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Listed Building
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West Devon (District Authority)
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1/208 Higher Shilstone farmhouse - including stables and garden walls 20.2.52 adjoining to south GV I

Farmhouse, a Dartmoor longhouse, with adjoining stable block. Late C15 - early C16 with major later C16 and C17 improvements, one phase dated 1656; only minor subsequent modernisations. Stable is late C17 or C18. Built of large coursed blocks of granite ashlar on massive boulder footings. Different building phases are apparent in the masonry, the earliest, it seems, of massive ashlar blocks. Some granite stone rubble patching and cob wall topping. Granite stacks, both with granite ashlar chimney shafts. Thatch roof some of it to the rear replaced by corrugated iron. The stable block is granite stone rubble with massive, roughly- shaped quoins and corrugated iron roof (formerly thatch). Plan and development: This is a house with a long and complex structural history. The main block is a 3-room-and-through-passage plan Dartmoor longhouse built down the hillslope and facing south-south-east, say south. The inner room is terraced into the hillside at the left (west) end. Originally the house was open to the roof, divided by low partitions and heated by an open hearth fire. Maybe there was a full height crosswall this early on the lower side of the passage since there is no trace of smoke-blackening in the shippon roof. The house was progressively floored over and the chimney stacks were added in the later C16 and C17. The hall has an axial stack backing onto the passage and the inner room has a projecting gable end stack. There is a 1-room plan unheated rear block projecting at right angles to rear of the hall. The plan as it emerged in the late C17 had a parlour in the inner room and kitchen in the hall. The stair was in the rear block off the upper end of the hall. The rear block was probably a dairy, pantry and cider store. The upper end of the shippon is partitioned off from the rest but it is not clear at what date this happened. The stables were added in the late C17 or C18 projecting forwards at right angles from the right (eastern) end and slightly overlapping the end. The house is 2 storeys. Exterior: Regular but not symmetrical 3-window front, all C17 granite windows with chamfered mullions; 4 lights with hoodmoulds to the ground floor and 3 lights to the first. They contain rectangular panes of leaded glass. The passage front doorway is left of centre. It is round-headed with a broad bead-moulded surround, lugged spandrels enriched with carved oak leaves. The labels of the hoodmould are carved with rosettes and immediately above is the datestone inscribed RT 1656. The studded plank door maybe that old. Alongside to right the cow door is a plainer version of the main one; round-headed with chamfered surround and plain hood. Right of this a flight of external stone steps to hayloft loading hatch, and right end is covered by the stables. The main roof is gable-ended to left and half-hipped to right. The right end (to the shippon) has a dung hatch and hayloft loading hatch over and a blocked drain hole. Each side wall includes blocked slit windows. The rear passage doorway is a rounded segmental arch with chamfered surround. The rear block is more rubbley than the main block. Its end wall contains 2 ground floor 2-light and 1 first floor 3-light C17 granite-mullioned windows, all containing C20 glass. The uphill side wall has a blocked stair window. The roof is half-hipped. Good interior contains the work of all the main building phases and has had only superficial C19 and C20 modernisations since. The through-passage widens from front to back since the hall stack is not set at right angles to the side walls. Beyond the stack there is a timber-framed partition to the hall. It contains a C19 panelled door and is clad but there may be an oak plank-and-muntin screen here. The hall fireplace is probably late C16 - early C17. It is now blocked but is still intact and built of granite ashlar with chamfered lintel. The hall was floored in the C17. The crossbeam is soffit-chamfered, unstopped to front but with crude scroll derivative stops to rear. The granite rubble crosswall at the upper end of the hall contains a couple of cupboards; the oldest is very small with plain oak surround and door. The parlour beyond is larger than the hall. Here the fireplace is blocked by a late C19 - early C20 grate and the ceiling has been lowered so that no carpentry shows. There are a pair of C17 door-frames, both with chamfered surrounds and step stops, from the hall to the rear block; the left one still leads to the stairs but those there are now are C20. The first floor has plain carpentry and joinery detail. The shippon has not been brought into domestic use. Besides the external cow door there is also a doorway from the passage and it may be an original feature; built of oak it is a round-headed arch with chamfered surround and contains an old studded plank door. There is a secondary rubble crosswall near the upper end and what is left of the hayloft has plain carpentry detail. The drain does not show but the earth floor looks higher than it would have been. The main block roof structure is late C15 - early C16 end to end. A truss has been removed or embedded in the rubble crosswall at the upper end of the hall. At the inner room parlour end there is a hip cruck and over the hall a true raised cruck truss with soffit-chamfered cambered collar. There is a plainer version over the shippon. The shippon roof is clean but the rest is heavily smoke-blackened from the original open hearth fire, and this includes the purlins, common rafters, battens and underside of the original rye thatch. Rear block roofspace is inaccessible but the base of a C17 A-frame truss shows. The stable contains a pair of doorways with a small window to left and hayloft loading hatch over the right doorway, all containing plain C19 joinery, on the inner (west facing) side. The roof is gable-ended and the end wall contains a drain hole, dung hatch, and at the top, an owl hole. Inside, the hayloft is carried on roughly- finished crossbeams. The roof is carried on A-frame trusses with pegged lap-jointed collars, the truss nearest the house of heavier scantling than the other. The rear passage door of the house leads out into a small service courtyard terraced into the hillslope, enclosed by a stone rubble wall and including a woodshed and pump house which contains a large granite trough. In front of the hall and inner room a small garden is also terraced into the hillside and it is enclosed by a low granite wall including a high proportion of squared blocks and with rounded ashlar coping along the right side. The space in front of the doorways (between the garden and stables) is laid with pitched cobbles. Higher Shilstone is an outstanding Dartmoor longhouse. First of all it is very attractively sited and, like many of the older moorland houses, tucked tightly into the hillslopes. It also forms a group with its associated C17 farmbuildings. Secondly it is remarkable that such a modestly-sized farmhouse should consistently be built to such a high standard from its medieval roof to the 1656 front doorway. Moreover it has had only very superficial modernisations since the C17 and is therefore remarkably well-preserved. As early as 1935 R. H. Worth recognized the house as one of the finest surviving examples of the Dartmoor longhouse type. In short it is a house of national importance. Source. R. H. Worth The Dartmoor House. Trans. Plymouth. Inst. XVIII (1937) pp 34 -47

Listing NGR: SX6601390151


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

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Books and journals
'Transactions of the Devonshire Association' in Transactions of the Devonshire Association, , Vol. 18, (1937), 34-47


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

End of official listing

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