43 Argilla Road, the Giddings – Burnham house (b 1667)

43 Argilla Road, the Giddings - Burnham house (b 1667)
43 Argilla Road, the Giddings – Burnham house (b 1667)

The earliest section of the Giddings-Burnham House at 43 Argilla Road in Ipswich was built in the mid-17th Century by carpenter George Giddings who immigrated from Norfolk, England. The earliest documentation for this property was the deed of sale between George Giddings and his brother-in-law Thomas Burnham in 1667. The original part of the house with its rough-hewn beams, low ceiling, hearth, and mud-daub and wattlewalls has been well-preserved and has several unique building techniques similar to those used in Norfolk England during that period.

This photo from the
This photo from the “250th Celebration of the Incorporation of the Town of Ipswich” identifies this as the “Winthrop-Burnham house.” Locals believed this was John Winthrop’s first homestead.
Wattle and Daub shown in an exposed wall in the Burnham - Giddings House in Ipswich MA
Wattle and daub in the Giddings Burnham house

The Giddings-Burnham house was built as a double cell, central chimney structure. An early ell was raised to two stories and in the 1930s was remodelled to the present lean-to with full dormer. In the left-hand room, 18 feet deep by 15 1/2 feet wide, the longitudinal summer beam has quarter-round chamfers, flat collars and lamb’s tongue stops. The right-hand room has identical features.

The summer beams in the Giddings-Burnham House are wider across the bottom than they are high, an early English construction method. Floor joists evolved from this style in the early 17th Century to being installed with the taller side up. This suggests that the summer beams in the Burnham – Giddings house were reused. The house frame was filled with “wattle and daub,” the old English method of daubing a sticky material consisting of wet soil, clay, sand, and straw onto (wattle) wooden strips woven into the framework.

The overhang at the gable end is formed with molded end girts which is further decorated with shadow-molded sheathing and applied dentils above the projecting girt. The supporting summer beams are laid flat rather than the more common and stronger system of having the wide side of the beam upright. An older reused 17th century door was found in the Giddings-Burnham House and is now in the collections of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. The house was added to the National Historic Register in 1990. View Macris.

In his 1892 booklet
In his 1892 booklet “Homes of our Forefathers,” Edwin Whitefield reiterated the common belief at that time that the house was built by John Winthrop Jr., and was purchased by the Burnham family when he moved to Connecticut.

Abbott Lowell Cummings recorded the following history of this house at a conference of the Colonial Society in 1974:

“Thomas Franklin Waters, the Ipswich historian, reports from his study of the town records that George Giddings, yeoman, had a grant of 100 acres here in 1635. On June 3, 1667, Giddings conveyed to Thomas Burnham, carpenter, a “dwelling house wherein the said Thomas now dwelleth” together with twelve acres of land. A widely chamfered summer beam and large joists laid flatwise have been salvaged from an older house, probably that mentioned in the 1667 deed, for re-use in the framing of the ground-story floor, and these features may easily date to the earliest years of the town.

The main body of the present structure, however, of two-room, central-chimney plan, appears on the basis of style and character of construction to date to the 1680’s or 1690’s, and almost certainly before the death in 1694 of Thomas Burnham, the carpenter and presumed builder. He was aged about sixty-two in 1680 which may account for the conservative use of wattle and daub fill in the walls. The house was owned by generations of Burnhams until acquired about 1880 by Mrs. Charlotte Lord.

A drawing by Edwin Whitefield in the collections of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities dated that year shows a central pilastered chimney, overhangs at the front and in both stories of the gable end, and a one-story gambrel-roofed ell at the rear. The changes which followed Mrs. Lord’s purchase could not have been made all at once. A photo published in 1884 shows the chimney with, however, the front and east end overhang at the first story boxed in and the ell raised to a full two stories with a pitched roof. Later, and before 1900, the central chimney and much early interior trim were removed and a small chimney stack erected at the rear of each of the principal rooms. In the ell on the ground floor William Sumner Appleton discovered in 1914 a wainscot door of oak in a re-used position which he secured for the collections of SPNEA. The house was thoroughly restored about 1935, and a wing at the left-hand end to accommodate modern conveniences was added in 1977.”

Sources and further reading:


8 replies »

  1. Lt. Thomas Burnham is my ninth great-grandfather, and I just turned seventy-five last week. My maternal grandfather, David Randall Burnham was born in Essex, Massachusetts, on November 11th, 1894. My mother, Louise Robertson Burnham, was born in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, on September 21st, 1915. She was born in her maternal grandmother’s house on Rosedale Avenue, across the street from the cemetery.

  2. I believe I am a direct descendant of George Henry Giddings, born in Clapham, England on September 24, 1609 he and his wife Jane Antrobus Lawrence arrived in Ipswich on the “Planter” in 1635.

  3. Lt. Thomas Burnham is a 9th Great Grandfather and George Giddings is also a 9th Great Grandfather.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.