Jettying and Brick Facing

Introduction

An excellent example of the use of brick to reface a building and the construction technique called “jettying” in Meldreth is the Green Man in North End which has both “before and after” in clear view. Interpreting the whats, the whys, and the maybes of its different phases of development presents much more of a challenge!

Dating from the 1500s, this building began life as a timber-framed open hall or, at least, was built at the point construction was transitioning to the internally divided three-bay plan of service area, living area, and private quarters.

Jettying

To the building’s right the earlier frontage can be seen. The first floor overhangs the ground floor and the exposed supporting beams are clearly visible. This is the overhanging construction technique called jettying.

Jettying is derived from Old French jetee – “a projecting part of a building”, from jeter “to throw”.

As a feature it is not uncommon and can be seen on several other listed and non-listed buildings in the village, including both Chiswick House and the Old Smithy, or Town House as it also known.

The precise reason for jettying on domestic buildings is not fully understood and various theories are proposed. The most used reason given is it would increase the total amount of floor space, particularly in those buildings where close proximity to the roadway prevented ground floor expansion. However, this is questionable since the amount of additional floor space gained upstairs is not especially large and raises the simple question of why was the ground floor not built further back at the rear?

It may be a consequential economic development reflecting both the decreasing availability and rising costs of long timber uprights wherein two shorter lengths would be used instead.

Possibly, in tandem with the above theory, from a load bearing aspect, it could be an architectural measure that provides a counterbalance to offset the additional weight of upstairs occupation.

Or, equally valid, it simply displayed how much more money and good taste you had compared to your neighbours …

The jettying shown here may be original or it may have been the result of a later rebuild.

Timber dating techniques should provide an accurate answer but not always. In some instances, when rebuilding, original timbers were reused whilst in others timbers salvaged from older demolished or partly dismantled buildings were utilised. You then have the strange situation where the newer upstairs part of a building is apparently older than the oldest downstairs part of the building …

The rear of the building as seen from Brewery Lane today has no visible jettying. It is quite reasonable to suggest there may never had been any jettying to the rear but there is a slight asymmetry at the gable end hinting that any overhang at the rear has been removed, perhaps when the extension wing was added, and the jettying sacrificed.

There is some further evidence to support this theory. If you look at the front right corner jetty you can see a large internal supporting timber “dragon” beam protruding but it appears to have no equivalent at the rear where just a slightly larger beam protrudes.

No jettying is visible at the left gable end but, if there, it is hidden by a later resurfacing.

The original ends of the exposed jettying appear to have been sawn off presumably when the brick façade was built.

Brick Facing

To the left of the building’s frontage is the surviving part of a 19th century brick façade that until quite recently covered the entire aspect.

The earlier photograph clearly shows the 19th century brick façade with an entrance door and three windows of equal size.

In the photograph dated 1974 the façade is still present but the doorway has been partially blocked creating a window.

In the same photograph the rendered gable end hides the jettying in Brewery Lane and although the markings in the render seem to follow the now missing chimney stack, they are hard to accurately interpret.

In today’s photograph the window that replaced the entrance door has been completely blocked off.

The regularly spaced ground floor windows mirrored by the similarly positioned dormer windows in the roof are highly suggestive of Victorian workmanship. It would be reasonable to assume they were created as part of the façade installation and are not necessarily occupying the position of earlier windows.

The position of the entrance door being used in the earlier photograph is open to interpretation, too.

It could be original though the position of the surviving chimney stack suggests it may previously have been located at the other end of the frontage. Chimneys, when added, often completely blocked the front to rear connecting aisle – the screens passage. If so, and the entrance fell into disuse, it was relocated to a more convenient place.

As said in the introduction, such is the joy of interpreting the what’s, the whys, and the maybes of listed building alterations !!

The final photograph shows a reconstructed view of how the Green Man may have looked when first built.

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