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© Mr John H. Sparkes

IoE Number: 483533
Photographer: Mr John H. Sparkes
Date Photographed: 06 September 2004
Date listed: 12 November 1953
Date of last amendment: 12 November 1953
Grade I

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WELLS ST5445 ST JOHN STREET 662-1/7/255 (West side) 12/11/53 No.2 St John's Priory, with front boundary wall and railings GV I Former priory building, possibly guest house, now house. Late C14/early C15, floors inserted C16, modified C18 and early C19. Rendered and colourwashed, with ashlar dressings, clay pantiled roof with coped gable to south and abutment to north, brick chimney stacks. PLAN: a former open hall in 5 bays, with base crucks and upper crucks; plan now has cross-passage returning to the later straight-flight transverse staircase to the right, and a long narrow rear wing in two stages, set at a slight angle to the early range, inflected to the adjacent stream. EXTERIOR: 2 storeys with attic, 4 windows, 16-pane sashes in moulded stone architraves, 2 each side of doorway, off-centre, left, with 6-panel door in Doric pilaster stone surround to plain entablature; above the doorway a blocked small opening with flush stone trim. Small ridge stack to right of passage, and gable stack to left. Plinth, cornice with blocking-course and parapet, returned to coped gable. South gable has a 2-light chamfer mullioned window with pointed lights and incised spandrels, without label, towards the front, and a casement window towards the rear, set lower, and the attic has 2 single-light pointed windows. C20 garage against lower part of gable. The rear of the main range includes a 2-light chamfer-mullion casement, and a 5-panel C19 door. The wing, which is pantiled, is hipped at the outer end, and has 2 ridge stacks; windows are mainly C20 replacement casements, but there is one first-floor 3-light window with moulded mullions and early iron casements. INTERIOR: the passage and return have large lias flagstones, and the straight staircase has simple splat balusters, of uncertain date. To the left the parlour has 3 deep chamfered beams and a C20 fire surround, and to the right the dining room has an exposed rubble gable-end wall, with 2 small square recesses set low, and a transverse chamfered beam; the room is enclosed by a light partition to the stair well. There are fielded panel doors, including a good 4-panel in the rear wing. At the junction of the wing with the rear range are the remains of a former stone spiral staircase, the ends of the treads visible. At first floor a corridor has been made across the full width at the rear, with 2 bedrooms separated by the large inserted chimney-breast. The room to the right has a C19 fireplace, and at the front a passageway/cupboard through to the second room has parts of the lowest range of wind-bracing visible. The second room, to the south gable, has a fine early boarded floor, and a wide stone fire surround, with chamfered edge, below a section of plastered wall with C16 fresco in geometrical patterns. The feet of the base crucks, which were set high, are visible in the bedrooms. There are various early doors, some with L and H hinges. A cast-iron spiral stair at the south gable end gives access to the roof, which retains most of the original structure, '..... one of the best preserved mediaeval structures in Somerset ..... resembles the Abbey Barn at Glastonbury...' (SANHS). There are five principal base cruck trusses, with superstructure of upper crucks, including one to each gable, and 2 secondary trusses. The two principal trusses over the hall are chamfered, with cusped arch bracing, and there are 3 purlins, the top one clasped by the collars of the upper crucks, and 3 ranges of wind-bracing; there was no ridge purlin. Plates are set square. The wind-bracing members are identified by Arabic numerals, used at an unusually early date for England. Most of the rafters are also of early date. The wing has A-frame roof trusses, without ties, and there are 2 blocked window openings on the north side, facing Priory Road. SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: a low stone wall with fleur-de-lys railings and central matching gate on 2 steps down extends across the full width of the main range, setting in at a slight angle to the right to meet the gable-end of the adjoining property. To the left the wall and railing returns at right angles to meet the front wall of the main range. HISTORICAL NOTE: a remarkable survival, carefully restored and maintained, with the blackening throughout suggesting the original use of low partitions. The base cruck trusses invite comparison with the Glastonbury Abbey barns group and Bratton Court, near Minehead; strong similarity to King's Head, High Street (qv). In the dining room is an original deed of 1738, and this is said to be one of 33 extant deeds to the property. Although a late C14 date is usually thought to be appropriate for the building, Gilson and Williamson (op cit) thought that it might be earlier than this. (Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society Proceedings: Williamson Cmdr and Gilson RG: Base Crucks in Somerset: Taunton: 1977-: 55; Williams Cmdr.: Vernacular Architecture Group Report: 1976-).

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