MDE20391 - West Challacombe Farm (Building)


West Challacombe farm is 15th Century in origin and was remodelled in the 17th and 19th Centuries.

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Type and Period (3)

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Full Description

Evidence of late 15th century building. 2 part plan: open hall with service room and 1st floor solar at its lower end, and at right-angles to it, making it an L-shaped plan. [1] West Challacombe Manor, 15th century in origin, remodelled and extended probably in 17th century and with 19th century alterations. Painted rendered stone rubble and cob. Slate roofs with gable ends. Pantiled roof to left-hand range. Stacks. Interior not inspected, so plan of house difficult to assess. Consists of cross passage, hall, projecting stair turret, two storey front entrance porch, two storey cross wing, two storeyed house. Seven window range in all. Fine 15th century inner doorway. Sash windows. Good example of small manor house, unspoilt since the 19th century and certainly containing earlier interior features of considerable interest. The hall roof is known to be smoke-blackened. [2] Tree ring dating for the house and barn was attempted in 1992; however, no construction date was determined. [3] Following acquisition of West Challacombe Farm by the National Trust, a highly decorated, false hammer beam roof was discovered in what was originally the open hall of the farmhouse. Architectural style suggests a 15th century date for the open hall. Adjacent to the farmhouse on east side is remains of cruck barn, thought to pre-date the farmhouse. Tree-ring analysis undertaken to determine precise dates for timbers (and hence for the construction of hall and barn) was inconclusive as no consistent results were obtained. [3] The Challacombe family owned the property in the medieval period and by 1400 a house with a central hall and two wings had been built. A new hall was later built between the wings. Dendrochronological dating evidence indicated the roof timbers of the hall were felled around 1460. In the 19th century a new range of barns and outbuildings were constructed. The cruck barn to the east of the house is the oldest building at West Challacombe. It was built in the first half of the 14th century and originally extended south along the east side of the courtyard. [4] West Challacombe is a medieval house purchased by the National Trust in the early 1990s & the listing was revised in December 1992 upgrading it to Grade II*. The house was probably built by the Challacombe family in 14th and 15th centuries; it later passed to the Orchard and Prouz families. The core plan consisted of a central hall with cross ranges at each end. The present hall was rebuilt between the standing cross ranges in the 15th century. The east range has disappeared but the modified west range survives. Later additions include a mid 16th century porch and 17th century flooring and windows. The high retaining wall to the southwest of the house may originally have had a defensive function. The high quality hall roof, dated to the 15th century, was recorded by Exeter Archaeology in 2004. There are several features form an original and distinctive collection of structural devices suggesting a local carpentry tradition. Comparable roofs exist at Weare Giffard Hall, Orleigh Court & possibly Orchard Wyndham in North Devon rivalling those of the Exeter district.Some of the outbuildings in the eastern courtyard at West Challacombe belong to the late 14th to mid 15th Centuries. [5] The 1843 Combe Martin Tithe map shows the present buildings much as they are now, although the farmhouse did not have the extension on the eastern end and the building at SS58664755 extended further west into the courtyard; the building running north to south between the house and the building adjacent to the boundary to the south, atSS58644755, was not shown on this map and first appears on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map. A further two buildings were extant at SS 5862 4755 and SS 5863 4757. [6,7] The site was visited in December 1996. It was described as a very interesting and ancient house, with the remains of a good group of scattered farm buildings, although not complete and probably incorporating earlier elements. [8] West Challacombe is a manor house with a central hall and two cross wings. The hall roof consists of five main trusses and four intermediate trusses, all of false hammer beam type. The roof is highly decorative: the principal rafters of the main trusses have decorative clasps; the windbraces are cusped; the false hammer beams and wall plates are heavily moulded. Additional sampling to a report produced in 1993 [3], now including ceiling timbers in the west range provided a felling date range in the hall roof of 1449-74 and in the west range ceiling of spring or summer 1453. [9] The outbuildings were visited in May 2012 as part of the rapid condition survey of Exmoor's Listed Buildings 2012-13. The house received a BAR score of 6 and the outbuildings 5A. [10] A leaflet was produced in 1999 that summarised the historical development of the property as a result of the building works between 1996 and 1999. In the late 14th to mid 15th Century, the property appears to have been owned by the Challacombe family. At this time, it comprised a central hall with two wings, which were probably built separately. There would have been an earlier hall on the same site as the present hall between them. The east barn and courtyard may also date from this period. A new hall was built between the earlier wings, probably in the 1460s. It features a beautifully carved wood. It received a porch in the 16th Century. The building was updated in the 17th Century, with a first floor inserted into the hall, when the windows were reorganised. In 1728, Grace Peard of West Challacombe married Walter Lerwill and from this time, the house was inhabited by two families (initially divided between Grace and her sister Susan, who married John Crang). A bedroom was created at the east end of the hall. A dairy was built on the northeast corner in the later 18th Century and in the early 19th Century, the ground floor of the hall and the west wing were redesigned to create formal square rooms. A cottage was inserted into the east end of the barn to the west and a kitchen wing was built on the site of the east wing. The hall was divided into bedrooms in the late 19th or early 20th Century, with new windows and the present staircases also inserted. The National Trust refurbished the property in the 1990s, which included removing the bedrooms on the first floor of the old hall and rearranging and updating the kitchen, bathrooms and services. [12] The site was surveyed in 1992. A slate and stone farmhouse with a traditional courtyard of buildings below, probably dating to the 15th Century. It was described as "an exceptional small manor house with a unique hammer beam roof structure" and with outbuildings also of an early date. [13]

