In this country generally few buildings survive before the fifteenth century, and because typically only external inspections were undertaken for Historic England listings, many of our earliest phases of buildings still go unrecognised. Gloucestershire is fortunate to have a high survival of early medieval buildings (before 1400): St Mary’s Church in Kempley contains the oldest in-situ roof dated in Britain, The Blackfriars 13th century Dominican friary in Gloucester is the best preserved in Britain and 26 Westgate Street is described as one of the finest timber-framed town houses of its kind. People walk past these buildings everyday, but few are aware of their antiquity, rarity and importance.
Gloucester, Tewkesbury and Newent contain clusters of some best surviving, but little known timber-frame buildings in Gloucestershire. Gloucester is unique in being a city with such good survival of medieval buildings. Tewkesbury is one of the best medieval townscapes in England. Newent contains a broad representation of timber-framed buildings and contains some particularly wonderful exposed examples of timber-framing and ornamentation.
This project aims to involve local people and the building owners in recording and precisely dating the construction of little known clusters of surviving timber-framed buildings in Gloucester, Tewkesbury and Newent. Tree-ring dating (Dendrochronology) is to be undertaken on 12 publicly prominent medieval buildings at each of these three locations. The main aims of the project are to:
- increase public understanding and appreciation of this rich heritage
- to map the chronology of early development
The Project Summary
The project is to focus on three of the largest clusters of buildings with exposed timber-framing in Gloucestershire. At least 36 medieval buildings in Gloucester, Tewkesbury and Newent are to be carefully selected, recorded and accurately tree-ring dated. This will provide a summary of how timber-framing developed in Gloucestershire and how key visual features may generally be used in dating such buildings. Particular preference will be given to buildings that are both prominent and publicly accessible and so their dating will provide a permanent resource legacy to help in recognising and understanding timber-framed buildings. Where exciting examples of timber-framing are hidden behind later façades 360 video records will be taken to enable such examples to be more widely known and generally accessible.
Many buildings in the project are publicly accessible and some have previously attracted Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF). Some of the outstanding examples of buildings we hope to study are shown below:
What outcomes do we hope to achieve?
Our project proposes to establish the precise years of construction of 36 medieval buildings in Gloucester, Tewkesbury and Newent though the science of tree-ring dating. We will increase public understanding of this rich heritage and map the chronology of early development of each place.
Using a new systematic recording method the visual changes in timber-framing will be summarised over time. A resulting A4 summary sheet will enable children and adults alike to be able to recognize the changes in timber-framing and enable them to estimate the construction dates (to within around 50 years) for timber-framed buildings in the county.
By dating a number of publicly accessible buildings an important legacy of the project is to provide a permanent training ground for aspiring building archaeologists of all ages. The results of this project will bring together the public and experts in understanding the exceptional nature of the surviving medieval buildings of Gloucestershire and highlight the importance of those buildings already restored through the help of HLF funding (such as the John Moore Museum, Llanthony Secunda Priory, St Mary de Crypt Church).
Legacy Outcomes: The Tewkesbury Triangle
The historian Alec Clifton-Taylor described the half-timbered ‘black and white’ buildings of north-west Herefordshire as unrivalled in England, and the 40-mile circular black and white buildings trail is now a famous tourist route. We believe the black and white buildings of Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire and Newent have the potential to be an equivalent 40-mile triangular trail for Gloucestershire, and will be a longstanding public and educational outcome of this project.
All the buildings selected in Gloucester, Tewkesbury and Newent are be added to existing walking history tours and new downloadable walking tour maps created.
Where the timber-framing & timbers are hidden behind later façades (where permitted) internal 3D views will be made available from the project web-site.
Lock-down addition: The Search for Chamfer Stops
A much neglected aspect of the stylistic dating of buildings has been the recording of chamfer stops. Many previous county-level projects have neglected to record stops or have recorded them without describing their character. Historic building records and heritage statements routinely identifying that chamfer stops are present, but often do not record their type.
By collecting photographs of chamfer stops not only in Gloucestershire, but from across the country, the identification of the particular styles of chamfer stops could become a valuable refinement in the stylistic dating of buildings. During this current lock-down, why not join in the search for chamfer stops in your own buildings by sending details and photographs to the project.
Not sure what a chamfer stop is, or what they look like? Just check out our new article: The Search for Chamfer Stops