A hall house dating from the C15, with some alterations in the C18 and C19, with the adjacent C18 and earlier house.
Reasons for Designation
20-22 Steep Hill, a house of the C15 with alterations in the C18 and later, formerly The Harlequin Inn, is listed at Grade II*, for the following principal reasons:
* the building, a hall house constructed in the C15, has a technically-complex timber frame to allow for the topography of the steep hill on which it stands, creating a first-floor hall originally with an open hearth;
* the high-status structure retains smoke-blackened timbers in the crown-post roof over the hall, and an uncommonly-surviving, deeply-coved canopy of honour over the dais end of the hall;
* the building’s original plan and evolution are clearly evident in the well-preserved fabric, including the later insertion of a substantial chimney stack and the gradual creation of more private spaces within the house.
* as an evolved house which offers good evidence of changing social customs since its construction;
* for its long history as part of the commercial life of central Lincoln, in its use as The Harlequin Inn from the mid-C18 to 1931, and as a prominent bookshop for the remainder of the C20.
* with the large number of other listed buildings along both sides of Steep Hill, including some buildings of contemporary or earlier date.
20, 21 and 22 Steep Hill consists of a large timber-framed, jettied house of the C15 with some earlier fabric, formerly 21 and 22 Steep Hill, and the larger part of the former 20 Steep Hill, a C18 house with later shop window.
Although the precise origins of 21 and 22 Steep Hill are unknown, an analysis of its building fabric and plan form indicates that it was originally built as a hall house in the late C15, on the site of C12 building, of which it may incorporate some fabric. This building was constructed on Steep Hill, aptly named, with the ground falling sharply from north to south. The house had a conventional arrangement of (raised) ground-floor hall (running north-south) with solar in the east-west cross wing, which was set across the northern end of the hall range; with shop units below, in the irregular, increasing-height basement level which exploits the falling ground. The ground-floor hall, which included a canopy over the dais end, was otherwise open to the roof, with a two-storey section to the south of the range, housing an inner room with a small solar over; and in the north cross-wing, a large solar, open to the roof, with a crown-post roof above.
The hall was ceiled over after about 1600, with a chimney stack and fireplaces inserted, rising from the basement, through the hall and into the new upper room. The building was extended to the south, possibly in the C17 but certainly by the C18, with the addition of a further two bays (now 20 Steep Hill). A separate building was added adjoining 20 Steep Hill, further south again, also in the C18 (19 Steep Hill, qv).
The building became an inn soon after 1744, when the William Herbert’s Company of Comedians started to play at Lincoln’s first theatre, around the corner in Drury Lane; the Steep Hill buildings became the Harlequin and Columbine Theatre Inn, named after pantomime characters; later known simply as The Harlequin. A brewhouse was added adjoining the rear (west) of the southward range by 1835, when the lease on the building was taken on by F & C Winn, brewers. By 1862, the site included the brewhouse, yards and a smith’s shop, converted from an earlier stable. Modifications were made to the roof structure of the cross wing in the C20, and the hipped gable at the southern end of the hall range was encased within a new straight gable in the same period.
The Harlequin continued in use as a public house until 1931, when it was closed down by the Corporation of Lincoln. It became a bookshop, in which use it remained until 2017.
The southern additions, forming 19 and 20 Steep Hill, were remodelled later in the C19. 19 Steep Hill appropriated the southernmost ground-floor bay of 20 Steep Hill, and a new shopfront encompassing a door and window was inserted across the ground floors of both buildings, with a second matching window in the second bay of 20 Steep Hill. This building was refronted in modern brick in the early C20.
A hall house dating from the C15, with some alterations in the C18 and C19, with the adjacent C18 and earlier house.
Timber framed, on a rendered stone basement; brick to the southern extension; brick stacks and plain clay tile roof, with brick stack and Roman tiles to the southern extension.
T-plan, with cross-wing running east-west at the north end, with north main entrance; hall range running southwards from the south side of the cross wing, and incorporating most of the adjoining building to the south. Irregular lean-to additions to the rear (west) side of the north-south range.
The C15 hall house is timber framed, with close studding; the timber windows have moulded mullions and transoms. The building has its principal entrance to the north, in a range which forms the solar cross wing. The range is of two bays, and two storeys, the upper floor jettied out, with a pitched roof. The ground floor has the entrance to the right, with an ogee doorhead partly obscured by a C18 doorframe housing a C18 plank door. To the left is a C19 canted bay window with hipped roof, covered in fishscale tile. The first floor has two moulded timber mullioned and transomed windows. The building is jettied on both sides, with a moulded arched brace carrying a dragon beam, rising from a moulded springer on the corner post.
The eastern elevation, to Steep Hill, has two jettied storeys to the cross wing, which has tension braces and jowled posts to the raised ground floor. A single jetty carries the two-storey, timber-framed hall range over the rendered, stone basement, which increases in height from north to south. The jetties are carried on moulded stone corbels at either end, and arched braces for the bays between. The hall range has a mullioned and transomed hall window to the right bay, which is all close studded, and to the left bay, close studding and a smaller but similar window to the lower floor, and
wider studding with tension braces above the rail marking the floor division at the southern end of the range. The south end gable is visible above the roof of the adjoining building; this has later close studding replacing the earlier hipped roof.
