Bridge Cottage is an aisled Wealden Hall House built to a relatively high architectural standard in about 1436 for a wealthy client. It has been greatly altered over the past six centuries but much of the original timber-
The service wing to the left of the picture contained the pantry and buttery. The first floor was jettied and the upper wall projected out beyond the lower wall at the front of the house. The kitchen was probably in a separate building away from the main house because of the risk of fire.
The main living room was the central hall. It was open from clay floor to the rafters with a central open fire hearth. The hall was expensively decorated with moulded timbers to impress visitors. The owner and his family would have sat at the northern ‘high’ end of the hall, furthest away from the smoke of the fire. The main framework of the house formed an arch across the width of the hall and supported the cross plan crown post of the roof.
The now demolished solar wing was similar to the service wing and its rooms were probably the private chambers of the owner and more lavishly decorated than the store rooms of the service wing.
When the solar was demolished, its timbers were reused by putting a first floor in the building and at the end of the sixteenth century, the two brick chimneys were built.
In the early 1980s Uckfield was undergoing redevelopment and the area beside and behind Bridge Cottage became a shopping complex. The building was in danger of demolition and the Society organised fund raising so the Cottage could be purchased by Uckfield Town Council. The Society has maintained the building for 20 years and in late 2005, signed a 20 years lease. This will enable the Society to raise sufficient funds to renovate fully the building and bring it into public use as a heritage centre.
In the period since 1983 much restoration work has been carried out at Bridge Cottage to provide a weather tight environment to support its Heritage Centre Vision. In 2005 we launched the restoration project raised funds to employ a local architect, WaS to work up a complete restoration plans that have full Planning and Listed building consents.
This restoration project seeks to build on the work carried out to date and to refurbish the Bridge Cottage Heritage Centre for the benefit of the whole community. To achieve this aim the whole building is being refreshed to ensure that the fabric can remain coherent for future generations whilst meeting new aspirations for the building.
The key works entail the recreation of an open hall on the first floor, just as it would have been when the building was built in 1436. This open hall will offer a magnificent meeting room for cultural and artistic events whilst the whole building will be able to cater for exhibitions and other activities.
Under floor heating will be installed driven by a ground source heat pump whilst the whole roof cladding will be removed to allow it to be insulated with sheeps wool insulation before re-tiling. This heating strategy is both eco friendly and sympathetic to a building of this age.
The lean-to shop on the north side will be extended vertically to reform the missing solar aspect of the building to provide a first floor Heritage Hub and plant room. The plant room, for all electrical controls and heating units, will be at this level to protect against the known, high flood risk to the building.
A new fire escape and small kitchenette will be incorporated whilst various other internal reconfigurations will also take place to allow a better use of the facility.
The prime objective of the Centre will be to support the community through craft, artistic and historic activities enhanced, where possible with material from our archive collection. We envisage that these activities will to appeal to all sectors of the community including children, senior citizens and the disabled.
We intend to build on our existing educational experience by offering supported facilities to all three sectors of education; primary, secondary and tertiary as well as adult education. The building lends itself to both enactment and conventional learning activities through the visibility of the structure and the created atmosphere.
Our intention is also to encourage use of the building for exhibitions, small fairs, baroque style concerts and general meetings using the unique facilities of the building.
Bridge Cottage will be registered for Civil Ceremonies allowing the local community to enjoy a charismatic setting for these special occasions.