Architectural Investigation has shed new light on an early 16th century manorial court hall and home farm of King’s College, Cambridge, today islanded within the mock-Tudor of suburban Ruislip. Perhaps the most significant find was the discovery of detailed building accounts of 1505-06 in the archives of King’s.
Further discoveries, including the uncovering of wallpaper fragments dated around.1700 and around 1810 and a carved bone inlay from a highly-decorated early 15th century marriage casket, were made by others in the course of ‘opening up’ of fabric during the renovation and conversion of the building to an interpretation centre in 2007-08 by the local authority.
The results of recent survey and research undertaken at Manor Farm have been integrated into a Research Department report (№ 63-2008).
Manor Farm is located on the site of a Norman motte and bailey, within which a small, non-conventual Benedictine priory was established in the later 12th century. The moated site was sequestrated by the Crown and granted to King’s College in 1451. The building accounts reveal that Manor Farm was erected over the space of two building seasons by a team including both masons and carpenters. The decision to rebuild may relate to the incoming manorial lessee Robert Drury (d.1535) of Hawstead, Suffolk, previously speaker of the House of Commons. This corresponds with a date range of 1506-11 established by a recent tree-ring survey; it was previously thought to be of late 16th century date.
Manor Farm functioned principally as a manorial court hall and secondarily as a working farmhouse until the early 20th century. The building accounts of 1506 list ‘the halle the parlour the kechyn the botery and thentre [ie the entry]’. The manorial court was held in the two-bay hall. The cross wing at the ‘high end’ of the hall may have functioned as a suite for the use of the visiting provost or steward, with a large heated parlour in which to convene between court sessions and an ‘en suite’ parlour chamber above, complete with garderobe.
The building, comprising a two-storeyed hall and cross-wing, is an early example of a fully-floored hall house with an integral stack. It is thus something of a ‘missing link’ in Middlesex between the medieval hall-house (comprising parlour, hall and service area) and post-medieval vernacular plan types. Also indicative of a transitional character is Manor Farm’s mixed construction and lack of a continuous jetty: unusually, a close-studded upper storey is recessed from a brick ground floor.
The interpretation centre at Manor Farm is now open to the public.