Ancient High House front entrance
The Ancient High House front entrance

The ancient High House is a Stafford landmark, located on Greengate Street, amid modern shops. But there is nothing modern about this attractive timber-framed house. It was built around 1595 and is generally considered England's largest surviving timber-framed town house, and one of the finest examples of Elizabethan timber-framing in existence.

Like many Elizabethan town houses, the Ancient High House actually has a narrow frontage, so you do not get a real sense of the size of the building from the street. This narrow frontage was common in late medieval and Tudor towns, when houses could be taxed on their street frontage. So in order to minimise taxes, owners built narrow, deep, and high.

The house was built by the Dorrington family of wealthy merchants. The house must have been very high-status right from the start, for Charles II and Prince Rupert stayed here in 1642, while they were travelling to Shrewsbury. The room where they stayed is set aside as the Civil War Room, illustrating the visit.

There is also a Stuart Bedroom, featuring an ornate four-poster bed. Another period room is the Wallpaper Chamber, decorated with Georgian furnishings. Yet another chamber has been recreated as an Edwardian shop, while yet another is decorated in rich Victorian splendour.

There is a display on the architecture of the house, showing how timber-framing was carried out, and plenty of hands-on activities and quizzes for the young (and the young at heart!).

The attic is devoted to the museum of the Staffordshire Yeomanry Regiment. There are also a pair of gallery spaces displaing art by local artists, and a shop on the ground floor with local history books among other delights. Entry is usually free except for special events.


The Ancient High House is just off the market place in Stafford and is well-signposted. Our family had a wonderful time exploring the museum. Each room showed a different aspect of Stafford's history.

One fascinating feature was that areas of the original 17th-century wallpaper were exposed, and in some areas, the colour was remarkably well-preserved. When we visited there was a special exhibit with finds from the Staffordshire Hoard of Saxon coins and objects, with displays on how the Hoard was found by a metal detectorist. The Civil War exhibit was also very well done.

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About Ancient High House
Address: 48 Greengate Street, Stafford, Staffordshire, England, ST16 2JA
Attraction Type: Historic Building
Location: One block from st Mary's church, in the centre of Stafford.
Website: Ancient High House
Location map
OS: SJ921231
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


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