Kirkham House
Kirkham House
Kirkham House is a late medieval stone townhouse. At some point in its long history the house was split into three cottages, but was restored to its original state in the 1960s. The interior is furnished with modern replica furniture, showing what life was like for those who dwelt here in the Middle Ages.

History

Carving on timber beams inside the house suggests a date in the 14th century but the style of construction is typical of the 15th century. The building is laid out with a three-room design typical of late medieval farmhouses, when society shifted from one-room living to separate rooms for different activities, prompted in part by a growing desire for privacy.

At that time Paignton was a small, rural community, not the bustling resort town it became. Kirkham House was originally known as Priest's House and stands near the original parish church of Paignton. Despite the name, however, it does not seem to have been used as a vicarage, but as the residence of a prosperous merchant. Carving detail suggests that it was built for someone of high social standing.

The Parlour
The Parlour

House Layout

Entrance is through an arched wooden doorway added around 1600. The entrance gives access to a traditional screens passage going straight through the house. Of one side of the passage is a doorway to the parlour, and on the other is a doorway to the hall. Both the hall and parlour have hooded fireplaces.

The parlour may have been used for conducting business as well as offering a space for the family to relax. The parlour originally had a stone washbasin, an item you would only expect to see in a high-status residence. The basin is now at the church in Goodrington. A similar basin was in the hall, and that is now in Paignton parish church.

The hall was the centre of household life. It was here that the entire household - as many as 20 people - ate, slept and socialised. Food was brought to the hall from a kitchen to the rear of the house (the kitchen is no longer standing).

The Best Chamber
The Best Chamber

A doorway leads from the hall to a small chamber with an outside doorway. We don't know what this chamber was used for but it may have been a shop or a storeroom.

A staircase leads from the parlour to the first floor where there are three chambers. A large 'best chamber' is above the parlour and gives access to a small chamber that projects out over the hall. At the far end is a third chamber, reached by a later gallery. This chamber has its own outer staircase, a garderobe, and stairs to an attic. It may have been used by servants.

Kirkham House is managed jointly by English Heritage and the Paignton Preservation & Local History Society.