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History / Poplar Cottage

Poplar, from Washington in West Sussex, is an example of a wasteland or wayside cottage.  This is a distinctive type of building with a roof that is hipped at one end and gabled at the other.  The gable end contains a smoke bay.  Smoke bays represent an intermediate stage of development between the open hall and full chimneys but the period of their use (early 16th to mid 17th centuries) coincides with the introduction of full chimneys and in some houses there is evidence that smoke bays & chimneys co-existed.  The cottage was built as an encroachment on the edge of Washington Common.  It had about one sixth of an acre of land.  Poplar has two ground floor rooms, 1 heated and 1 unheated.  The heated room is usually referred to as a kitchen (occasionally hall) and is where the family would have cooked, eaten and sat.  The unheated room would have been a service room of some kind, such as a buttery, a milkhouse (dairy) or brewhouse.   Both upstairs rooms would have been used for sleeping & for storage. 

We donít know who the earliest occupants of Poplar were but they are likely to have been husbandmen or low status craftsmen such as shoemakers, weavers, tailors, bricklayers, brickmakers or masons.  The occupants of Poplar would have derived a substantial part of their income from the exercise of common rights.  It has been estimated that pasturing 1 cow on the common could constitute as much as 40% of a labourerís income & fuel rights could have been worth between 10 and 20% of earnings.

Suggested Topics

  • Unit 2 What were homes like long ago?

Workshops Featuring this Building

Life on a Tudor Farmstead  Tudor Farming module Details
Side by Side Farming Tours   Details

Other Information

Fireplaces The Museum's buildings contain examples of the development of fireplaces from a simple open hearth through smoke bays to chimneys.  A tangible example of design evolution. Details

Detailed Research

For more details of the social and economic history of Poplar Cottage and the surrounding area click here