31 High Street (St Andrew's Parish)

This two-storey cross-range with its gable end fronting the street includes a magnificent first floor room open to the roof and constructed with decoratively carved timbers on a grand scale, described by the architect F W B Charles in 1967 as "the finest solar yet discovered in Worcestershire".  Behind this are smaller rooms but with the same roof construction continuing above them.  It is dated on stylistic grounds to around 1400 and would have provided private accommodation on the first floor for the owner's family, probably with a shop and related storage on the ground floor.  It evidences the highest quality of mediaeval carpentry, and its first (and later) owners would have been people of high status.  It is likely that it was part of a complex with the two properties to the east, with the present solar cross-range perhaps replacing in 1400 an earlier part of the original structure.

The properties to the east include a timber framed open hall built in 1340 (the oldest known domestic building in Droitwich, now No. 33);  and beyond that what is thought to have been the service wing (No. 35), built at the same time, now apparently almost entirely brick but with a few timbers visible (this part would have had food-related storage at ground floor level with rooms of variable use above, probably two rooms on the ground floor and one or two chambers above).  Documentary evidence suggests that in the 1680s the complex was sub-divided into two properties (potentially what is now No. 31, and Nos. 33-35).

The appearance of the solar range (No 31) changed very little for at least 250 years, and possibly longer. A ceiling was inserted in the first floor rooms, possibly in the mid/late 1600s when an extension was added on the north (rear) side of the building. Alternatively, the ceiling could have been part of more extensive changes made in the 18th century when, as was happening elsewhere in the town, the gable wall fronting the street was replaced in brick with a Georgian-style window at first floor level (and probably also at the ground floor level). Thanks to subsequent rendering of this frontage, the building now shows no sign of its origins from outside. But inside, the structural components of the building survive almost complete, and are still visible.

Analysis of this building was not part of the Historic Droitwich project as there are separate plans for its refurbishment, but access was kindly made available by the owner and tenant to allow some photographic recording and tentative dating of features which had been uncovered recently as well as those which were already visible. It is hoped that dendrochronological sampling (tree-ring dating) will take place in the near future and give a more accurate date for its construction.

Documentary research has added to the picture and enabled us to put names to the owners and some occupiers back into the early 1600s.

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Charles, F W B, Medieval Cruck-Building and Its Derivatives, Society for Medieaval Archaeology Monograph Series: No 2, London 1967, pp 49-51  [the building is referred to as Stephen's, 38 High Street, rather than 31 High Street]