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Sparrow Rigg Cottage

A Grade II Listed Building in Orton, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.8584 / 54°51'30"N

Longitude: -3.0544 / 3°3'15"W

OS Eastings: 332412

OS Northings: 552019

OS Grid: NY324520

Mapcode National: GBR 7D38.J6

Mapcode Global: WH807.14TT

Entry Name: Sparrow Rigg Cottage

Listing Date: 13 November 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1421394

Location: Orton, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA5

County: Cumbria

District: Carlisle

Civil Parish: Orton

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Great Orton St Giles

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle

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Farmhouse of clay-walled construction, probably later C17 or early C18 with subsequent alterations.


Farmhouse, probably later C17 or early C18 with subsequent alterations.

Materials: the original farmhouse is of clay wall construction with an external cement render, set upon a stone and cobble plinth with red sandstone dressings (painted blue).
Plan: long-house derivative with an off-centre non-axial chimney.

Exterior: the building is oriented roughly west to east and occupies a site that slopes gently down from south to north. It has one and a half storeys under a pitched roof and has the truncated remains of an off-centre non-axial ridge chimney.

The main (north) elevation is significantly bowed at its north west end. The ground floor has four rectangular window openings of varying sizes, although the tops of all four are set at roughly the same level, all with projecting stone sills and timber lintels. From left to right these comprise a small window fitted with a four-pane fixed frame with fine glazing bars, a larger window fitted with a four-pane unhorned sash frame, a small fire-window fitted with a four-pane fixed frame and at the far right a window fitted with a fixed six-pane frame. It is possible that a blind section of wall between the fire window and the fourth window contains the blocked north end of a former cross passage whose south end is visible in the south elevation as a blocked and rendered entrance. There are two small first-floor windows tucked beneath the eaves at the west and east ends, both with stone cills and a six-light unhorned sash frame and a four-pane fixed window respectively.

The rear (south) elevation has a single window at the north west end with red sandstone jambs and cill, fitted with a modern window frame; the short length of wall containing this window is thinner than the rest of the building and it is thought that this section has probably been rebuilt in stone or brick. To the right and with its right side in line with the off-centre truncated chimney is a former external entrance, possibly the south end of a former cross passage, now blocked and rendered. There are two modern, full roof dormers at the east end.

The removal of a later extension to the west gable has revealed some of the clay walling to both the original building and its upper extension and also suggests the presence of stone quoins to the main elevation. The chimney stack has been rebuilt.

Interior: the ground floor is divided into two rooms of unequal size by a firewall. The western room has a chimney breast to the west gable fitted with a later C20 fireplace. There is a hatch in the roof through which the attic floor above this room is accessed and through which unsawn and roughly hewn ridge and side purlins are visible. The space was not inspected but we understand that spalling of the render in places has revealed stone and cobble. The eastern room has a former inglenook against the firewall, now infilled with a modern red-brick fireplace, and lit by a small fire window to the right. Three substantial and roughly hewn beams run from front to rear embedded within the original clay walls at either end, which support later joists for the half-floor above. A full-height former door way with dressed stone jambs through the rear wall of this room gave access to the former rear outshut and is now blocked with breeze blocks; to either side where the render has spalled, the clay walling is visible. The east end of this room has been lightly partitioned and has an inserted stair to the first floor. To the right of the stair at first floor level a boxed in feature might represent the truncated remains of a cruck pair. The first floor consists of two bedrooms and retains what are interpreted as the roughly hewn ridge and side purlins of the original roof structure. At least one of these purlins displays a pegged scarf joint and an assembly mark. The ceilings are coved, masking further evidence of the roof structure.


Sparrow Rigg Cottage is considered to have been constructed as a single-storey farmhouse; while its exact date of origin is unknown, comparison with dated examples in the region suggest it is of late-C17 or early C18 date; evidence of original cruck construction and a long-house plan combined with our broader study and knowledge of Solway Plain clay buildings supports this assessment. The house is depicted on the 1:2500 OS map published in 1866 as 'Sparrowrigg' by which time it has acquired a rear outshut and has an L-shaped plan. The footprint of the building remains unchanged on the 1:2500 Ordnance Survey map published in 1900, with the exception of a small external rectangular feature attached to the north west gable. An Inland Revenue survey (and plan) undertaken between 1910 and 1915 describes Sparrowrigg as 25 acres and one rood of grazing land worth £28. The house is described as being of clay construction with a slate roof and to have three bedrooms, two sitting rooms, a kitchen, dairy and back kitchen. The small external building attached to the north west gable is described as a lean-to earth closet.

It is unclear whether the clay walls were raised in height at an unrecorded time but more recently the eaves have been raised and the roof set at a slightly shallower pitch. C20 and C21 alterations have included the insertion of dormer windows to part of the attic floor and the demolition of the small lean-to attached to the north west gable and its replacement with a modern, flat-roofed extension., The latter has been recently demolished as has the outshut formerly attached to the south wall. Internally, most modern fixtures and fittings have been removed.

The Solway Plain in northern Cumbria contains the only substantial surviving remnant of a clay building tradition that was once common throughout northern England and southern Scotland. Also known as clay ‘dabbins’, these buildings (about 300 examples) form a distinctive type of vernacular architecture first explored through the research of R W Brunskill and subsequently extensively studied by Nina Jennings and the Solway Plain dendrochronology project. Both domestic and farm buildings are represented, with clay mass walling consisting of thin layers of clay separated by thin beds of straw. The earliest examples have roofs which are largely independent of the walls and are formed of crucks set on a low stone plinth prior to construction. By the late-C18 the cruck frame was replaced with simple tie-beam trusses. Roofs were originally thatched. Most surviving clay-walled farmhouses are considered to date from the late-C17 or early C18 and are of long house derivative plan, in which people and animals lived under a common roof; the living areas are usually a two or three bay element comprising a firehouse and a parlour. Many buildings have been scientifically dated to earlier periods, however, and their evolution may be quite complex.

Reasons for Listing

This clay-walled building of probably late-C17 or early C18 date is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Date: while its constructional date can not be absolutely confirmed, the evidence provided by the building itself and our knowledge of such buildings on the Solway Plain, all point strongly to a likely origin in the later C17 or early C18;
* Constructional materials: it is a good example of the formerly more widespread northern English clay building tradition which is now largely confined to the Solway Plain;
* Plan form: it is an evolved building which retains significant evidence of its evolved long house derivative plan and its evolution to a two-cell plan;
* Evolution: it is considered that significant early fabric survives in the form of clay mass walling and a re-modelled timber roof structure; alterations such as the insertion of a first floor are evident and add to the overall interest of the building's evolution.

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