Vernacular architecture, Gisburn

Kevin Illingworth
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

The walk around Gisburn and locality in July 2012 led by the author warranted a lengthier description of what was seen than the short report in the 2013 Journal. Gisburn is in the traditional county of the West Riding, but administered by Lancashire County Council since 1974. It is also on the fringes of the Forest of Bowland.

The visit was in two parts - Gisburn village at first, then Gisburn Cotes, 2 miles south-west, later. The group of 14 assembled in Gisburn and initially toured both sides of the wide Main St. which runs east-west. This is the A59 Clitheroe to Skipton road, part of the main highway from Preston to York. The idea was to view buildings from a distance across the street, and then close-up. Gisburn is a linear village of two- and three-storey houses and coaching inns dating from the 17th to the 19th century. Two of these inns have been converted into housing. Until the mid-19th century, virtually all houses were built of whitewashed slobbered rubble, mostly sandstone, and with flagstone roofs. After that date, because of the railways, stone suitable for regular coursed work was used, often being squared light-grey limestone. Some render has been removed, exposing the rubble, but much whitewash still survives. Forecourts are paved with cobbles. There are 26 listed buildings or ‘listed items’, but not all of these are in the village itself.

Pimlico House

We started the walk at Pimlico House, on the north side of Main St., as one enters Gisburn from the Clitheroe direction. Viewed from across the road it is seen as an unaltered, almost symmetrical former farmhouse, with former barns on both sides. The building material is mixed rubble on a plinth of larger stones, the colours being visually satisfying, although unplanned. The doorhead, previously eroded but now smooth, is inscribed with the date 1705. The plan is double-pile, in accordance with the date. Mullions are ovolo-moulded, often wrongly considered by historians to be ‘early’, that being late 16th or early 17th century. But in Bowland and Craven ovolo-moulded mullions can be a decade or two later than 1705. Not mentioned in the listed buildings description are the through-stones projecting from the front wall. These are more commonly seen on barns, or projecting on the back wall of houses, and often seen further north in Lancashire and Yorkshire.

At the time of the listing survey the interior was said to be ‘not accessible, but said to contain no features of interest’. But during a ‘recce’ prior to the visit, the leader was invited inside to see and photograph the original features in most rooms. These surprising features include a large segmental arched fireplace and a smaller corbelled one, a blocked-in wooden mullion window upstairs on the rear wall, and decorative plasterwork on the chimney breast of the right-hand first floor room. This room also has a crudely executed ‘dove’ in plaster, and an unexplained corbelled structure. (The Old Vicarage near the church has an ‘in-situ’ wooden mullion window). Thanks go to Mr and Mrs Harding for inviting me into their house.

Lyndale House, Lyndale Terrace

Lyndale Terrace is a street running parallel with Main St. on the south side. Lyndale House presents itself as an unaltered 17th century house, but now without its render. There are six double-chamfered mullion windows ranging from one to four lights. The doorway lintel reads RA:AA:TA 1674 IR in raised letters and numbers. So far, Gisburn History Society has not been able to identify the names that the letters represent. A one-light window on the left may be a fire window. Now a private house, it was previously the Village Institute, Reading Room, and offices of Lindley Pate.

Nos. 1-4, Lyndale Terrace

These appear to be 19th century cottages, but there are external clues that suggest a 17th century building. These ‘hints’ include a datestone of 1675 with raised characters, reading RA A? A?, once again. An arched one-light window on the gable wall of No.1 also points to an early date, as do some features at the rear.

We were invited inside to see the wall paintings which are puzzling in nature - one of these is a ‘green woman’ in the style of the ‘green man’ carvings and paintings known elsewhere in the country. ‘Green women’ are rare (see Wikipedia). The picture seems to celebrate spring. The design of the classical columns, with vases of flowers between, are known from other parlour chambers in Yorkshire. In the next room is an enigmatic painting of a goat or similar creature, a most strange image, perhaps a rebus of a family name. (Pictures are in the 2013 Journal).

No.4 Lyndale Terrace also has heavy ceiling beams, so the whole block must be a partial rebuild of a 17th century house. The four cottages are unlisted.

Cromwell House

From Lyndale Terrace, Cromwell House could be seen across the road. This was the Ribblesdale Arms Hotel until c.2000, renamed when converted into housing. There are three bays and three storeys with a full-height jettied porch dated 1635 and also referring to Thomas Lister. In 1959 Pevsner said it was the best house in the village. Most window openings were altered in the late 18th century or early 19th century, except for the stepped three-light attic windows. The removal of whitewash and render after c.2000 has revealed the outline of three gables, not mentioned (or not noticed) in Pevsner (2009). These former gables are not difficult to see as the former valleys have been infilled with light grey limestone. Other multi-gabled houses with jettied porches nearby are Stirk House Hotel (1 mile west) and the White Bear Public House in Barrowford.

Stone-built porches with oversailing upper floors originate from timber-framed porches, seen in south Lancashire and Cheshire rather than Yorkshire. Masonry jettied porches are peculiar to the Pennine area of Lancashire and Yorkshire, few being seen elsewhere. Up to 85 examples have been identified in these counties.

Later, we were able to view the right-hand gable wall with blocked mullion windows and an extruded (external) chimney stack from Zivann’s small plant nursery behind her shop. We are grateful to her for this access.

Kirk House

Moving to the east on the south side of Main St., Kirk House was next, and not easy to photograph. No longer slobbered, Kirk House has early 18th century features, including a segmental pediment over the doorway, square section mullion and transom windows, and a blank circular plaque.

