Rare building pre-dates the great fire of Leighton Buzzard

One of the oldest surviving buildings in Leighton Buzzard is to be researched more thoroughly following a financial boost from the town council.
A photo circa 1960s of the old thatched building in Hockliffe StreetA photo circa 1960s of the old thatched building in Hockliffe Street
A photo circa 1960s of the old thatched building in Hockliffe Street

Initial investigations on the history of 17 Hockliffe Street has led Leighton Buzzard and District Archeological and Historical Society to get “very excited”.

The building is thought to pre-date 1600 and houses the TACTIC youth centre run by the town council. Last week the council approved a history society £1,000 funding request to allow specialist dating of the property, the compilation of a report and the eventual holding of an exhibition.

A society report states: “Our research led us to get very excited about 17 Hockliffe Street because it appears to be one of the oldest surviving buildings in town and a rare medieval survival.”

Two society members visited the building with Gary Marshall of the National Trust earlier this year and concluded it may have been built between 1550 and 1600, but possibly earlier.

The report added: “It certainly pre-dated the great fire of Leighton Buzzard in March 1645, when a large part of the High Street burnt down during the civil war.

“Mr Marshall also noted that the original carpenters’ marks that showed how the building was put together were clearly visible in the roof, another rarity, and that whole trees, complete with bark were still in their original position. The wattle and daub in the roof was still in situ after 500 years.

The building is unusual survival from the period because it is an ordinary house, as oppose to a great mansion or cathedral.

The report said: “Mr Marshall recommended a professional drawing of the structure of the roof and the location of the carpenters’ marks, and dendro dating to get an exact date of the timbers to establish when the building was built.

“The TACTIC centre and the restaurant next door were all constructed as one building and the roof extends across both properties.”

The society adds that it is “remarkably lucky” that the building is in the ownership and protection of the town council and that it has hardly been unaltered in 500 years.”

One the work is carried out the society says it would provide valuable material for an exhibition on the building “which could be the oldest in town, outside the churches of St Mary’s at Old Linslade and All Saints. There are few such buildings anywhere in the country and we are fortunate it is in such an excellent state of preservation.”

On hearing the council had approved the finance, Paul Brown from the society, told the LBO: “The society is looking for someone with the skills to draw the timber framing including the carpenters’ marks to aid the work of the dendro chronologist.”