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Houses in High Street


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High Street was in the very heart of the medieval planned town and its name was clearly adopted to denote one of its principal trading streets. Two distinct market areas existed in the street from very early times. One, at the junction with Sheep Street, Ely Street and Chapel Street, was the site of the corn market from at least the fifteenth century. The other major market area was at the opposite end, at the junction with Bridge Street. A market cross (or High Cross as it was called) was located there from at least 1381. By1478, the structure was large enough to accommodate a clock (including a bell and other ironwork). In 1821 this cross was demolished and replaced by a far more impressive Market House at the top of Bridge Street (now Barclays Bank). The plan below shows the location of properties in High Street around 1886.

Properties in High Street in 1886

Different parts of High Street were badly affected by the fires of 1594 and 1595 and there are very few, if any, houses still standing earlier than those dates. But there are some fine examples of houses built in the wake of this disaster. They are timber-framed and typically of three jettied stories, topped with gables, striking testimony of the wealth of the townsmen who lived in this town centre street. The best in terms of detailing is the richly-carved Harvard House (known before 1900 as 'Ye Antient House'), built in 1596 by Thomas Rogers.

Properties in High Street studied in StratFire are listed below. For existing buildings, links are given to a short general description, a detailed documentary history, a building survey report and a dendrochronology (dating) report. For previous buildings, now demolished, there are a short general description and a detailed documentary history.


22 High Street (corner of Sheep Street)

The corner site opposite the Town Hall is currently an open space, bounded by a modern development reaching down Sheep Street, built in 1963-4. This replaced the Corn Exchange, and a shop on the very corner, dating back to 1850. Even earlier a timber-framed house stood here, with a documentary history indicating fire damage in the 1590s. Its appearance is preserved in a number of drawings, really of the Town Hall but fortunately including the building on the opposite corner.

General Description

Documented History


25 High Street (Garrick Inn)

The property at 25 High Street was owned in medieval times by the Guild of the Holy Cross, and after 1553 by the Town Corporation. In 1580 Thomas Deege, a weaver, was granted a formal lease for twenty-one years at an annual rent of 18s. He was still a tenant when the fires of 1594 and 1595 seriously damaged the house, forcing him to give up the lease. The Corporation agreed to lease the site to a mercer, William Smith, subject to the condition that ‘he would build upon the ground’. Rebuilding appears to have been underway in 1599 although it may not have been completed until later. Four samples were taken from surviving oak timbers in an effort to confirm by tree-ring dating the year 1599 as the building date. However, they could not be dated more closely than the period 1588–1610. The house has been a tavern since 1750 and was renamed in honour of the Garrick Jubilee of 1769.

General Description

Historic Building Record

Scientific Dating Report (draft)

Documented History

26 High Street (Harvard House)

The site of Nos. 26-28 High Street appears to have been owned as a single unit from the medieval period until the 1660s. From c.1592 until the end of this period the owners were successive members of the Rogers family, namely Thomas Rogers (1), who died in 1611, his son, also Thomas (2), who died in 1639, and then the latter’s son, Edward Rogers, who died in 1679. Edward left two sons, Thomas (3) and Joseph, who both died in 1684/5. It was their sister Modesty who in 1707, with other family members, sold the property out of the family. The initials carved on the front of No. 26 – TR AR below WR – can be taken to represent Thomas Rogers (1) and his wife Alice  and (probably) their son William Rogers, then aged eighteen.

General Description

Historic Building Record (interim)

Scientific Dating Report

Documented History


32 High Street (pre-Bell Court)

The building at 32 High Street stood where now is the entrance to Bell Court, the modern shopping precinct. In early views it presented a plain brick façade to the street. It was demolished in 1964 and replaced by a completely new brick building with a similar façade and subsequently refashioned to provide the present access. The documentary evidence from the mid-1590s, whilst not attributing the poor state of the building to fire damage, clearly indicates that rebuilding work was necessary. Given the location of the building in an area where fire had established a foothold, damage from the conflagration is therefore a possibility.

General Description

Documented History


33-34 High Street (pre-Debenhams)

This and the building at 35 High St were demolished in the late 1950s to create a store for Debenhams. At the time both buildings were three-storied with plain brick frontages to the street, but we know that timber frames had survived behind these frontages. Detailed study is possible from 1578 when the property featured in the will of William Smith, a wealthy linen draper and from the 1530s a leading public figure in the town. By the terms of his will, he bequeathed the house, evidently built since 1539, to his eldest son, also William, subject to the life interest of the testator’s wife Alice. At the time of the 1594/5 fires, the house was in the occupancy of John Smith, ironmonger, and surviving evidence implies, given his temporary residence at a neighbouring property immediately afterwards, that his main house had been seriously damaged.

General Description

Documented History


35 High Street (pre-Debenhams)

This and the building at 33-34 High St were demolished in the late 1950s to create a store for Debenhams. No early title deeds survive for the property and it is not until 1618 that we know that the house was owned by Henry Smith. However, a letter of 1931 refers to building work at ‘Noakes and Crofts’ (No. 35 High Street) some two decades earlier and to two Elizabethan fireplaces and a plaster overmantel that were salvaged by Oliver Baker. All three survive today and are relevant to the StratFire project.

General Description

Documented History


36 High Street (Ecco)

Behind the 18th-century brick front is a 15th-century timber framed building. Its construction soon after 1473 has now been confirmed by tree-ring dating. This coincides with the documentary evidence for rebuilding, as specified in the lease of 1473. In the context of the StratFire Project, this is of particular interest. One of the fires of 1594 and 1595 had as its epicentre the area at the south end of High Street. So, if the fire spread as far northwards as No. 36, it did not lead to a complete destruction of the property. In a survey of Corporation property taken in 1599, which makes several references to fire damage, the building at No. 36 is not included.

General Description

Historic Building Record

Scientific Dating Report

Documented History