Getting Your Bearings
Updated: Nov 9, 2021
It is difficult to understand a project without getting your bearings around the building in question first. Outsiders, be it consultants, craftspeople or interested third-parties, need some assistance in understanding the relationship the building has with itself.
Orleton Manor has had a number of different extensions and alterations but the core of the house is its early seventeenth century hall range, with projecting east and west ranges. The close-studded timber frame and the size of the building indicate it was of high status. Its framing is not as simple as it could be and is quite different to many other buildings of this style and period in the local area.
The Hall Range
The Hall Range (A on the plan) runs the length of the front elevation of the house. The ground floor appears to have been one large open room, based upon its carved chamber beams, with a screens passage (a close studded wall with a central doorway) running north-south at the centre of the hall.
In the mid seventeenth century, the porch with gable end was added with a room above. The addition of this new opening shifted the screens passage creating a new service room separate from the main hall.
Also on the north elevation is a two-storey bay window. This was previously a first-floor oriel window resting upon decorative brackets forming another porch entranceway below but this has since been blocked up to expand internal floorspace.
The hall has an indent on either end of the rear elevation to accommodate the two wing ranges, which suggests that it was all built at a similar time. However, as expected when working with old structures, nothing quite lines up or is symmetrical – the framing pattern of the trusses in the Hall Range into the East Range do not mirror those from Hall Range into West Range. This might well suggest that the Hall Range and the East Range were built as an L shape but it is very hard to definitively tell.
The East and West Ranges
The East (C) and West (B) Ranges run off of the Hall Range. Both ranges have had their gable ends extended to the south. The West Range was a service wing as told by its large utilitarian fireplace and bread oven. The East Range was built as a solar, the private living and sleeping quarters of the family. As a result of its higher status, the East Range contains a panelled drawing room on the ground floor and a state bedroom on the first floor complete with decorative fireplace and panelling. In the late nineteenth century the state bedroom had its original truss removed and replaced with a scissor truss. This allowed the room to be barrel vaulted as it is found today.
Due to the layout of the house and evidence of mortices on the corner posts of the East and West Ranges, it is suggested that Orleton Manor may have once been quadrangular on plan. The South Range, if ever constructed, could have occupied the area shown by the black line in the plan forming a quadrangle. Croft Castle and Ightham Mote are examples of historic buildings on a square plan.
There are a number of additions to the historic core of the building which show its evolution over time.
Major remodelling works were undertaken during the late Georgian era, at which point sash windows and swathes of panelling were added, but also included the construction of a new stair-tower (D). There was likely a stair-tower here previously and directly opposite at the intersection of the Hall and the West Ranges, as the frame tells us that there was once a doorway at first-floor.
The largest addition to the historic floorplan of Orleton Manor was added in the twenty-first century. Unfortunately lean-to rubble stone outbuildings, including a game larder, which occupied two thirds of the length of the western elevation were demolished and replaced with a large extension dubbed the ‘Sun Room’ complete with porch and boot room, directly connected to the West Range. This extension was built without satisfying planning conditions and without listed building consent. The owners are looking to rectify this planning faux pas retrospectively and make the extension less visually at odds with the appearance of the main house.