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Monday 5 August 2013

The Porch House, Bishops Castle, Shropshire - a beautiful timber-framed building with recent oak carvings next to far older ones

This interesting Grade II listed building is located in Bishops Castle, a small town close to the Wales/England border.

According to their website, dendrochronology tests have shown that the timbers used in the original building were felled in the winter/spring of 1564 going into 1565. There does appear, however, to be debate about this being the date of building (see below).

This building probably replaced earlier ones, as it is very near to the much older castle. It is interesting as it uses two different methods to fill the gaps between the timbers of the frame: wattle and daub and plank and muntin. The latter uses planks of wood and this is one of only three examples in Shropshire.

There is interesting evidence of a later build date or possible later repairs or alterations to the building carved onto the porch; the letters 'EMT' and a date of 161? (the last digit having been defaced).

On the details of its listing on the 'British Listed Buildings' website, it would appear that the building itself is dated to the 17th Century rather than the 16th, perhaps on the evidence of these carved details. Other sources date the building to 1611: 

I was particularly interested in the carved figures under the jettied first floor frontage and the painted designs under the eaves. Some of the carved figures appear very old and I would suspect might date back to the original build:

This one is protected from the elements within the porch. I wonder if it is supposed to represent a saint, given that the design around it looks a lot like it is based on a cross? However, some of the crosses do not appear to be complete (below the face). The same carved and painted cross-in circle design also runs along a fascia facing onto the street. It is right under the eaves and so is protected by them. 

I think that the jetty supports (before some were replaced) could have predated the building of the porch, as they have been spaced regularly along the building and do not appear to have been placed to allow for the porch's construction. The  one below is at the other end of the frontage and has been very damaged over time. However, it still shows some features similar to the one above.

By the late 1970s, the porch house was apparently in a very poor state of repair. However, in the early 1980s a significant grant and help from the English Heritage organisation meant that it could be restored. Three of the carved figures under the front jetty were replaced  in 1989 with these very fine portraits of the children who lived in the building at the time, named Hugh and Poppy according to the Wikimedia page listed above.

I believe that the carver may have been local and that their initials were GMJ, but can't find out any more. Very nice work though!

The porch house now operates as a bed and breakfast, with some self catering facilities, so you can stay there if you like. We camped nearby, so I don't know what it's like, but the building is certainly worth seeing. Their website also has more on the building's history with some photographs as well. You can visit it here:

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