Snow Hill (two houses) Snow Hill is a large picturesque whitewashed block of two and three storeys, with windows and floors at different levels. Local historians regard this 17th century house as the oldest in Gisburn, dating from 1430 and once called the Bluebell Inn. But surely a 15th century house would have been built of wood. The main ground floor room of the two-storey house has a five-light mullion window which originally had seven lights, easily seen when inspecting the area between the window and the porch. The two-light window was also wider originally. The right-hand bedroom window has an ovolo-moulded surround and is taller than all the others, but has no transom. This window makes the room within to appear important - presumably the house belonged to a wealthy family.

In the Pevsner’s West Riding (2009) the author is unsure as to where the original entrance was, but Mary Kirby kindly opened the door of the modern porch to show an original-looking doorway with chamfered surround. In 2011 she invited some members of a Calderdale group into the front rooms. The left-hand gable wall of the Snow Hill block has a large projecting stack with some single-light windows to one side, one of which could be a fire-window.

Other buildings

Between Snow Hill and the roundabout, and elsewhere in the village, are 19th century houses, with dates of 1850, 1853, 1855, 1861, 1889 and 1898, to name a few. Some have ‘polite’ door hoods, including Park House, which gained a third storey with false gable dormers later, using squared light-grey limestone. This one has a triangular stone hood on brackets. It was a YHA hostel from 1934-40, now providing bed and breakfast accommodation. The row of houses near the roundabout marked with the letter R and a crown refer to the Ribblesdale estate. The third Lord Ribblesdale (1828-1967) and the fourth Lord (1854-1925) both built cottages in the village.

Now crossing to the north side of Gisburn, we inspected the two very ornate Gothick entrance lodges of Gisburne Park. These date to 1775-7 and are listed two-star - not vernacular, but well-worth seeing. In 1959 Pevsner said the lodges were ‘charming’, and in 2009 (Pevsner) they were ‘delightful’. Gisburne Park became a hospital in 1985. The Abbey Group owned it until 2011, and it is now part of BMI Healthcare group. We also looked at the railway tunnel portals of 1880, which take the Hellifield/Clitheroe railway under the land behind the main. road.

Finally, in the same area, we walked along Park Road to finish the Gisburn village part of our visit, coming to the Dower House of the Ribblesdale estate. The front is late 18th century, but the rear has two mullion windows of the 17th and 18th centuries, and a doorway with a reset decorated lintel. This well-preserved doorhead is of a late 17th century type, with double lobes, or descending semi-circles, variations of which can be seen from Calderdale to Gayle (Hawes), with a concentration around Settle and Langcliffe. There are also a small number near Lancaster. Most doorheads of this type date from the 1660s to the early 18th century. Mrs Townsend enjoyed showing us the rear of her house.

Gisburn Cotes area

In mid-afternoon we drove 2 miles along the A59 towards Clitheroe, to Gisburn Cotes Hall, where Anne Weare wanted to meet and talk to us. The house has two storeys and an almost central two-storey porch, with a door lintel inscribed 1659. Most windows at the front are now sashed, but the removal of render in the late 20th century has revealed several original blocked mullion windows. Noticeable here is the high chamfered plinth, and lower and upper hoodmoulds, partly hacked off. These are entirely horizontal, wrapping around the porch and terminating around the corners of the house. All four hoodmould ‘stops’ ended in the same position above four windows (or former windows) in each gable wall. A hoodmould terminating ‘round a corner’ can be seen at the Old Manor House, Clapham. Gisburn Cotes Hall has an external stack, the third one seen during the visit. This one has six stages, each one slightly tapering to the next stage above.

The barns belonging to Gisburn Cotes Hall and two other nearby farms all have 18th century roof structures with re-used timbers showing signs of being previously parts of cruck-built structures. The 18th century carpenters’ construction marks were seen on many joints, indicating which parts went together during assembly. A heavy stone cheese press (weight and base - but minus its timber frame) sat outside one of the barns, no longer used.

Our thanks go to Mrs Weare, who guided us around her house and barns for almost two hours. Some members of the group ended the day with refreshments at Stirk House Hotel, discussing the buildings seen earlier.

Sources of information

  • Images of England website:
  • Usually, typing the name of a village in the text box will show all, or most, listed buildings in the named village, with one photograph and the listed building description. Sometimes, as with Gisburn, this does not work, but inputting the following grid references will show the images of most of the listed buildings in Gisburn.

  • SD 82 48 12 buildings
  • SD 84 NW 8 “
  • SD 83 48 2 “
  • SD 84 48 1 “
  • SD 82 48 Gisburne Park lodges

For Gisburn Cotes Hall and Great Dudland go to The National Heritage List for England for the listed buildings’ descriptions, but without images.

For old photos of Gisburn, go to

For Gisburn Conservation Area Appraisal go to and download the document with 22 pages and 15 photos.


  • Illingworth, K., 2004. Stripping off the render, Northern Vernacular Buildings Vol. 1, No. 2.
  • Pevsner, N., 1959. Yorkshire. The West Riding. Penguin.
  • Leach, P. and Pevsner, N., 2009. Yorkshire West Riding. Leeds, Bradford and the North. Yale.

Glossary (Eds.)

  • double-pile: a house two rooms thick in plan
  • double chamfered: edges or corners cut off from each of two recesses
  • fire window: a small window near the fire-place to let in light
  • hood mould: external moulded projection over an opening to throw off rainwater
  • lights: glass area of a window
  • lintel: horizontal beam over an opening
  • mullion: a vertical bar between glass panes in a window
  • ovolo: a convex moulding (quarter round)
  • transom: lintel or window above a door
  • slobbered: splattered plaster

Cromwell House, Gisburn

Cromwell House, Gisburn