Sunday, 20 October 2013


This page is about  curious buildings which have, or have had, a practical use

The Old Forge


The Old Forge at Claverdon in Warwickshire is a small half timbered building much like any other forge which was once to be found in most villages. 
The unusual feature of this one is the entrance which is in the shape of a huge horseshoe.
 Claverdon Forge


Upsall 'Town'

The tiny estate village of Upsall is situated on the western slope of the Hambledon Hills near to Thirsk in North Yorkshire.   Don’t blink as you pass through this place or you may miss it! – yet it contains two unusual buildings, as well as a castle.
The Old Forge is a fine Victorian building which has an unusual horseshoe shaped entrance, above which is the curious inscription – Upsall 1859 Town.    Although it appears that Upsall was never more than just a tiny village, it does have a Town Hall!  This rather impressive building just across the road from the forge, also has an inscription over the entrance – 1928 – Town Hall.     Actually, Upsall has had no less than three castles on the same site over the years.   The Scrope family built their castle there in the 14th century but it later became a ruin.  A splendid Gothic castle, built in the late 19th century, was burned down in 1918, being replaced in 1924 and it is still occupied as a family house.   Maybe the Lord of the Manor wanted to live in a town.


Upsall Forge

Upsall Town Hall




A Tudor granary


A rather curious farm building can be seen alongside the A3051 road just south of Botley in Hampshire, at Fairthorne Grange Farm.   It is a very fine Tudor granary, supported on staddle stones which keep the whole building clear of the ground.  The idea being to keep rats and rising damp away from the grain.

The Granary


Bee Boles


Another interesting old farm building can be seen alongside the A165 Malton to Pickering road close to the A64 in North Yorkshire.  The building has several ‘niches’ built into the back wall – they are to accommodate ‘bee boles’ which were straw bee hives, the predecessor’s of the modern wooden hive.    Honey was a very important product for sweetening purposes prior to the introduction of sugar, and beekeeping was therefore a very important branch of husbandry.



A Georgian Ice-house


A curious double skinned brick building to be seen in the grounds of Sutton Park at Sutton-on-the-Forest near York, is a fine example of a Georgian ice-house.   This egg shaped structure is built half underground and was an essential part of the large houses in Georgian and Victorian times for the storage of huge quantities of ice at a time when refrigeration was unknown, the ice being used to preserve food and to keep drinks cool.

 The ice house

The Leech House

This unique little castellated building is to be seen at the side of Bedale Beck at Bedale in North Yorkshire. . It is a 'leech house' the only one of it's kind and listed as a Grade 11 building.
It was used by the local apothecary for the storing of leeches, around the time that they were
used in medical practice.

The Leech House 

Robin Hood's Well

The area surrounding Barnsdale near Doncaster in South Yorkshire was once a part of a densely wooded area and a favourite haunt of the notorious outlaw Robin Hood. At Burgwallis on the modern A1 road there is a well, covered by a very fine stone shelter. The story goes that Robin captured the Bishop of Hereford at this spot and made him dance around a tree until he was exhausted and then relieved him of the £300 he was carrying. The well marks the spot and has been known as Robin Hood’s Well since the time of Henry V111 at least. The present edifice was erected by the Earl of Carlisle and attributed to Vanburgh. It was moved from the north side of Skell Brook to its present position when the road was widened. The Robin Hood Inn, which once stood nearby, displayed a three pint leather bottle, said to have belonged to Robin Hood.

The Watch House

The stealing of bodies from graveyards was a prevalent crime in the 19th century, and it was very difficult to apprehend these ‘body snatchers’ unless they were caught red-handed. To this end, watch towers were built in many graveyards where those keeping watch could shelter and still be vigilant. An interesting example of such a watch tower can be seen in the churchyard at Eckford, in the Scottish Borders. It even contains a small fire place to keep the incumbents nice and cosy.

A story tells of a local man, one James Goodfellow, who was walking home late, the day after a burial, when he saw a dim light in the churchyard. He saw a pony and cart secreted nearby and sent it galloping off, forcing two miscreants to leave their grisly task and rush after it. In the graveyard he found an open coffin and just had time to hide the body behind a nearby gravestone and install himself in the coffin, covering himself with the pall, before the two  body snatchers returned and lifted the coffin on to the cart and drove towards Kelso. After a short distance one of them leaned against the ‘body’ and cried “Jock, this body’s warm” whereupon James sat up and said, “If you had been where I have been, you would be warm” and the thieves fled. There was apparently no claim for the impounded horse and cart.

The Watch House

Boat sheds


The local economy on Holy Island off the north east coast of Northumbria is essentially from
the fishing industry. A local peculiarity is that of using the upturned hull of old fishing boats
as storage sheds.

'Boat' sheds, new and old

The Treadwheel Crane

Standing on Harwich Green, the Treadwheel Crane was originally situated on the site of the Naval Yard. It was also known as a House Crane to distinguish it from an open crane, it was built in 1667.
Inside the crane are two large wheels measuring some 16ft in diameter and the crane was operated by men walking inside these wheels. Two wheels were used as this provided a more balanced action. The jib of the crane projects over 17ft.
Cranes of this type were common in England until they began to be replaced by single wheel donkey operated cranes.

The Treadwheel Crane

Iron Row
A row of terrace houses in Burley in Wharfedale in Yorkshire is known as Iron Row. The houses were built c1800 by the local mill owners, Greenwood and Whitaker, to house their employees. Originally called New Row, the one up one down cottages were described as ‘fire proof’ in that no wood was used. They were an all stone construction and the roofs were supported by stone barrel vaults. Iron doors also protected the properties against the possibility of Luddite attack.
The row remained unchanged until the estate was sold in 1968 and are now much sought after modernised dwellings.
Iron Row

Wager Cottage
The former Wager Cottage, now called Column Cottage, is a Grade 11 listed building in Bondgate Without at Alnwick in Northumberland. It is said that it was built in two weeks around 1817 for the Duchess of Northumberland.  This was apparently to win a wager between the Duchess and the 3nd Duke. The Percy Crescent is over the door.

Whisky vat houses


There are a variety of ecological houses at the Findhorn Foundation Ecovillage on the Moray coast in north Eastern Scotland. Tucked away in a corner are several houses which have been constructed from redundant whisky vats.


Whisky vat houses


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