… an old house that stands back and then a little house by the side of the road …
Bill Wing – Memories of a Meldreth Man 1993
This is one of a series of pages on our site on Orchard Cottage, neighbouring Sheene Cottage and some of their inhabitants.
As a building the origin and function of Sheene Cottage is unclear. With a Grade II rating the Listed Buildings entry suggests it was built later than Orchard Cottage and dates from the 1700s. It also suggests it began life as a barn, later converted to a cottage. This assessment is interesting since we have seen at least one previous reference to a barn in the Deed of Enfranchisement. However, the Listed Buildings entry also suggests this barn was to the north of Sheene Cottage – which presumably means the right side – but for which there is absolutely no evidence.
What we do have are maps and photographs showing the building being originally longer to the south – its left – and the later flooding photograph revealing the original half-timbered construction which clearly belongs to a building of higher status than a barn.
What we cannot yet ascertain is whether that image shows the original gable end onto which an extension was later added, or whether it was an internal dividing wall exposed when the size of the building was later reduced; and whether that extension was used as a barn, or accommodation, or both.
All census returns between 1841 and 1939 confirm continuous occupation but never by large families which would lead us to conclude that the occupied part of Sheene Cottage was always relatively small.
Seen in the two earlier images, all of the building to the left of the chimney stack has been lost leaving only the little house recalled by Bill Wing.
Thought to date from shortly after the Dodkin brothers and Arthur Coningsby held their respective titles, the second photograph in the sequence does show the lost half of the cottage clad in timber. This may indicate this half of the building converting or reverting to more of an agricultural role but it is pure speculation.
Further adding to the confusion there is a note that a thatched barn belonging to Orchard Cottage collapsed during a storm. Living then in Orchard Cottage Mrs Joan King wrote:
We had a gale in 1947, when our large thatched barn went, leaving Sheen Cottage standing just …
That description could imply that the barn and Sheene Cottage were one complete building. Storm damage would most certainly explain the missing half of the cottage but for one small detail. Where there should now be an obvious gap, a conveyancing map produced two years later in 1949 continues to show the longer version of Sheene Cottage with the missing half of the building included in the sale …
Once again, a larger property, the extension to the rear and the cross wing to the right are of recent construction.
There is no record of when the Dodkin brothers disposed of Sheene Cottage.