In 1978, Granville Rudd, founder
of the Longsands Museum, was taking part in an archaeological
dig on the piece of land next door to London Road
Farm, opposite Porch Farm. London Road Farm
was derelict and had been empty for about five or
six years, and was being used as a tool store.
31 London Road Godmanchester
Granville was intrigued by the house
and he and his wife Audrey decided to buy it, investigate
its history and restore it, although its dilapidated
state and the lack of an electricity supply made
the business of looking after their three children
in such surroundings a daunting task!
They moved in in 1980, and began
work straight away. The exterior was covered in
pebbledash when the Rudds moved in, which had to
be removed, and then rotten timbers and panelling
had to be replaced. At first it was thought
that the house was Tudor, as almost every timber
was covered with wallpaper or plasterboard, and
the only beam which was exposed, in the present
sitting room, had a Tudor moulding. The support
to the beam in the picture on the left was carved
by Granville to match the main beam which is original.
Beam with Tudor moulding
The Rudds stripped off the plaster
from the walls, and dug up the floors to try and
find out more about the house, and as they did
so the date of the house moved earlier and earlier.
It was an exciting day when they stripped the
plaster off the landing upstairs because they
discovered what was known as a 'scarf joint' :
two timbers sliced at an angle so the cut the
end of each piece is at a 45-degree angle, the
pieces then being strapped together:(Middle English
skarf, as in scarfnail, probably
from Old Norse skarfr, end piece of a board
cut off on the bias)
That discovery moved
the date back to about 1500. Granville then did
an excavation on the floor in the present sitting
room, as he realised that the floor above the
sitting room and adjacent dining room were later
additions, as were the lobby leading to the kitchen,
known as the 'outshut', and the kitchen itself.
Originally the house would have been a rectangular
open hall house, with no fireplaces, no ceilings
and an earth floor.
The house lies about 18 inches
below pavement level and another 15 inches below
that was excavated to the original earth floor.This
meant digging through a concrete floor from the
1950s, a brick Victorian floor, a brick 18th
century floor, then an earth Tudor floor, finally
reaching the clay of the 15th century
floor, beneath which was the Roman road surface.
Granville uncovered a large circular area of burnt
floor which extended into the present dining room,
and a row of post holes parallel to the current
fireplace and also a large white area. The
circular patch of burnt earth was the site of
the main fireplace, a simple bonfire, which burned
in the centre of the rectangular hall, on which
the inhabitants of the house did all their cooking,
and which kept them warm in winter. The post holes
had been used to secure tree trunks in the ground,
which were then lashed together and used as scaffolding
to build the chimneys and fireplaces in about
1530. The white patch was the remains of
the lime mortar used for the chimneys.
A smaller summer hearth was also
discovered against the back wall and slightly
to the right of centre on which some glazed pottery
was found. This was the remains of a large pot
which had stood on the hearth, had got broken
and been buried as other floors were laid on top
of it. That pot finally dated the house
at between 1380 and 1430. To give some idea
of the historical context, the battle of Agincourt
took place in 1415, Joan of Arc was burned in
1431, and Dick Whittington was Lord Mayor of London
in the 1380s.
The house was built on the Roman
road which came out of Godmanchester through the
gates where the Roman Gate flats now stand the
centre of the road would have passed through the
middle of the sitting room. The road had
to be re-routed around the house which accounts
for the slight kink in the present road. There
were some windows, but they were not glazed, and
would have had wattle shutters to keep out the
worst of the weather. A window frame in the dining
room shows evidence of the grooves into which
the shutters would have been fitted.The construction
of the house is known as a 'four bay construction'
which means there are four main timbers going
from the horizontal timber above the plinth up
to the roof, and then smaller timbers for support
The front of
the house in 2001, showing the four bay construction
Porch Farm across the road is an eight
bay construction, so it is twice the length. London
Road Farm was damaged by fire in the mid seventeenth
century, so that the whole of the front had to be reframed
and windows were put in; the present ones at the front
of the house are copies but several original ones remain.
When the Rudds moved in, the sitting
room was divided into three, and there was no dividing
wall between the sitting room and dining room.
All the inglenooks were filled in, and in the sitting
room a brick fireplace had been installed. Some
of the oak timbers around the house have remains of
the bark still showing. When a house was built in the
15th century, there was no great shortage
of oak, so all the timbers in the house are whole tree
The trees were cut
down and assembled flat on the ground. They were
then numbered, taken apart and brought to the
site where they were re-erected, matching up the
numbers.In the room which is the present bathroom,
a brick gantry was found, and a drain in the floor
leading to a hole in the outside wall, and it
was thought that this was where the pigs were
killed so that the blood could flow down the drain
to the yard outside. The beam in the bathroom
looked like a sponge but as it was a complete
oak tree, the heart of the oak still remained
and was still extremely hard.
Upstairs is a wooden
hearth, which had been painted. It was first
thought that it was a stone hearth because it
rang when hit by a hammer, but when the paint
was taken off it turned out to a tiled hearth
bordered with oak which had become as hard as
from 1795 - 1800 showing the oak surround to the
The 'outshut' where
the present back door is situated was one of the
last rooms to be added to the house in late 17th
century. The site of the original back door
has been lost. There is a 'finds' cabinet in the
outshut filled with broken pottery and glassware
excavated from a well found behind the house.
The original outside wall of the house is now
the inner outshut wall. The timbers at the
entrance to the kitchen are cut away to enable
barrels to be moved through easily. The kitchen
was built in the early 17th century.
