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Exploring Architecture
Post Medieval English / Early Colonial Style - Northern Version, 1600-1740
Wells-Thorn House - Southern Ell, Non-Flash Printable Version

Interactive Flash version of this feature

entrance facade of the Wells-Thorne house, ell section


Post Medieval English homes typically had a center chimney. Constructed with hand-made bricks, it was designed to heat the entire home and provide it with a cooking hearth. It needed to do this without taking up much space or smoking out the inhabitants. On the first floor, each room had its own fireplace with an individual flue. All these flues then met at the upper chimneystack and vented out the top. The chimney now on the Well-Thorn House is from a later period. The original would have been a step-back.


Post Medieval English roofs were very steeply pitched, side-gabled, and covered with thatch. In Europe this style allowed the roof to shed water quickly. In the New World colonies the steep pitch was favored because it also allowed snow to slide off. The thatch, however, was a problem. It was soon replaced with hand-split wooden shingles, which held up better to the high winds, ice and snow.


In the Northern Colonies of the New World, homes were most often sided with weatherboard. These are long, wide boards (often pine) attached onto the framing of a house. Just like a bird’s feathers they overlap, creating a barrier that protects the house from the elements like rain, snow, cold and wind. On this building the weatherboards were left unpainted. Many Post Medieval English homes stood without paint for a very long time. Why? Paint was a luxury not everyone could afford.


There are few windows in Post Medieval English homes (the word “window” derives from “wind hole”). Windows (and doors) created holes in the protective “armor” of a house. They made the inhabitants vulnerable and were located wherever light was needed, not where design dictated. When closed they let in just enough light for the household to function. When open they allowed for airing-out of the house. The casement windows on the Wells-Thorn House are made of diamond-shaped panes of glass called “quarrels”. As you might imagine, this design has its roots in Europe. Under the roof on the front and back of the house are little shuttered windows. Called clerestory windows they let light into the small, half-story garret.


The asymmetrically placed board and batten door was designed to let people in and to keep unwanted guests and harsh weather out. It was plain, solid and strong. The large hinges, handles and locks are of hand-forged iron, probably created by a local blacksmith.


Glossary of Architectural Terms | Architectural Resources

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