Gaywood Valley Archaeological & Historical Project

Standing Buildings Gayton



On the weekend of the 28/29 April 2013, members of the Gaywood Valley Archaeological and Historical Project carried out a visual survey of some of the standing buildings of Gayton which were considered to be more than 100 years old. The survey involved a walk of the village followed by closer inspection of some of the cottages in Mill End, Back Street and Winch Road. The objective was to see whether various parts of the settlement had differing styles of cottages, and to see what building materials were used at particular times. Non-listed dwellings were chosen, as there appeared to be no previous study of these structures.

Map of Gayton

Buildings were observed from the road, which enabled only front elevations and some side elevations to be noted. Owners of 3 properties allowed internal viewing of ground floor rooms, while other residents gave useful information regarding their houses and others in the village. The major limiting factor in this approach is that frontages of relatively recent date can disguise much older buildings. Another major limiting factor encountered was the large number of houses which are rendered or colour-washed, which made determining the main building material - especially if of rubble construction - difficult.

Building materials

Four main materials were used to construct the walls of the cottages in Gayton: flint, carstone, chalk and brick. Where flint, carstone and chalk were used as the main walling material, corners and window and door openings (facings) were made of brick - this being an easier material with which to obtain a square feature. Carstone and chalk walls invariably sat on a flint footing, as flint is largely impervious and offered better damp-proofing qualities. There was no evidence of timber frame construction in the cottages, but some may have been hidden behind solid frontages. Local people described interior walls of one cottage which were made of wattle and daub.

Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century maps suggest that all 4 main materials were available locally - flint would have been collected from the arable fields or extracted from the gravel pit located about 2 kilometres northeast of the village; chalk pits immediately north and about 2 kilometres east would have been the source of this material; there was a brick kiln to the north of Gayton Thorpe, a little over a kilometre from the settlement; and carstone was available a few kilometres to the west.

Cottages in Back Street

Road frontages were normally of a higher quality construction than side and rear elevations. Cottages on the north side of Back Street demonstrate this, with the south front constructed of coursed flints, while the west gable is of rubble chalk and random brickwork.

Back Street, Gayton Building (38)

View from south-west of cottages on Back Street.

South front has 3 builds; original build (1.5 storeys) western end of coursed flints and dark red brick facings; second build extended eastwards, again coursed flints, but with softer, more orange-coloured brick facings; third phase uplifted to full 2 storeys using machine-made brick, probably from the Peterborough region. Western gable of chalk rubble construction, again raised with machine-made bricks. Window openings are of machine-made bricks, showing cottages had new windows inserted at this stage of development. Blocked door openings on south front imply there may have been 4 or 5 cottages at one stage of development.

This row, now only 2 dwellings, reveals how cottages were modified and modernised over the centuries. Originally the western end was probably a pair of semi-detached cottages of one and a half storey construction (full-height ground floor, the rooms in the attic having dormer windows). The thin, dark red bricks forming the corners appear hand-made. The building was extended to the east to form a row of 4 cottages - again a one and a half storey construction, with hand-made bricks forming the southeast corner. Later, the whole row was lifted to form a full 2-storey high row - machine-made brick, probably from the Peterborough area, being used for this modification. At the same time, the window openings were changed, probably to insert larger frames. In relatively recent times, the row has been converted into 2 houses, with doorways being blocked using flint infill.

The one and a half storey construction appears to be the norm on lower status cottages on Back Street and in Mill End - the majority have later been lifted to present a uniform 2-storey structure. Others, like "The Willows", have been extended with additions of unequal height.

Gayton Cottages

The Willows” – North front facing Back Street.

At first appearance, 2 cottages, but more likely the west end was built first and the east end added. There is no evidence of modification in the east gable. East windows are round-headed, indicative of a Victorian date; west window square-headed, which may indicate an earlier date. The whole north front was once rendered. The west gable rebuilt in modern brick.

Cottages in Winch Road

Closer study of the buildings suggests that carstone was used in seventeenth century buildings, it fell out of use during the eighteenth century, and then came back into limited use in the mid-nineteenth century. Eastgate House (the former Freebridge Lynn workhouse to the northeast of the village, designed by William Donthorn soon after the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act), has a carstone front, as do cottages built on Winch Road.