It was not possible for the Rudds to excavate
the kitchen floor which is a pity because it would
have lain outside the back door of the earlier
house where rubbish would have been thrown.
The fireplace in the kitchen
was of a vaulted brick construction, and in
the left hand side was a small cupboard which
was part of a bigger cupboard. A large quantity
of broken clay pipes were found sealed inside.
The site of
the cupboard in the kitchen inglenook
On the back wall
of the kitchen which had been the outside of the original
house, some red painted scrollwork panels were found.
There were two panels which have been preserved. On
one of them was what is considered nowadays a very rude
word, which must have been written by somebody literate,
and as it was on the outside of the house, everyone
could see it! Perhaps it meant something different then!
The lead window is about 1625. It has been re-leaded
with most of the original glass still in place. There
is a blocked doorway leading from the kitchen into the
late 19th century house next door which was
built as an extension to this house. A game larder was
added in the early 18th century, and lies
well below ground level.
A narrow staircase leads from the
kitchen up to the bedrooms. At the top of the
stairs are two doors opposite each other. One
led to the loft over the stables where the male
servants and farm workers would have slept, and
the other to a bedroom over the kitchen area where
the female staff slept. On the bedroom door frame
is carved a series of notches, perhaps a record
kept of conquests!
Notches on the
A roll of several sheets of paper
was found behind some plaster in this bedroom
which turned out to be the Poor Law papers for
outdoor relief in Hilton, which were dated between
1890 and 1892. One of the sheets contained
the account of an old man who had become ill.
He was looked after for a year, then he died and
was buried, and the sum total of his keep was
£1 7s 6d. These papers are now at the Huntingdon
A cupboard in the
shower room shows the amount of slope in the outdoor
The Rudds put up a wall in the
larger third bedroom to form a corridor leading
from the two smaller bedrooms to the main staircase,
and they used Georgian panelling rescued from
the dining room.
The beautiful oak floor in the third
bedroom was installed when the ceiling was inserted
above the dining room in the 17th century.
Diane Candy who used to live in the Old Manor House
in Cambridge Street said that they had found a lot of
tin which had been used to patch the floors there. She
had been told that that there used to be a chap called
Tinny Smith who used to go round putting bits of tin
in the holes in floors. A few pieces were found in London
When the ceiling was built above
the sitting room in about 1530, the staircase
to the new first floor would have been a ladder.
No evidence was found of this however, so it is
not known where this would have been. The next
staircase was built before the 17th
century fire and would have come up across the
present front door. When the house was burnt,
and the front was reframed, another staircase
was built, this time from the dining room, turning
across to a landing where the present stairwell
is. When the Rudds rebuilt the staircase,
they had the surviving Georgian banister copied,
and Granville made a number of spindles copied
from the originals to make the present staircase.
Two of the originals are set at the bottom of
the staircase. The remaining spindles are
in store. A length of the original banister can
be seen in the 'finds cupboard' in the outshut.
There was one original newel post, and two more
were made for the present staircase. On
the original was inscribed some initials: I W
1663. On the new one has been inscribed
G & A R 1982.
When the Rudds took out the Georgian
staircase in order to build the new elm staircase
they found remains of the earlier staircase from
before the fire. The newer staircase had
been built over the remains of the burnt oak staircase
which was very twisted, and made it impossible
to incorporate the earlier remains into the new
stairway. The wall of the staircase which is in
fact the sitting room chimney, incorporates some
stonework. It is thought that it may be
of monastic origin or may be tied in with rebuilding
of the church when stone would have been lying
about and may have been used by local people.
Newel posts showing inscription
No explanation has yet been found
as to why these large pieces of stone were built
in when the rest of the chimney was brick. The
stone has been used fairly high up in the construction
and must have been very difficult to manoeuvre.
When the plaster was taken off the stair well,
the back of the bread oven was exposed. Granville
had been excavating the Roman Gate and had rescued
some stones from it which were going to be thrown
out, and these were used to fill in the hole.
The squarer Roman stones can be clearly seen in
the picture on the left.
Stonework in the staircase wall
When the Rudds moved in they took
the ceiling in the main bedroom down, and then
recreated a vaulted ceiling by stretching chicken
wire across the beams and then plastering over.
They found a trap door with leather hinges in
a little cupboard. Below the trap was a hole in
the plasterwork leading to an area between the
walls which were whitewashed, although the rest
of the walls were still rough. The Rudds
believed, somewhat tongue in cheek that this was
a priest hole for a very slim priest! It
has also been suggested that it might have been
an oubliette, or indoor lavatory.
The front door is now in the original
position, although earlier in the Georgian period, the
front door led into the dining room. There was a
window under the staircase which was later filled in perhaps
because ladies going upstairs with their hooped skirts
would have presented an interesting view to little boys
going along the street!
Under the fireplace in the dining
room was found evidence of the big scorched earth
patch where the original bonfire would have been.
There was evidence of five fireplaces, Edwardian,
then 3 Georgian then original Tudor fireplace with
herringbone brickwork. A mummified toad was also
found which was probably put there to ward away
witches who might have come down the chimney.
room fireplace with Tudor herringbone brickwork
On the north wall of the dining
room there is a 17th century window
with grooves to hold woven wattle shutters, and
a 17th century doorway which replaced
the front door when the stairway blocked the original
Some large stones, some with ornate
mouldings were found in the dining room wall.
They may have been taken from an important building,
frame in the present dining room