88 High Street

88-90 High StreetNos. 88 and 90 High Street have been merged together since the early 1800s. The result has been a strange-looking facade with the upper part clothed in mathematical tiles and the lower ground floor masked by a single shop front. The odd-looking roof of No. 88 was often the subject of speculation.

An explanation of the whole premises became clear when the owners applied to the Council to demolish the property. After a site meeting between representatives of the Council, the Kent Historic Buildings Committee and the Ashford Archaeological and Historical Society, it was discovered that although No. 90 was early 19th century, it had been built onto a timber-framed 17th-century building of considerable interest and in sound structural condition.

Plate 2 - Another View showing the gambrel roof

Plate 2 – Another View showing the gambrel roof

The earlier building is unusual and probably unique in Ashford’s architectural history in that it has a ‘gambrel’ roof which explains its strange appearance when viewed from the street. A gambrel roof, sometimes known as a mansard roof, may be defined as one with two pitches on each side of the ridge, the lower one steeper than the upper. This can occur on two sides, three sides or all four sides of a building. The object is to provide more headroom in the attic. In this case the feature applies to the front and the two sides. The illustration shows the timber construction in perspective. The woodwork is in oak, except now for the roof, which owing to an unfortunate accident during renovation, was badly burned and had to be replaced by pine. The illustration is based on drawings made before the refurbishing in 1986 (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 - Perspective of timber frame

Fig. 1 – Perspective of timber frame

External Features:

Ground Floor: Modern shop-front nicely recon- structed in a traditional manner.

First Floor: Front hung with mathematical tiles painted in two colours demarking the original two sections of the building before reconstruction.

Roof: Kent peg-tiles on No. 88; slates on No. 90. A small hipped dormer in the older section facing the street.

The building is long and narrow, measuring approximately 12 ft. at the front by 50 ft. deep. An interesting point is that the front section, approximately 24 ft. long, has a ceiling height higher than the rear part of the building. Before the restoration there were voids in the floor timbers of this section, the purpose for which is unclear, as likewise is the original function of the building.

One suggestion is that the front part was a small hall-house of medieval date with a normal roof. Note the absence of any old chimney in this part. We can speculate that the back part was added under a whole new roof as seen today. The extension might then have been given over to some manufacturing purpose such as weaving, which is known to have been carried on in the town during its history. The ground floor might have been, with its low ceiling, a storage area and the upper storey with a higher ceiling used for manufacturing.

Briscall W., 1987, Discovering Ashford’s Old Buildings, Ashford, LRB Historical Publications