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At the July meeting Dr. Ann Kneif explained the construction and uses of Wealden Hall Houses, illustrated with examples in Southfleet.

Called Wealden because the timber was sourced from the forests in the weald of Kent and Sussex, they were affordable only to be built by rich people. The roof was thatched and the first floor often sported a jetty, ie it was wider than the ground. This little dodge was to avoid tax which was levied on the size of the ground floor. A crown post supported the whole roof. Originally heated by a central fire with no chimney they were smoky places. By the end of 16th century fireplaces were being added with inglenooks and chimneys on the outside of the building. In the 17th century an act of parliament put a stop to any timber being cut down in the Weald and no more Hall Houses were built. Medieval water was too dangerous to drink so even children drank beer at 2% alcohol. Food was served on a wooden platter known as a trencher – hence the word trencherman – someone who enjoys their food. Beeboles present more of a mystery. Niches in the walls of houses, dated at 1490 are now thought to have been used for the winter storage of bees.


Report written by Polly Chandler.

Last Revised: 31-Jul-2010

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