Research Abstract

The main focus of this thesis is to establish the usefulness of a timber joint typology, produced by dendrochronology between AD1250 and 1530, in the dating of previously undated buildings, along with the recalibration of Cecil Hewett’s published typologies (Hewett 1980). This contention is addressed, in Hampshire, through the physical surveying of 95 properties, and through the recalibration of Hewett by surveying 9 of his case studies, from outside the county, to act as a control set. A primary aim is to explore the wider material culture surrounding the late-medieval carpenter, to address Richard Harris’s suggestion that timber-framing was a result of “cultural activities” and, therefore, “no building form or method of construction was ever determined by timber, stone, rainfall or sunshine” (Harris 1989, 1). When this is taken into consideration, it is clear to see that an understanding of the “cultural activities” that occurred between 1250 and 1530, needs to be investigated in order to understand the structures designed and built within that culture, for that culture. As the collation of published works regarding the “crisis” of the 14th century will show, the attitudes toward death of the survivors of famines, wars and the Black Death (1348-50) changed. Chapter 6 will give evidence for how the shifting cultural values shifted in the wake of the pandemic through its depiction in art, burial, church architecture and social-economic upheaval. Though the study of such is well represented in the literature, especially with regard to the Black Death, it is how carpentry was affected by these “cultural activities” within Hampshire that is ground breaking.

Because the research included the photographic survey of joints using a digital camera, and locations recorded via a Global Positioning System (GPS), a computer based methodology was applied. This also permitted the creation of a geo-database that also included original graphical information, regarding the various joint types, through the medium of three dimensional (3D) modelling. The result of which is both novel and cutting edge within the field of buildings archaeology and dendro-archaeology and inextricably linked with the expansion of this dataset in the future. This will be facilitated by enabling researchers in other areas to access, query and ultimately update the information contained within. Therefore ensuring longevity and promoting the significance of this pilot, regional study. This also means that now it is possible to emulate this research by accessing the database, rather than the structures themselves. This may not be an issue for those researchers living within the area, but for peers researching from another country, the placing of the information online is invaluable. Attention is therefore drawn throughout to the power of Information Communications Technologies (ICT), to illustrate how the ensuing data were managed and recorded.

The thesis, representing an unprecedented, systematic study of a near comprehensive corpus of scientifically dated structures in Hampshire between 1250 and 1530, is supported by references to printed primary sources and accompanied by an associated website http://www.medievalarchitecture.net/. The site was created to both support and disseminate the findings of this new research into joint typologies; together with engaging the wider community in interacting with a visual database, resulting from the unique photographic surveys. While the previous works of Cecil Hewett and Edward Roberts have greatly informed and inspired this research, the systematic recording of timber joints in Hampshire is unique to this project, and although regional in its scope, the novel methodology designed to record and collate the masses of data means the work can be expanded to incorporate other regional studies and ultimately inform a general examination of English Late-medieval carpentry in greater detail in the future.

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