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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Oldest Cottage in North Cray.
by John Parsons.

Recently, the old brick and weatherboarded "Woodbine Cottage" at North Cray was due for demolition by the Bexley Council, in the course of their road widening scheme for the village. The destruction of this ancient cottage was perfectly legal, it appears, due to the fact that, unfortunately, it had been omitted from the Ministry's "Official List" -- possibly due to an oversight on the part of the official responsible for scheduling the area, an error which could have had most tragic consequences.

Fortunately, the chairman of the Bexley Antiquarian Society, Mr P J Tester, FSA, who lives locally, happened to be interested in this old cottage and had a look around when the occupants had moved out prior to the demolition. He made the astonishing discovery that the roof timbers were blackened with soot, indicating that the original building must have had an open hearth in the centre of the structure and, therefore, was pre-Elizabethan in date!

PHOTO: The Woodbine Cottage.

Photo Caption: The Woodbine Cottage at North Cray.

Mr Tester consulted Mr K Gravett, MSc, Mr F B Armstrong, and officials from the GLC Historical Buildings Division, with the result that the Bexley Council hope to retain the building, and possibly re-erect it in the grounds of the ancient mansion -- "Hall Place", for which the Council deserve every credit.

One unique feature of the North Cray cottage is the smoke-blackened gable-end of its hipped-roof construction. This may provide evidence, long supposed, that this architectural feature of most timber-framed buildings in Kent was, indeed, the "smoke-vent" for the original domestic hearth long before brick chimneys became the fashion for homesteads. It has been suggested that this cottage at North Cray dates back to the XIVth Century and, therefore, provides one of the earliest-known examples of its type in Kent.

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