Saturday, December 04, 2010

Snow Days

Snow day: school closed!!  Oh, wait...It's my day off anyway.  But somehow, the insane excitement of sledges and snowballs fills the air - after all, I don't have to struggle through the traffic to work today.

Last week, to a big  public meeting on the project organised by the village Heritage society.  This project aims to establish the dates of properties in the centre of Coggeshall.   Our house is part of that centre.  The project has some very well-qualified people giving up their time in early retirement, and has secured funds from the Lottery to employ a dendrochronologist, to date timbers.  Our house has been selected.

Dating timbers is a tricky business.  Elm will not date.  Oak has to be of a certain girth and, preferably, with the bark attached.  The timbers have to be accessible and boreable.  North of the village is Monks' Wood, and it is thought that much of the timber for the village centre came from there, so there is oak rather than elm.

When our house was surveyed, we began to look at details with new eyes.  We had always enjoyed the exposed timber in our dining-room, but had never thought of it as belonging to the house next door. 

The large capital at the head of this upright has some moulding to it.  This, we learn is Jacobean, rather than late mediaeval. 

In fact, the part of our house which arouses most interest is the loft, which is unconverted, although it has ancient floor-boards.  Timbers which can be dendroed were found, along with evidence of a previous large bay-window.  Was the roof lifted, and original timbers reused?  Or were these timbers formerly in another property?  Always the question is: had this been the central section of a hall-house, with the neighbouring properties all part of the same structure?

The survey seemed to raise questions rather than answer them.  However, timber in another house just along the street was dated to 1386, the earliest in the village so far.  It seems odd to say this, but we were actually disappointed to discover that our roof timber dated to 1635, the summer of 1635.  We were very pleased to be included in the project, nonetheless.


kristieinbc said...

I think it would be interesting to live in a house that dated from the 1600s. I would be trying to imagine all the occupants and what things were like for them over the years. Here in North America, especially in the west, a house that is 100 years old is considered ancient. :-)

colleen said...

Fascinating. Imagine what it must have been like in England in 1635!

Anonymous said...

How wonderful to find all that out about your house. Our house is about ten years old - but the front wall is much older, as it is the original wall from when it was part of a farm steading. We have a big window in the loungs with a curved top, which was the original cart entrance into the steading.

Janet said...

Is your house a listed building? I love old houses - my sister's farmhouse in New Hampshire (U.S.) dated from 1772 and there was a trace of all the owners - my sister was about the 10th if I recall. Sadly she felt she had to sell it a few years ago - just too much upkeep and very high property taxes. We all loved that house. The new owner is making all sorts of changes but is currently a victim of the recession so not much is happening.