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Dicken House

A Grade II Listed Building in Harrold, Bedford

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Latitude: 52.2024 / 52°12'8"N

Longitude: -0.6131 / 0°36'47"W

OS Eastings: 494879

OS Northings: 256922

OS Grid: SP948569

Mapcode National: GBR DZP.V4J

Mapcode Global: VHFPS.BX71

Entry Name: Dicken House

Listing Date: 13 July 1964

Last Amended: 22 February 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1310978

English Heritage Legacy ID: 36969

Location: Harrold, Bedford, MK43

County: Bedford

Civil Parish: Harrold

Built-Up Area: Harrold

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Harrold

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

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Wealden house, probably early C16, with rear wings added around the C18.


MATERIALS: timber framing with wattle and daub and plaster infilling. North gable end clad in colour-washed brick, and rendered stone wings to rear. Roof covering of red clay plain tiles with Gault brick chimney stack.

PLAN: U-shaped plan with the principal range facing east consisting of a floored-over central hall, flanked by jettied end chambers, and rear north and south wings. The space between the wings has been infilled with a C20 single-storey extension, and the south wing has a narrow C20 extension with a glazed roof added to the rear. There is a small, single-storey extension at the rear of the north gable end. The C20 extensions do not have special interest.

EXTERIOR: the two-storey house has a steeply pitched gabled roof with a brick stack on the south gable wall. The formerly recessed central section, which has been brought forward to the eaves, has retained the curved braces carrying the wall plate. All the windows on the east elevation are C20 leaded casements. The centrally placed C20 front door has a timber lintel, and is flanked by small, single-light, leaded casement windows with a two-light casement above the door. The jettied end sections rest on a stone plinth and have three-light casements on the ground floor with two-light casements above. The ground-floor framing consists of studs with an arched brace from the sill beam on the inner side of the window and a tension brace on the outer side. This is repeated on the first floor from the jetty bressummer which is carried by the visible projecting joists. The rear elevation has leaded casements in the gable heads and large, single-light C20 windows on the ground floor.

INTERIOR: the ground floor has been remodelled resulting in the probable loss of much of the framing, with the exception of the front (east) wall frame and a cross frame between the south chamber and former hall. If there is any other surviving timber framing, it is hidden behind the plastered walls. The principal features of interest on this floor are in the south room which has roughly hewn joists and wide floorboards. The south wall contains a late-C16 fireplace with a timber, four-centred arch and stone jambs. The removal of a section of the plaster on the north wall has revealed wattle and daub. The bridging beam running east-west in the rear extension has been taken from the first-floor frame. At the top of the south staircase is a C18 two-panelled door with H-L hinges. The framing on the first floor has visibly survived to a much greater extent. In the south room, the south end forms a large cupboard which contained the fireplace, and above this is a cambered tie beam. In the north (internal) wall there are two studs, one of which is only partly exposed. The upper section of the original rear wall frame, part of which now forms the internal wall where the wings were added, is exposed at what was the south chamber end. The wall plate and a tension brace are intact, and a rail between two studs possibly indicates the former position of a window. The cross frame between the south chamber and the floored-over hall has exposed studs and an arch brace on the west side. The struts between the tie beam and collar beam form panels with exposed wattle and daub. The bay division between this room and the north end chamber has been obscured by alterations and it is unclear to what extent it has survived. The east and west wall plates survive, and there is an inner hall wall plate on the east side, positioned directly underneath the tie beam which is exposed on the south side of the room. Both roof pitches have exposed purlins and rafters, and wind braces on the south side; it is not known if those on the north side survive as this part of the roof is hidden behind plaster. At the north end of the building much less timber framing is visible, consisting mainly of the wall plate and tie beam in the north (end) wall. The two wings have coupled rafter roofs with purlins and collar beams. The king post roof over the main range has a collar yoke and is divided into three bays, with collars dividing each main bay into two smaller bays. The trusses dividing the main bays are closed and have wattle and daub partitions, with one panel missing on the northern partition. The butt purlins, one of which has been partly replaced, are said to be scarfed at the principal rafters.


Wealden Houses were built from the C14 to the C16 and take their name from the area in central Kent where they are most commonly found. They were also built in the south-east and East Anglia, although Bedfordshire is on the fringe of their distribution. Wealden Houses have an open hall, often of two bays, with a two-storey jettied end chamber or chambers, all under a single roof usually with hipped ends which is carried past the recessed hall on a flying bressummer or wall plate. It is the jettied end chambers and recessed open hall that give the Wealden House its characteristic appearance. At Dicken House, the timbers above the central two bays are said to be smoke blackened from the days when the hall, with its central hearth, was open to the roof. In the late C16, as was common, an upper floor was inserted into the open hall and a chimney stack was introduced to replace the original open fire. Dicken House has been subject to further alterations since then. The central section has been brought forward in line with the roof in order to provide more space, and two rear wings have been added, probably in the C18. In the C20 the space between the wings has been infilled with a single-storey extension, and a narrow extension with a glazed roof has been added to the rear of the south wing. A small, single-storey extension has been built at the rear of the north gable end, and the front door and all the windows have been replaced, also in the C20. The interior has been remodelled, resulting in the loss of much of the ground-floor framing. It is not known when this took place but some alterations could possibly have been done during the period when Dicken House was used as the offices for Reginald Dickens and Co., who owned a leather factory in Orchard Lane, which closed in 1980. Leather dressing had been an important industry in Harrold from the C19 until the third quarter of the C20, and had supplied leather for the boot and shoe industry in Northamptonshire.

Reasons for Listing

Dicken House, a Wealden house, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
*Architectural interest: it is a good example of a small Wealden house which retains a significant proportion of its original fabric, including much of the first-floor framing and the king post roof, and there is evidence of surviving wattle and daub partitions.
*Historic interest: it has undergone several phases of change, reflecting the evolving needs of succeeding occupants. Of particular interest is the flooring over of the open hall and insertion of a fireplace in the late C16 which demonstrates a key development in the use and plan form of domestic buildings.
*Rarity: Wealden houses are not commonly found in Bedfordshire, which is at the margin of their distribution, and Dicken House is the only listed example in the county.

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