What are Meldreth buildings made of?

Windows and hearths

By Bruce Huett


Photo:19 North End: Dormer and lattice

19 North End: Dormer and lattice

Bruce Huett 2014

Photo:33 North End: Dormer and Casement

33 North End: Dormer and Casement

Bruce Huett 2014

Photo:51 High Street: Dormers, leaded lights, shuttered

51 High Street: Dormers, leaded lights, shuttered

Bruce Huett 2014

Photo:Mantings 35 - 37 North End:Flush Frame Hung Sashes with pointed arches

Mantings 35 - 37 North End:Flush Frame Hung Sashes with pointed arches

Bruce Huett 2014

Photo:47 High Street: Oriel

47 High Street: Oriel

Bruce Huett 2014

Glass was found in several of the test pits dug in the village in 2013, but none of it was specifically identified as window glass.

Romans had glass in windows and it was then re-introduced in 1180, but was very expensive. Around the late 13th century the middle classes began to acquire glass but it did not become common until the late 16th century.   A popular style was mullioned which joined multiple small pieces of glass in a lead lattice. As it was so expensive window glass was designed to be transportable when one moved house. Poorer people used thin strips of horn or linen soaked in tallow or resin which were translucent (but flammable) and even cattle placenta.

The listed building data includes the following types of windows in Meldreth:

  • oriel: a bay window that projects from the main wall of a building but does not reach to the ground: 47 High Street
  • casement: these open like doors
  • fixed light: these can’t be opened
  • sash: this is a traditional style of window in the United Kingdom with two parts that overlap slightly and slide up and down inside the frame (some older forms only have one part that moves)
  • dormer: this would be on the first floor, often introduced in cottages when the main room was split and an upper floor added.

Examples of some of these window types can be seen in the photographs on the right.

Manting House in North End (pictured) has louvred shutters on some windows.

downloadable pdf file gives details of the window structures on Meldreth's listed buildings, including the church, together with a full glossary.

The Window Tax

Photo:Window Tax Return for Meldreth 1700

Window Tax Return for Meldreth 1700

Cambridgeshire Archives

In 1696 a “window” tax was introduced which continued until 1851 (with some changes in the method of calculation). This was a property tax which involved an extra tax, over the flat house rate tax, for the number of windows above ten. This was an attempt to introduce a tax related to the prosperity of the owner. For ten to twenty windows the tax was equivalent to £24.21 per year in 2014.

Some owners therefore bricked up some windows, although I am not aware of any examples in Meldreth. 

In addition a tax on glass at the point of sale was introduced in 1746 lasting until 1845.

After the 1840s sheet glass was mass produced and was of better quality and cheaper and so became more extensively used.

Hearths and Chimneys

Photo:Chimneys at Sheene Manor

Chimneys at Sheene Manor

Bruce Huett 2014

Photo:Sheene Manor

Sheene Manor

Bruce Huett 2014

Photo:Temple House 27 High Street

Temple House 27 High Street

Bruce Huett 2014

The word chimney is first recorded in English in 1330 but they didn’t appear in significant numbers until the 16th century when sound bricks became available. Many are recorded in the listing details, mainly of brick. Most are now central, although in old buildings they would have been at the end where the thatch would not have been as vulnerable. In small cottages the fireplace would have been in the hall.

There is a 1656 brick chimney stack at Sheene Manor.

The development of the chimney enabled coal rather than wood to be burnt (by the sixteenth century supplies of wood for fuel were running out). It also stimulated a redesign of the house layout and the development of an upper floor.

Fireplaces, mainly inglenook, are mentioned in the following properties in the listing documentation:

Chiswick House

An early C17 inglenook hearth in the hall and another inglenook hearth in the kitchen. On the first floor there is an early C17 hearth of dressed clunch blocks with ovolo moulding and jewelled stops. The hearth contains a C19 cast iron fireplace with safety doors.

23 Chiswick End: previously the Dumb Flea Pub

Abutting inglenook hearths of soft red brick. One originally with a bread oven, and both with salt ledges.         

27 High Street: Temple House 

Abutting hearths, including an inglenook. Another hearth was added to the end bay probably early C18.

55 High Street

c1840 details including a fireplace surround.

85 High Street: Applecote

The hearth is a comparatively small inglenook.

94 High Street: British Queen Public House

Plaster rendered jambs (side posts) of an inglenook hearth.

9/11 North End: Willow Way cottages

Inglenook fireplaces and C19 corner hearth.

Meldreth Manor House

There are three C17 fireplaces. One to the centre room has a four centred chamfered arch to an inglenook. Another similar but smaller fireplace surround is in a room in the west wing. Another ground floor in the same wing has an inglenook with stop chamfered lintel.

Hearth Tax         

In 1662 a hearth tax was introduced and this can provide useful data on the number of households in villages before the first census in 1801.

In 1662 there were 122 hearths in Meldreth with George Pyke of Sheene Manor having the most at 11. 

Please see the attached pdf file for full details from the 1662 Meldreth return.

For more information on the Hearth Tax in Cambridgeshire see:
Cambridgeshire Hearth Tax Returns, Michaelmas 1664. Edited by Nesta Evans and Susan Rose. ISBN 0 904323 15 3  Published 2000

Additional information on Meldreth's buildings is available on the following pages on our website:


This page was added by Bruce Huett on 05/06/2016.