Winch Road Cottages

Carstone east front of cottage on Winch Road.

Originally a semi-detached pair of cottages, with the door to the southern cottage blocked when converted to one dwelling (note different colour of carstone). Hard white brick facings, with square window heads, suggesting late-Georgian/early Victorian date. This is supported by the shallow-pitch slate roof. A chimney on the north gable was probably taken down when the cottages were converted to one dwelling.

These later cottages show that, by the late nineteenth century, semi-detached cottages were still the preferred option for lower status dwellings, but that they were now designed to a full 2-storey height.


East front of semi-detached cottages on Winch Road.

Built of yellow brick with red brick facings. The north gable shows a random flint construction with decorative features of the same brick as the east front, suggesting the date “1864” relates to the original construction. The chimneys appear to have been lowered at some stage.

Flint appears to have been used on frontages for much of the eighteenth century but, by the late nineteenth century, brick was becoming increasingly popular. This can be seen in one of the few dated dwellings in Gayton: a pair of cottages constructed on Winch Road in 1864.

Lismore House Gayton Building (31)

South-east front of Lismore House, Lynn Road.

This front is of dark red brick laid in Flemish bond, under a slate roof with decorative ridge tiles. This front dates from Victorian times.

Lismore House Gayton Building (33)

Detail of west gable of Lismore House, Lynn Road.

The random flint and carstone gable with carstone galleting suggests a seventeenth-century date. The brick front (see photo 5) would have been added in the nineteenth century at the same time as the uplift of the house from 1.5 storeys to 2 storeys. Similar brick in the same bond has been used to raise the gable height.

Lismore House, on Lynn Road at the western end of the village, shows how the Victorians enlarged this property by raising the height and then re-fronting in brick laid in English Bond.

Rosemary Cottage Gayton Building (7)

North gable of Rosemary Cottage, Rosemary Lane.

Original gable in square carstone, with soft red brick top. The tumbling-in on the upper gable implies a seventeenth-century date, confirmed by the core construction of the building. Compare the quality of carstone construction with that of Lismore House in photo 6. In the nineteenth century, the property was divided and uplifted to a full 2 storeys.

The west gable of Lismore house shows the use of both carstone and flint in the earlier development of the property. The carstone is of random rubble nature compared with the squared blocks which are seen in the earliest part of the north gable of "Rosemary Cottage", which is thought to date from about 1600.

Roofing materials

The majority of buildings in Gayton were roofed with red pantiles, which may have been produced locally or could have been brought in from the area round the Humber estuary. Some buildings are roofed with slate, which would have been imported from Wales or from northwest England, and which became a popular roofing material after rail transport made it a cheaper material in the mid-nineteenth century. A few buildings have the more expensive blue pantiles, which imitate slate and were a fashion statement of the late eighteenth century, and only the Crown Inn has a plain tile roof.


On Back Street and at Mill End, the core of the cottages appears to be of one and one half storey construction, dating from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. They were raised and extended in the later part of the nineteenth century and further modernised during the twentieth century, when many were combined to make larger houses. These buildings would have been one room deep, and outhouses would have been added to the rear to enlarge living accommodation. Although the village was dominated by one landowner, there is little evidence of model cottages being constructed for estate workers.


West front of semi-detached cottages on Winch Road.

These were the only cottages which were of double pile (2 rooms deep) construction in their original phase. Others had outhouses or lean-tos added to the back of one-room-deep buildings. All brick construction of red “wasters”, with white brick facings and decorations. These cottages do not appear on the 1886 OS map, but are present on the 1907 OS map. The original roofing material has been replaced with concrete tiles in the later twentieth century. Three pairs of these cottages were built.

Winch Road was not laid out until the early years of the nineteenth century and, as a result, the buildings have a different character - most were constructed to a full 2 storeys and underwent less modification. Only here does one find a group of semi-detached cottages built to a common plan, which shows decorative use of the poor quality bricks used in their construction. These cottages are 2 rooms deep and, although they have seen changes during the last century, they still form a coherent group.

SKETCH - Ivy House.

The sketch (not to scale) of Ivy House shows the various stages of development that a seventeenth-century Gayton house may have undergone over the centuries.

West Norfolk &
Kings Lynn
Archaeological Society