Category Timber-Framed, Buildings of England

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Box-Frame Construction

We have seen earlier that the transition from earthfoot timber-framed structures to sill-mounted structures and therefore a permanent framed building of box-frame construction occurred in England between about 1150 and 1250. As the name implies, box-frame construction consists of a box-like framework in which the roof load is distributed along the supporting walls, unlike cruck construction in which the walls are normally non-load-bearing and are, like the roof timbers, supported directly by the crucks from the ground. Box-framed buildings are based on the use of a pair of posts held together at the top by tie-beams and connected laterally at the top by wall-plates (on which the feet of the common rafters are supported) and at the bottom by the sill-beam...

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Carpenters’ numerals and marks

wall-frame often had strokes cut above the numerals, indicating which floor they related to – one stroke for the first floor, two strokes for the second and so on. In some cases, as at the Ancient High House, Stafford, Arabics were used. These identification marks enabled work­men to sort the timbers easily prior to erection.

The erecting of the timbers on site differed between those of box-frame and cruck construction. The method employed in cruck building was rearing; that is, the components of each frame, previously prepared in the carpenter’s yard, were jointed and pegged together to make a rigid frame which was then raised through ninety degrees, tenons on the bottom of the blades engaging with the mortices in the sill-beam...

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Joints

With the timbers so prepared, it was necessary to cut the joints. The jointing system was, of course, of major importance in all timber­framed construction, the old carpenters bringing an astonishing degree of skill and ingenuity to the execution of their work. Joints were either mortice-and-tenon, half-lap or scarf.

The mortice-and-tenon was the most important and was the basis of all traditional framing (5). Generally these joints were of the unrefi­ned type, but when beams were jointed into vertical posts, a hewn bracket or a housed soffit-shoulder or a ledge was provided for ad­ditional support...

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Construction and Structural Details

Oak was the timber predominantly used in timber-framed construc­tion, for its strength and resistance to rot were unrivalled, and if it was allowed to dry naturally, it actually improved and hardened with age. Of the other timbers, elm is most commonly met, for when grown in woodland conditions it grew taller than oak and was therefore sometimes preferred to oak for longitudinal members, such as collar – purlins, where a single continuous length was an advantage. It is, however, somewhat inferior to oak in that it is less resistant to damp and insect attack, yet it was frequently used in the construction of barns and other farm buildings in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries...

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Introduction

Until some four hundred years ago, timber was the principal building material in England, with the possible exception of Cornwall, a county not well supplied with trees suitable for timber construction (even here, however, we can find some timber-framed houses, for instance at Launceston). Even in those areas, such as the Cotswolds and Derbyshire, where other materials, such as stone, were readily avail­able, timber was preferred, for it was then plentiful, cheap and easy to handle, with the added advantage that every tree felled or woodland cleared provided additional land for cultivation.

Large parts of medieval England were covered with forests; over sixty genuine forests were recorded in the thirteenth century...

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