Low Bentham and Tatham - vernacular architecture

14 July 2013 — Leader - Kevin Illingworth
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

On a warm sunny day 20 members and visitors met outside the Punchbowl Inn, Low Bentham. The Punchbowl Inn is listed as dating from the early 18th century, but one small blocked window may be earlier. Others are altered, except for a first floor three-light window which has two flat-faced mullions. Set into the wall of a later addition is an ogee doorhead dated I W 1670 (Walker) from the demolished Cloudsbank. With permission from Mitchell’s Inns we inspected the adjoining barn with re-set datestone of 1708 and the same initials. Inside, five altered stalls survive, with the boskins (partitions) made of large slate slabs framed in wood.

From here we followed the footpath through fields to the site of Cloudsbank, Mill Lane, where a bungalow now stands. We branched off to Kirkbeck, a working farm where three barns could be inspected, including one with a keystone dated 1679. The house, dated 1676 P/ I A (Procter) has a large projecting wing or porch added in 1686. The offset doorway indicates a porch-with-staircase, which is more commonly found in Lancashire. The first floor window has three round-headed lights, the centre one taller. A blocked two-light window above is there to try to make the house look taller and more important. The doorway to the main house has a basket-arch lintel with imitation voussoirs, and a 5-pointed star to ward off evil spirits. This doorhead is in excellent condition compared to the decorated porch doorhead, which has eroded badly.

After Kirkbeck we crossed Eskew Beck into Tatham, Lancashire, then reaching Mewith Lane, where the early 19th century boundary stone inscribed ‘Bentham-Tatham’ could be seen at County Bridge. It was next along the lane to three worthwhile farmhouses at The Green. The Green Farmhouse has a two-storey porch dated 1672 REB (Baynes) on the stepped and battlemented doorhead. The added barn is now a house. The original house has two round chimney stacks, or caps, more often seen further north, but there are others in the Lune Valley / North Craven area. Next on the right is Laith House, dated 1690 CAS on the lintel (the letter S is the wrong way round), which has a scallop decoration. This is a house and barn all under one roof - laithe houses are very numerous between Skipton and Sheffield and in the Lancashire Pennines. The Green (lower house) completed the trio, having a steeply-pitched roof, formerly thatched, then slated, and now with flagstones. This was the only house on the walk without a datestone.

After lunch we headed north-west to the whitewashed Greenside Farmhouse, another working farm. Greenside has a truly splendid doorhead dated 1678 E/BW, the design having two recessed arches with leaf and tendril decoration, one of four similar doorheads in Tatham and High Bentham. The parlour fireplace in the left-hand room has a similar design on its lintel.

We then had another lengthy walk past Herring Head Wood to Robert Hall, a large house with 15th or 16th century origins and listed grade 2* (all other houses are listed grade 2). When doing my ‘recce’ I was invited into the cross-passage through the pointed-arch doorway, where there is a timber-framed wall with close-studding. We had permission to go into the private garden on the south and west sides. The house has been much altered since the late 19th century, when a photograph of the north side (and a drawing of 1856) showed a large 8-light mullion and transom window lighting the hall, which was east of the cross-passage. Further east was a projecting bay window with a datestone 1677 EC (Cansfield) above it. This is now lying in the cross-passage. All of the former house east of the cross-passage is now a barn. There are some enormous chimney stacks and a corbelled one immediately east of the pointed arch doorway, this one serving a first floor fireplace with battlemented lintel dated 1627 C/IE (Cansfield family). There are many blocked or re-set windows on all elevations of the house - some of these have, or had, wooden mullions. Some window surrounds on the south side, and on the detached ‘barn’ have long grooves carved into the faces of the jambs and heads, also seen at The Green Farmhouse earlier, and at Browsholme Hall. In 1979 there were the remains of an aisled barn on the site. This area had proved to have many interesting and unique doorheads.