WALKING down the Star and Garter yard just recently, my attention was drawn to the building work going on above, as seen here.

Andover Advertiser: The building work going on above the Star and Garter yardThe building work going on above the Star and Garter yard (Image: David Borrett)Quite clearly, there is a timber-framed house, its lower storey hidden behind the brickwork of 20th-century outbuildings in the yard itself, while attached is a former stable building to the right.

The work is not connected with the hotel itself but with No 6 High Street, now being renovated.

The shop front facing the High Street is late-Victorian, but the interior, a long, narrow shop, must include the ground floor of this ancient and interesting building.

For many years, the shop was that of Charlton News and before that, Martin’s.

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For those with a longer memory, it was Lavell’s from the mid-1950s until the 1980s, a national chain that took over Martin’s – though the Lavell name was eventually dropped after another ownership change in 1987.

Lavell’s frontage included an inset, open forecourt that enabled newspapers to be sold from a kiosk connected to the shop interior when the rest of the shop was shut.

In those days, newsagents were able to open earlier for the sale of papers but not for other goods – and this got around the problem.

Although several local history books and articles deal with specific buildings within their pages, Andover lacks a comprehensive architectural history.

But in the late 1960s, Richard Warmington, an ex-pupil of Andover Grammar School, who was studying to become a professional architect, was interested enough to briefly survey all the timber-framed buildings he could find around the town, most of them in the High Street and largely unappreciated.

This was at the very moment of Andover’s wanton self-destruction and without his work, their existence would have been lost to history; indeed, his booklet, Timber-Framed Building in Andover, published by Andover Local Archives Committee in 1971, was the eighth and final one of the series.

By the time it was published, much that he studied had already been demolished.

I was pleased to find that Mr Warmington had noted this house in the Star and Garter yard which he dated to the late 16th century.

As he explains, the fire of 1435 had destroyed the entire town, and the buildings that were constructed soon afterwards may have been quickly built and by the following century, in need of replacement.

This coincided with increasing prosperity and so there was a good deal of building during the 16th century.

Although they were good solid structures, they all followed a standard pattern, similar to Ford Cottage in Chantry Street – now moved to beneath the church tower.

Using a timber frame to build a house was a common means of construction for hundreds of years.

The lengths of timber available after the medieval period were confined to no more than about 16ft and this limited both the width and height of construction.

The length, however, was not so restricted, as verticals could be continually added.

Each length between the main verticals was called a bay and houses could contain a number of bays according to what was required.

The main vertical posts were spaced about 10ft apart and braced with horizontal and diagonal timbers between, and the space between was infilled.

Before the 17th century, this would likely be wattle and daub, kept in place with a supporting frame of wooden slats.

Later, when the wattle and daub deteriorated, the infill would be replaced with brickwork, which may or may not have been rendered over with plaster. 

Although now an integral part of No 6 High Street, the 16th century house must have once stood on its own, facing the yard, and accessible from there.

The tithe survey of 1848 shows it as one of two houses grouped together as a single listing, owned by Thomas S Workman, who also owned the Star and Garter and a considerable acreage of arable land on the outskirts of the town.

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Strangely, though one of the ‘two houses’ was No 6 High Street, neither were called shops or premises in that survey, although No 6 was a shop well before 1848, and was then run by Thomas William Wells, a wine and spirit merchant who subsequently moved to Bridge Street.

It would be interesting to name the resident of the house to the rear in the 1851 census but the lack of numbering at that period, makes it difficult to be sure of identifying the right person.

The census enumerators did not always follow a logical course and that building may not even have been considered part of the High Street.

It seems to have been a lucky survival and should merit listed building status.

If you are interested in local history, why not join Andover History and Archaeology Society? Details can be found at www.andoverlocalhistoryarchaeology.uk