A clue to an earlier past
Generations of farming families have lived here. Behind an unassuming farmhouse front there is something much earlier. The clue is in one old roof truss in a bedroom which belongs to a house of about 1600. It had a sleeping loft above the main living-room and a door from the house to a cow byre (later a barn) under the same roof. At the other end a parlour wing was added in about 1700. One of our visitors had been here as a child evacuated from wartime London and has left a moving account in the logbook: ‘Missing are the neighbours who came to stare at the new children … Missing too the central fire, the cake hissing on the girdle … the hideous steamy Mondays … and the grisly boiled pig and tapioca.’
Your own fields to explore
The house has a beautiful view and we own the fields behind, a perfect place for children to let off steam while you gather around the open fire and plan the next walk. You can also cross them to get into Old Radnor. The hillside is particularly attractive, with rough pasture full of mysterious hollows, green hummocks, anthills and thorn bushes. In Old Radnor you will find a few scattered cottages, a fine fifteenth-century church containing the oldest organ case in Britain, and the Harp Inn, which we once owned and restored. Charles I is known to have been here because he complained about the food. Offa's Dyke is not far away and Hay-on-Wye and Llandrindod Wells are within a 15 mile drive
‘We would love to return here; the lack of clutter is a pleasure to experience.’
‘For botanists; there is a very good bog at Tregaron.’
From the logbook
A once common building type
Stockwell Farm is an example of a once common type of building in which men and animals lived together under one roof - a broad definition within which there are of course many variations: the animals can live on the ground floor with the family above, or they can live side by side on one floor, for example. Of the latter sort one, found in a number of areas in the British Isles but most commonly in Yorkshire, Wales and Devon, folk historians have somewhat loosely called the Long-house. But there is considerable debate and disagreement among historians of vernacular buildings as to what distinguishes a true Long-house (that such a thing exists is conceded) from many similar buildings.
More strictly these buildings should all be called house-and-byre homesteads, indicating simply that they had the living quarters for the family at one end and a byre for the animals at the other. Usually, though not necessarily, one continuous roof covered both parts. And it is within this wider categorisation that both the true Long-house, and Stockwell belong.
Stockwell Farm has been described as a Long-house but it does not in fact conform in at least one major respect to what are now usually regarded as the main characteristics. I.C. Peate, who first formulated the term "Long-house" in his book The Welsh House threw the net wide and said that the only essential feature was that of internal access to the cow house. On the other hand, Peter Smith, author of Houses of the Welsh Countryside considers a far more important distinguishing feature to be that the house was actually entered through the byre, along a feeding walk which acted as a division between men and animals. He writes on one occasion 'if we allow any house with internal access to the byre to be described as a Long-house, much confusion will arise, and many fundamentally dissimilar types of plan will be placed in the same category'.
So if we follow Iorwerth Peate, Stockwell Farm is a Long-house, since at one stage the door between house and byre was there - although it was later blocked up. In fact, recent archaeological evidence suggests that this door was not an original element of the frame as a new lintel had been slotted into the frame and this was topped by a contemporary gable truss.
Common also to the Long-house are the steps up from byre to kitchen level, a means of preventing the accumulated manure of the cows from spreading into the upper end or "pen uchaf".
But if we follow Peter Smith it is not, since the living quarters always had their own entrance, quite separate from that leading into the byre.
The date of the house
Vernacular buildings such as this are extremely difficult to date, since the same methods of construction and plan types continued to be used until surprisingly late dates. However, from the fact that Stockwell Farm was not built with a chimney, and that the timbers of the original roof, one of which can be seen in the bedroom, look medieval, we can surmise that it was built in the late Middle Ages or, more probably, the 16th or even the early 17th century.
Richard Morriss states that this is likely to be a cruck frame, which would suggest an earlier open hall. However, this type of design continued to be used in vernacular buildings well into the 16th century and so accurate dating is difficult without timber analysis. At this time the living end would simply have consisted of a single ground floor room, with a loft above for sleeping. The floor of the kitchen was of stone flags, as it still is. The floor of the byre was of cobbles.
Later, perhaps about 1700, a parlour or sitting room was added onto the western end, with a bedroom above; also the south west bedroom and the stairs. The pale oak floor beams can be seen in the sitting room. The addition was built of stone up to the first floor, to match the earlier part of the house; above that it was timber-frame and plaster.
Sometime around 1830 the gable end of the newer part was re-faced quite grandly with dressed stone. The windows were given stone arches. The fireplace in the sitting room was probably put in then. It was possibly at about this date that it was no longer considered healthy to have the animals living immediately next to the house and access between the two was blocked off. Whether cows were still kept in the byre, or whether it became a barn at this point, we don’t know.
The whole roof of the long house would have been of stone tiles, as the north side is now. The west end was probably re-roofed in slate at the same time that the stone facing was added.
The interior retains its original single open space
When the Landmark Trust took on Stockwell Farm, we did as little as possible to the house. Inside all the partitions were left the same as before, only a bathroom being fitted into the smallest bedroom and the kitchen into the larder.
The door leading into the byre was unblocked. The floors are all original, stone flags in the kitchen, cobbles in the animals’ quarters, good oak boards in two bedrooms and pine boards in the east bedroom. It is in this bedroom that the fine oak beams of the oldest part of the farm are visible.
On the front of the house the white wash which had distinguished the farmhouse from the farm buildings was removed so that the whole range should be the same. A new dormer window was added to light the east bedroom above the front door. This was later found to leak, and so in 1984 it was replaced with one to match that on the back of the house, facing the hill, which dates from the 19th century.
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