Willy Lott's House at Flatford

Willy Lott's House as seen in the Hay Wain

Originally part of Gibbeon’s Gate Farm, Willy Lott's House is a Grade 1, listed building. Willy Lott (1761-1849) was a tenant farmer who worked the 39 acres around Flatford that made up Gibbeon's Gate Farm. He lived in a house attached to the farmland, which long after his death, became known as Willy Lott's House. Willy Lott's parents lived in this house, Willy and his sisters and brothers were born there.

Although he could not read or write, Willy made enough money to buy the house and farmland around Gibbeon's Gate which he did in 1825. He never married, lived with his sister Mary and he died in the house at the age of 88 leaving the farm plus approximately £450 to his sisters, their children and his brother’s children.
Willy Lott's House was built over three centuries:
 
1. In the sixteenth century a single story timber frame was erected that stood alone and if you stand in front of the house today, this part appears like an extension on the right hand side of a much larger house
2. In the early seventeenth century a two storey wing was added to the left of the free standing building described above
3. In the late seventeenth century a back range was built that joined the two earlier buildings together - consisting of one storey with attic rooms.
A brick bread oven was attached to the right gable end against the chimney stack.The brick bread oven can be seen in Constable’s paintings The Mill Stream and most famously in The Haywain.
 
After Willy Lott's death, census information tells us that residents were John Tricker (1881), Henry Batley - retired (1891 and 1901) and Hary Percy Friswell described as a landscape and figure painter (1911). The house then fell into serious disrepair. A revival of interest in John Constable in the 1920’s led to some superficial restoration so visitors to Flatford could see the outside of it in reasonable condition and it was at this time that the house was renamed as Willy Lott's House.
 
However, by 1925 it was in such a serious state of neglect that it was offered to the National Trust in the hope that it could be rescued. In warning the National Trust against taking it on, The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings declared “The cost of putting Willy Lott's House in repair will be a sum in the neighbourhood of £1750” and advising that the National Trust should only take it on when it had been “repaired and its maintenance guaranteed”
 
Willy Lott's House and Flatford Mill were eventually bought by Mr Thomas Parkington, a builder and philanthropist in Ipswich. Thomas Parkington agreed to repair and maintain it during his lifetime and to give it to the National Trust on his death, as a tribute to the memory of John Constable.
 
In 1943, Thomas Parkington died in near bankruptcy and the National Trust agreed to buy Flatford Mill from Mr Parkington’s Trustees. However, when Thomas Parkington’s estate was liquidated, it yielded more than expected and Mrs Parkington offered to return the money the National Trust had paid for the house and mill.
 
In 1946 the National Trust leased Willy Lott's House, Flatford Mill and Valley Farm to the Field Studies Council who use the buildings to accommodate school parties, families and individuals wishing study in this unique learning environment.