Sources/Archives (13)

  • <1> Article in serial: Pantin, W. A.. 1957. Medieval Priests' Houses in South-West England. Medieval Archaeology. 1. P. 141.
  • <2> Index: Department of Environment. 1987. Combe Martin. Historic Houses Register. 45. 45.
  • <3> Report: Groves, C. and Hillam, J.. 1993. Tree-ring analysis of oak timbers from West Challacombe, Combe Martin, Devon.
  • <4> Report: Berry, N.. 2002. Archaeological and Historic Landscape Survey of West Challacombe Farm, Combe Martin, Devon. P. 2-3.
  • <5> Report: Blaylock, S.R.. 2004. The Medieval Roof of the Former Open Hall at West Challacombe, Combe Martin, Devon. Exeter Archaeology.
  • <6> Map: 1843. Combe Martin Tithe Map and Apportionment.
  • <7> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <8> Report: Schofield, J.. 1997. Exmoor Farmsteads: An evaluation of old steadings within Exmoor National Park. Farm reference 39.
  • <9> Article in serial: Tyers, I. and Groves, C.. 1999. List 104: Tree-ring dates from the University of Sheffield Dendrochronology Laboratory. Vernacular Architecture. 30:1. 113-128. 116.
  • <10> Report: Lawrence, G.. 2014. Exmoor National Park: Rapid condition survey of listed buildings 2012-13. Visited by Shirley J. Blaylock.
  • <11> Report: Riley, H.. 2016. Little Hangman and Challacombe Common, Exmoor National Park: Two possible earlier Neolithic enclosures on western Exmoor.
  • <12> Unpublished document: Blaylock, S. and Richardson, I.. 1999. The study of the historic development of West Challacombe.
  • <13> Report: Richardson, I. and Vile, C.. 1992. Vermacular Building Survey: West Challacombe Farmhouse.



Grid reference Centred SS 5863 4755 (64m by 48m) Historic mapping
Map sheet SS54NE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (4)

Related Events/Activities (6)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • 2012-3 Building At Risk Score (5A): 1544/1/10000
  • 2012-3 Building At Risk Score (5A): 1544/1/10001/1
  • 2012-3 Building At Risk Score (5A): 1544/1/10001/2
  • 2012-3 Building At Risk Score (6): 1544/1/83
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 14202
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 65815
  • Devon SMR: SS54NE/21
  • Devon SMR: SS54NE/21/8
  • Exmoor Farmsteads Survey 1996-1997 (2/1): 39
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE21179
  • National Trust HER Record: MNA107983

Record last edited

Oct 27 2021 2:44PM


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