The mysteries of Paycocke's

A coloured sketch of Paycocke's showing an extra third half-storey which has since been removed
The mysterious extra half-storey National Trust / Sue James

There are several puzzles at Paycocke’s which are yet to be explained...

Third storey missing

By looking at the timber frame, we know the house used to have a third floor which was removed not long after its construction as the present roof dates to 1588.
Whilst we think the space was used for storage, we can only speculate as to why it was removed so quickly. Perhaps it had been poorly constructed and was deemed inefficient.
Yet we do know other buildings in the village had their third storeys removed around the same time. Maybe this reflects a shift in the cloth trade.

Fake fireplaces?

The fireplaces we see today were not built in Thomas Paycocke’s time and were uncovered during the restoration.
Clues to their original whereabouts are visible in the west walls of the main hall and entertaining room directly above. If you look carefully, you can see where the mantels would have been from the notches made in the wooden beams. Yet there is no evidence for a chimney to accompany them. Perhaps this is evidence for the experimental stages of domestic heating.
In medieval times, central fires were lit in open halls so the smoke could escape. Perhaps the Tudors hadn’t quite mastered chimneys at the time of Paycocke’s construction. If this was the case, smoke would have filled the rooms making everyone cough and splutter. This unpleasant scenario would account for why the fireplaces are no longer there.
Or, perhaps these fireplaces were never designed to be used at all. Thomas may have created an illusion to suggest to others he was rich enough to afford home comforts like heating. This would work with the idea that the main range was merely a showroom. In his day, there was no door to the room beyond so visitors would not realise the trick.
Whatever the explanation, this continues to baffle us.

Mismatched decor

Thomas Paycocke’s office is now covered from floor to ceiling with wooden panelling.
There are in fact five different types of panelling in this room. Can you spot them all?
They date from the 16th-century when wooden panelling was fashionable but they are not necessarily all original to the house. Were these installed by the first Buxton inhabitants?
Those above the fireplace have been put on upside down. The smooth lip of each panel is at the top rather than the bottom so dust collects on the rough ridges. I bet the craftsman got a telling off or perhaps they were lucky and their commissioner never noticed.
Three panels, hidden behind the door, are obviously different to the rest. Why? Could these have been acquired from the Abbey when they were stripped of their wealth?


We have a stretch of water at the bottom of the garden as do our neighbours. This rises in periods of heavy rain and, looking back at records, Paycocke’s has had problems with flooding on many occasions.
Perhaps this was once part of a larger oxbow lake.
Today it makes a pretty water feature in our garden and a home for all kinds of wildlife.