Discoveries from the Deverills Part 3 – a spectacular barn with a hidden date revealed

on Thursday, 22 October 2015. Posted in Architecture

In the second part of my blog on the marvellous discoveries in the Deverills I explored what timber-framed buildings were like in the Deverill valley in the period between1500-1600, looking in particular at Timber Cottage, Crockerton. Timber Cottage was a very obviously timber-framed building, but during our investigations we found that there was much more timber-framing hiding inside later stone encasing. One of the more spectacular finds was Manor Farmhouse in Kingston Deverill, which I will discuss in my next blog.

The wonderful mixed-truss construction aisled barn belonging to Manor
farm is well-known about and recently dated by dendrochronology funded by
Wiltshire Buildings Record to 1407-10. It has a fairly unique layout of
structural trusses inside where base crucks (the very curved supports)
alternate with straight posts. Base crucks are an early form of construction
anywhere in England, and not generally found in Wiltshire after about 1350.

This dating was an improvement on the ‘probably 16th century’
date attributed by the DoE list description. It also extended what was previously thought to be the end of base-cruck construction – a very early type in the general chronology of crucks - in Wiltshire by around 60 years.

Not only was this very early date revealed through scientific dating, Dr Alex Craven, the assistant editor of the VCH during this project quite fortuitously uncovered an account of the barn’s building which corroborated the date of 1407. This gave a great deal of detail about materials and where they were sourced from. It gives a fascinating insight into the process of barn-building and what a wide geographical area from Mendip to Maiden Bradley, that men and materials were brought in from. For instance 40 oak trees cut down in Bittele, wherever that was, and 15 more from Knoll, which might be Knoyle. The stone came from quarries at Fontell which might be ?Fonthill and Penne, the modern day Penselwood over the border in Somerset. It is also staggering to see that builders were recruited from Bruton, Wells and Norton St Philip. It shows what a major event it must have been in the life of a village where most people never went much further than the next village, or perhaps Warminster.

Dorothy Treasure, Principal Buildings Historian


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