The basement has a shop window with dentilled cornice dating from the C19, flanked to the left by a half-glazed door and to the right by a C20 shop window and a pair of half-glazed doors. To right again, are two small timber casements.
Attached at the southern end of the range is a two-storey, two-bay brick building (No. 20 Steep Hill), with its ground floor running roughly level with the basement of the timber framed range, and following the falling ground to the south. The main elevation to Steep Hill has a refaced brick front with timber casement windows to each of the bays at first-floor level, in segmental-arched openings. The ground floor has an entrance door to the far right, against the party wall with 21 Steep Hill; this has a rectangular overlight. To its left, a shop window with dentilled cornice similar to that in the basement of 21 Steep Hill. The ground-floor left-hand bay is now part of 19 Steep Hill (separately listed at Grade II). The roof is covered in plain clay tile.
The rear (western) elevations are irregular, largely consisting of the early-C19 lean-to brewhouse additions, which obscure the earlier elevations.
The timber framed ranges rise through basement and two storeys. The northern end of the basement, under the cross wing, has been gutted and its ceiling removed, leaving the room open to the ground floor of the wing. A suspended timber corridor, matchboarded, probably added in the late C19 or early C20, gives access from the street entrance at the north end, the corridor running back over the former basement area. This area houses the lowest stage of the large chimney stack inserted in about 1600, which runs through the full height of the building, sited within the former hall and backing onto the rooms in the cross wing. The face into the northern, cross-wing room has a plain stone fire surround with a segmental-arched opening and a wide iron hob-grate with some inserted Delft tiles. This is topped by an imported carved lintel with cusped tracery, dating from the mid-C14. The southernmost room is divided from the rest of the basement level by a partition wall, with an arch-braced beam. The former external wall between 21 Steep Hill and the later building to the south (20 Steep Hill) has been breached to give access between the buildings; the wall is very thick, and constructed from large stone blocks, squared. The floor is covered in plain red tiles. Three later steps lead down into the ground floor of 20 Steep Hill. At the rear of this range is attached the former brewhouse, an irregular lean-to addition, with quarry-tiled floor, and a short brick-built flight of steps leading back into the main range.
The first floor of the hall range houses the former open hall and an inner room, both now divided with later axial partitions. The hall has its large stack at the northern end, with a late-C19 or early C20 fireplace and surround. The hall was formerly open to the roof, but has since been ceiled over. The chamfered arch braces of the roof trusses are visible in the hall. One has a finely-carved head stop at its junction with the wall post. At the upper, dais end of the room, the deeply-coved canopy survives, across the full width of the former hall (now divided axially). This canopy, its timbers fixed to the south end hall truss, protected the family seated on the dais from soot particles from the open hearth. The partitioned part of the former hall at the rear of the building is a small room with a late-C19 stair to the upper rooms, and the continuation of the canopy of honour. The inner room, possibly formerly a buttery, is partially subdivided to allow a stair to rise from the adjoining room in 20 Steep Hill. The room has a massive chamfered axial beam, and a much later inserted stack against the south end wall, with a C19 fire surround.
The space above the hall created by the insertion of the ceiling below was not intended for habitation, and as a result the smoke-blackened timbers of the central roof truss have survived. The roof is of crown-post type. At the southern end, a closed, arch-braced, collar-rafter truss rises above the front edge of the coved canopy below. The curved timber structure of the canopy survives almost unaltered, now contained within a narrow space by a later lath-and-plaster partition to the south, dividing it from the former small solar above the inner room. This room, now ceiled, was formerly open to its roof, with a hipped gable, which was superseded by a C19 timber framed gable currently extant, though the hipped roof timbers remain in situ. The timbers visible above the canopy show that the roof was formed from paired common rafters with collars and collar-purlin, between the arch-braced trusses with slightly cambered tie beams.
The second-floor room in the cross-wing, now ceiled, has a heavy, chamfered beam to the former open truss, which retains its crown post, arch braces and tie beam. A C19 cast-iron fireplace is set in the rear of the stack inserted in the hall range behind.
20 Steep Hill, which is open at its ground-floor level to the basement of 21 and 22 Steep Hill, has a single room on the ground floor, with exposed chamfered beams with run-out stops. The siting of the chamfer and stop may indicate that the building was originally timber framed and jettied to the main elevation, though there is little remaining evidence to confirm this hypothesis. The remainder of the ground floor now forms part of the adjacent building, 19 Steep Hill, which is separately listed. The first floor has a single room which oversails the portion of the ground floor which is now part of the adjacent building. The room has a C20 brick fireplace in the rear wall, and a shallow cupboard with late-C19 or early C20 joinery, which may have been constructed earlier. The roof dates in its entirety from about 1900, though there is a small portion of a possible earlier roof embedded in the rear wall, perhaps a remnant of an earlier timber-framed building; it includes parts of a tie beam, rafter and possibly a curved brace.