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HISTORIC & PERIOD FARMHOUSE SURVEYS BY DAVID HORNSBY B Sc., FRICS

See also Listed Buildings

Historic farmhouses are now very much sought after and for anyone wishing to own a property rich in history and character; they represent good opportunities for purchase, even more so, if they have outbuildings and or land attached.

Personally, when undertaking a survey of an old farmhouse it is like entering into Aladdin’s cave, you are never certain what you are going to find. More often than not a thorough survey may reveal the origins of the property go back much further than the initial appearance of the property may suggest. This is best illustrated by reference to the survey of a historic farmhouse near Norwich where a date plaque proudly displayed a date of 1805. More detailed investigation of the property revealed the brick facades were hiding a timber frame structure, which is probably, in parts, 250 years earlier.

In the late eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth centuries, it was popular to re-fashion farmhouses and to build new facades reflecting the styles in fashion at the time. Often farm buildings would form part of a larger estate with the owner experimenting with tenanted farmhouses before engaging an architect to rebuild or construct the main principal house.

On a number of occasions, my surveys have revealed timber frame walls from an earlier construction with the walls having been covered for centuries within the refashioned and extended farmhouse. Most clients are delighted to open these up and to make a feature of the timber framing which is a most unexpected feature in a property which otherwise is considered to be of stone or brick built.

Historic farmhouses display significant clues about life on a farm through the centuries with the buildings having been vastly altered over the centuries to cater for changes in society and also agricultural operations. Sometimes the construction used can also reflect certain influences such as continental construction methods and this can be seen in Eastern and Northern Counties particularly with the method of bonding used on the main brick walls.

The purchase of historic farms can provide an opportunity to convert redundant outbuildings into additional living accommodation subject to consent. Sometimes this process can be difficult if the building is listed or the local planning authority require a "statement of significance" following the publication in March by English Heritage "Planning Policy Statement 5 - Planning for the Historic Environment".

By undertaking full historic building surveys on farmhouses I'm able to provide clients with useful information that could assist in terms of future applications for alterations. Farmhouses and to certain extent outbuildings often display significant modifications having taken place over the years to accommodate a host of changing circumstances and therefore I find it ironic that many local authorities adopt a stance of advocating minimum intervention now that the agricultural use has ceased. Taking into account wider policies I'm able to advise clients find the optimum alternative use for these buildings.