On Wednesday 16 November 2016 an audience of about 80 LHS members & visitors were present at the 7.30pm lecture by Duncan James on Timber – framed Buildings –Recent Discoveries in & Around Herefordshire & Leintwardine. The LHS chair, Derek Martin, introduced the speaker noting that he had 20-yrs experience in dating buildings from mediaeval times through to the present. The audience was promised an informative & entertaining lecture & were not disappointed. The presentation was first class & the illustrations exceptionally good.
Mr James focussed on describing some of the timber-framed buildings he had examined recently to determine their age, original & subsequent uses & building modifications over time. He showed, with many examples , some of the indicators used in his detective work to establish a building’s history. These included:
– the profile & character of the external & internal timber work mouldings;
-the inclination of saw marks on timbers from which it is possible to date the building to before or after the 1530s;
– the nature of the individual bricks [coal & wood-fired kiln bricks vary in their hardness] & the nature of the brickwork;
– smoke blackening of roof timbers, possibly indicating an early smoke bay [pre-chimneys];
– the re-use of timbers from older buildings, etc.
In some cases the front facades of old buildings had been so altered, sometimes adding a shop frontage, that the historic importance of the building was not immediately evident. However, an inspection of the building’s other elevations & internally often revealed its origins & many historic treasures. Two examples were offered from Presteigne: one at the cross roads which may have been a courthouse & another [now Bennets] which was probably a prestigious mansion house , had been ‘jetted’ & possibly had an open balcony facing on to a courtyard.
Ludlow is particularly rich in old buildings & there is often documentary evidence of their former use. Mr James described the Readers House which faces St Lawrence’s churchyard, as a fine example of a 17th century prestigious building. It has a 1616 date on its front elevation. It appears that there has been some deterioration/collapse of part of the front of the building which has been restored but probably resulted in the loss of one of the matching gables. There is wonderful moulding on some of the windows.
Mr James also described his explorations of a 17th century farmhouse in Abberley, the development stages of the high status Worsley House from the 15th century [with evidence of a smoke bay] through to the 18th century, the 16th century Hanley Hall & several other historically important buildings.
And so to Leintwardine – an examination of Church House showed that it had been subject to major alterations in the past. There appeared to be 3 parts to the structure. The central section of the roof was considered intact & was probably the central bay of a 14th or early 15th century ‘Hall House’. Because of the nature of the structure, which used timber beams directly on to the soil for foundations, very few buildings of this type have survived. If it is 14th century it is one of the earliest domestic buildings in the county. A tree ring survey of the timbers would be informative.
Kinton Farm, Leintwardine had also been investigated by Mr James. This long building is made up of 7 bays. An examination of the roof timbers in the 3 early bays, probably 1450 – 1500, suggested that the roof had been originally half-hipped. There was no smoke blackening of the roof timbers which implied that it was not the main part of a mediaeval hall [now lost] but a cross-wing. Later phases in the development included chimney stacks & finally, 18th century re-fronting.
Mr Jones ended his excellent talk by expressing concern over several older buildings containing features of architecturally historic importance that may be lost through dereliction or unsympathetic development.
Altogether a fascinating insight into what is often hidden behind a façade, and how much buildings change over the years, but do not always disappear.
GW WBW 18.11.2016