on its northern edge and may relate to a former doorway opening. In the attic the purlins and collar beams are exposed.

* Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that modern extension to the rear of 58 Forehill is not of special architectural or historic interest.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Holton-Krayenbuhl, Anne (Editor), The Topography of Medieval Ely, (2011)
Rebecca, Lane, Allan, Adams, Early Fabric in Historic Towns: Ely. The development of the town through its historic buildings Historic England Research Report 2/2016, (2016)
Cambridgeshire Community Archives Network, accessed May 2016 from http://ely.ccan.co.uk/content/catalogue_item/speeds-map-of-ely-about-1610
Ely Conservation Area Supplementary Planning Document: October 2009, accessed May 2016 from http://www.eastcambs.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Ely%20Final%20Copy.pdf
R B Pugh, ed. 2002 A History of the County of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely: Vol 4, City of Ely: Ely, N. and S. Withchford and Wisbech Hundreds: Victoria County History, Cambridgeshire, accessed May 2016 from http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol4


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building is shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 12 May 2006
Reference: IOE01/15157/23
Rights: Copyright IoE Helmut Schulenburg. Source Historic England Archive
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