The Museum's buildings contain
examples of the development of fireplaces from a
simple open hearth through smoke bays to chimneys. The building are
Note - numbers refer to entries in the Museum
The Hangleton cottage is based on archaeological
evidence alone, and for this reason the hearth is the most authentic
reconstruction of an open hearth at the Museum, as it was copied from
the one that was discovered at the original site. It is made of clay
tiles set on edge, like our other medieval hearths, but is an irregular
oval in shape, rather than square.
Bayleaf is the Museum’s best example of a hall house,
of the particular type known as a “Wealden house” because of the
recessed bay in the front wall of the hall. The fire is built on a
rectangular open hearth in the centre of the hall, reconstructed
following archaeological evidence from other hall houses in our region:
the hearth is made of roof tiles set on edge, and is positioned about
seven feet from the dais end partition.
Longport Farmhouse (Entrance and shop)
The chimney in Longport has been omitted from the
reconstruction in order to create space for the visitor entrance to the
Museum, but its outline has been marked in bricks on the floor. It was
built in the early-mid seventeenth century when the “hall” range (now
the shop) was added to the mid-sixteenth century cross wing.
Longport Farmhouse: the hall fireplace
There were three hearths, two back-to-back on the ground floor and one
upstairs. The hall fireplace was ten feet wide and would have been used
for cooking. Each jamb was formed from a large upright stone block, and
a timber lintel spanned the opening. The other ground-floor fireplace,
for the parlour, was constructed with ashlar stone blocks forming
chamfered sides and an arched head. The upstairs fireplace was built of
brick with a wooden lintel.
Longport Farmhouse: the parlour fireplace
House from Walderton c15
The chimney, fireplace and oven in the
house from Walderton are the most intensively studied reconstructions in
the Museum. The chimney was dismantled course-by-course, with a plan
being drawn of every course — over eighty altogether — because only in
this way could the complex shape and design be unravelled.
The chimney was inserted into the medieval timber-framed house when the
walls were rebuilt in flint and brick in the early seventeenth century.
It has one hearth on each floor. The most interesting feature is the
oven, which was attached to the back of the chimney at an angle, with a
flue to take smoke from the oven into the main shaft of the chimney. The
original oven was later rebuilt and a succession of four ovens could be
detected. In the fireplace itself, notice the recess on the right,
probably used as a seat, and the other recesses in the back wall. The
cupboard on the left of the fireplace is original.
House from Walderton.
Details of the ground floor fireplace (left). Elevation of the
Winkhurst Tudor kitchen
Winkhurst was originally the kitchen
forming part of a larger farmhouse, and we have erected modern buildings
to represent the “footprint” of the original house. The interior has
been reconstructed as a working kitchen, with a large hearth, an oven
and a copper. All these elements are conjectural, but based on known
Medieval house from North
The hearth in North Cray has been
positioned following the same archaeological evidence as Bayleaf, except
that here we have used a different pattern of tiles, copied from an
excavated medieval hearth in Middlesex.
Poplar Cottage c17
Poplar cottage shows an important transitional stage in the story of fireplaces.
Instead of an open hall with the fire on a central hearth, Poplar cottage has a
“smoke bay” in which the smoke from the fire is confined. Seen from the living
room it appears to have a large inglenook fireplace, but instead of being
gathered into a narrow flue, as in a chimney, the smoke rises into the upper
part of the smoke bay.
Poplar Cottage: the smoke bay partition showing (stippled)
the area to which smoke is confined in the smoke bay.
We are not certain how the smoke escaped at the top: we have reconstructed the
gable with a small triangle open at the top, but it is possible that there was a
structure like the top of a chimney to allow the smoke to escape vertically.
Pendean has a fine and typical example of a farmhouse chimney with three
hearths. One of the two ground-floor hearths is slightly wider than the other,
probably indicating that it was used for cooking, and this hearth (which is in
the end room) also has a bake oven opening off it (although there is some doubt
that the oven opening has been correctly
Photographic evidence from an early post card has enabled us to reconstruct the
chimney top in its correct original form.
Pendean Farmhouse: the chimney stack.
Pendean Farmhouse: the original design of the chimney cap.
House extension from Reigate
The house extension from Reigate was built in the seventeenth century and
provided a high quality heated parlour and chamber. Both fireplaces survived and
have surrounds of Reigate stone (Upper Greensand). Their design is typical of
the period, but a rare survival is that the upper fireplace retains some of its
original painted decoration on the stone, and an overmantel painting of Saint
George and the Dragon.
House extension from Reigate: section showing the fireplaces.
Like the toll cottage, Whittaker’s cottages have a two-room ground plan, with a
fireplace only in the front room. Although quite small, the fireplace contained
a range for cooking. The original range did not survive, but we have installed a
suitable one that was made locally in Chichester.
In the reconstruction, the right-hand cottage has been left unfinished inside to
expose the structure, including the chimney. Notice how its footings have
spreader courses of brickwork to distribute the load.
Whittaker's cottages: section showing the chimney stack.
Toll cottage c19
The toll cottage has two rooms, only one of which was heated. The original
fireplace and chimney were removed after the cottage was damaged by a lorry in
the 1960s and they were reconstructed at the Museum from photographic evidence.