Channel Tunnel Rail Link Section 1

Stuart Foreman, 2004 (updated 2009)

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Talbot House, Sellindge, Kent. Archaeological Record in advance of and during dismantling


Talbot House. View from the south-west in 1993.

Oxford Archaeology (OA) was commissioned by Balfour Beatty Major Projects Ltd (BBMP) to undertake a programme of archaeological recording in advance of, and during the dismantling of the Grade II Listed Talbot House, Sellindge, Kent (NGR: 610736 137700,) for re-erection at Swan Lane, Sellindge (NGR: 611446 18950). The house has been dismantled in advance of the construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) in whose path it lies.

Although the history and development of the house was known in outline from previous studies, the current study has allowed for a significant amount of detail to be added to this general understanding and as such can be seen to have been a worthwhile exercise. A number of features not previously identified or not fully understood from pre-dismantling inspections have beenexposed during the dismantling process. The evolution of the house, from its origins in the mid-15th century to the present day, has been broken down into a series of six principal phases.

Talbot House originated in the middle years of the 15th century as a traditional, timber-framed 'Wealden' house, combining a centrally located 2-bay open hall (with recessed front elevation) with storeyed, jettied end bays beneath a single, unitary roof. The building as recorded retains a high proportion of primary structural fabric, including such details as primary wattle and daub infill panels, allowing for a fairly detailed reconstruction of its original appearance. Unfortunately the central 'open' truss with moulded tie beam and crown-post were removed during modifications undertaken in the mid-16th century. The house displays a standard range of structural and decorative features, though it also includes a number of less common structural details. A series of five 'combed' daub panels revealed below the dais beam of the hall during the dismantling of the house represents a discovery of particular, intrinsic interest and the inclusion of a representational human figure would appear to be a unique and unparalleled discovery. These panels were removed prior to conservation and have been deposited with the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, Singleton, West Sussex, a leading centre for the preservation and study of the vernacular architecture of south-eastern England.

In the mid-16th century, an upper floor was inserted into the open hall and the former open fire was enclosed within a timber framed, single-flue stack. Such improvements represent a standard development in the evolution from traditional, medieval open hall to post-medieval storeyed house and reflect a contemporary shift in attitudes towards comfort and privacy. The inserted floor at Talbot House includes a number of features of interest and is remarkable for its almost complete survival. A programme of dendrochronological sampling and analysis has allowed for the insertion of the floor to be firmly dated to between 1546-66AD.

The replacement of the simple, single-flue timber stack by the double-flue brick stack in the late 17th century represents the conclusion of the process of conversion begun c.150 years earlier, again increasing the comfort of the house to reflect contemporary tastes. Associated with these changes, a radical conversion of the medieval crown-post roof to a post-medieval staggered buttpurlin form was undertaken though thankfully a high proportion of the medieval rafters were reused in this process.

The later phases of modification comprised the underbuilding of the jettied upper stories of the end bays and the creation of a flush, brick built elevation with tile hanging to the upper storey, effectively masking the medieval arrangements of the building externally. Following the construction of the London - Ashford mainline railway in the early 1840s, the property was divided into three 'cottages' and converted for use as labourer's accommodation, in which form it remained up until a programme of conversion undertaken in 1985 restored the house to a single dwelling.

The results of archaeological excavations, undertaken following the dismantling of the building, have proved to be somewhat disappointing, the paucity of evidence exposed being the, perhaps inevitable, result of the periodical programmes of refurbishment and modification of the structure over its extended history, in particular the lowering of the internal floor levels and the laying of concrete floor slabs in the recent past.

Other material from the programme linked to this report.

Phase 2

Below is a list of Phase 2 assessments in which other data from this site may be found.

East of Station Road/Church Lane, Smeeth, Kent Post Excavation Assessment
Watching Brief Area 440, Kent Integrated Site Report

Phase 1

Evaluation and Interim Excavation Data

Other evaluation and interim excavation and field data associated with this report can be found in the site list.