Hayes Barton is the birthplace of Sir Walter Raleigh and lies on the edge of Woodbury Common, near the village of East Budleigh.
The house is a typical Devon farmhouse of the 14/1500's.
It was built in 1484, or possibly earlier, and is constructed using cob walls, based on a stone foundation.
The original house had a basic rectangular layout. The wings and porch were added at a later date. They make its floor-plan into the shape of a letter "E". It is approached from the right of the letter with the porch forming the shorter arm of the letter. This was a common layout at the time. It has been said that this was used as a compliment to Queen Elizabeth the first. She was not born for some 50 years after the house was built, so the assumption is that the modifications took place during her reign.
The craftsmanship is rough - for example every stair tread is of a different width (some claim this to be a means of confusing intruders, but that sounds like a carpenter's excuse to me). However the construction is very solid - the main (or King) roof beam which extends the length of the main block, is rock-hard oak - 12 inches square and 80 feet long.
Not long afterwards, the wings either side were added, the central hall was floored over and the chimneys built. The Devon porch was probably added during the time of Sir Walter Raleigh to form the letter "E" in honour of the Queen, as was common practice at that time. The farmhouse has remained largely unaltered since then.
Hayes Barton has remained the property of two great Estates through its history, first that of Richard Duke and then the Rolle Estate, now known as Clinton Devon Estates. From the letter overleaf (too unclear to be scanned) you will discover that Sir Walter Raleigh tried to buy it in 1584. It is currently farmed by the Down family who have lived there for two generations. The surrounding buildings mostly date from c. 1880 and 1980!
Sir Walter Raleigh's father was tenant here and a Church Warden at East Budleigh where the family crest on the bench end and his step-mother's tomb can be seen today. The house where he is said to have been schooled still exists too (Vicars' Mead) but sadly the River Otter is no longer navigable. In those days, there was a busy harbour in the valley where no doubt Walter spent many hours listening to sailors' tales. A seed was sown!
You will enter through the magnificent 16th Century front door to come into what was once the central hall. The chimney to the fireplace is dated RD 1627. The screen has unfortunately long since disappeared.
At the top of the stairs, look at the window, the earliest surviving. Also note the uneven risers on the stairs (known as "trip stairs", to trap the unwary intruder). You will then enter Raleigh's room and look out to Hayes Wood through the crested window. The crest was added at the suggestion of the Prince of Wales (Edward VIII). Look at the floorboards and antique four-poster bed.
Going along the top of the house, you will get a good chance to look at the arch braces and the great wall beam said to be a single piece of oak 80' long and nearly 12" square. The "smoke room" over the porch contains several interesting momentos of Sir Walter.
The back stairs lead to the sitting room with its recently revealed inglenook and onwards to the fine kitchen. The tasteful modernisation harmonises well with the magnificent 12" table and the wide kitchen grate with its rare below-fire oven. On the right is the usual farmhouse bread oven.
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