County Projects

1997 Ongoing Jersey Dendrochronology Project (States of Jersey)

The Historic Buildings Section of the States of Jersey Planning and Building Services have recently launched a programme of dendrochronological research in the Island. This follows on from pioneering work in Guernsey supported by the Ancient Monuments Committee. Up to now, early vernacular buildings of architectural and historical interest in the Island have been dated by style, datestones or genealogical research, all of which can be misleading and imprecise. As part of their strategy to promote archaeological research and historical awareness in the Island, the Historic Buildings Section are aiming to create a local chronology which will provide the Island with a scientifically accurate procedure for dating buildings. Six buildings have been sampled thus far, and four already dated (two still yet to be published).

Vernacular architecture in Jersey used local granite as its primary building material and there is no tradition of timber framing in the Island. However, oak timbers were used in floor and roof constructions as well as doors and windows and it is here that dendrochronological research has begun. Little is known about the provenance of the timber used in the Island prior to the eighteenth century - whether it was local in origin or imported from France, England or further afield. So far, dendrochronological research undertaken in both Jersey and Guernsey suggest that timbers have come from geographically diverse sources, making both relative matching as well as calendar dating difficult. Considerable work both with historic material as well as with modern samples will be required to resolve the provenancing of material and creation of local chronologies. We are grateful to Prof. G. Merion-Jones and Dr Martin Bridge for making available chronologies from northern France.

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1996-1999, 2002 ongoing Somerset Dendrochronology Project (Somerset Vernacular Building Research Group)

The Somerset Vernacular Building Research Group has instigated this project which has been co-ordinated by John Dallimore with help, principally from John and Jane Penoyre. The project has recently collected together further funds and is now organised by Mark McDermot who is assisted by John Dallimore and Jane Penoyre. Funding has been received from the British Academy, the Royal Archaeological Institute, the Marc Fitch Fund, the Society of Antiquaries of London, the District Councils of South Somerset and Mendip, Somerset County Council, and local private company and house holders. English Heritage has also funded a number of dates, particularily from the George Inn, Norton St Philip. The intention of the project was to produce a firmly-dated chronology of medieval roof-forms throughout the County.

Overall, more than 39 dated buildings encompassing 57 phases of construction have been published or are in press. Notable buildings include the nave roof of Well Cathedral, dating to 1213/14, and two other early fourteenth century buildings in Wells with Arabic assembly marks. The buildings of Glastonbury Abbey have been studied in depth as well as various forms of cruck construction.

Other work in Wells Cathedral commissioned by Dr Warwick Rodwell on behalf of the Dean and Chapter has studied the joinery of the Cathedral including the remarkable door to the Chapter House Treasury and the cope chest, just recently dated to 1108-29, making it the earliest piece of furniture dated in Britain.

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1995 Ongoing Hampshire Dendrochronology Project (Hampshire Buildings Survey Group)

The Hampshire Buildings Survey Group through Edward Roberts has co-ordinated the above project in Hampshire, with funding from Hampshire County Council, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, East Hampshire District Council, The Odiham Society, and a number of private individuals and companies. Thus far, 98 buildings and over 150 phases have been successfully dated during the time the project has been running. Subject to present funding, it is envisioned to continue into the year 2003. The material collected during the course of the project, along with material from Sheffield University, A C Barefoot, M C Bridge, and Nottingham University have now been combined to form the master chronology HANTS02, spanning the years AD 443-1972. This chronology and its predecessor HANTS97 have proved most useful in other adjoining counties.

The results of the extensive work in Hampshire has been carefully collated in a book produced by Hampshire County Council Hampshire Houses 1250-1700 - Their Dating & Development. Written primarily by Edward Roberts, there are major contributions by John Crook on aisled halls and Linda Hall on dated fixtures and fittings, as well as the section on the dendrochronology. Published in April 2003, the book totalling 275 pages is available at just under £20.

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1992 ongoing Shropshire Dendrochronology Project (Mrs Madge Moran)

This project has run for a decade now, and further funding will allow additional buildings to be sampled beyond 2003. Funding has been primarily through the British Academy, with significant contributions from The Society of Antiquaries, The Royal Archaeological Institute, Shropshire County Council, Newport Town Council, Ludlow Civic Society, The Roy Fletcher Fund, the Marc Fitch Fund, the Victoria County History, the Owen Family Trust, and numerous private individuals. English Heritage have also separately funded a number of individual buildings including Stokesay Castle and Wistanstow Church.

Thus far, over 102 buildings and 175 phases have been dated. Of the buildings sampled, only a few have failed to date, which is overall an extremely good success rate. In 1995, a master chronology SALOP95 was constructed which has proved invaluable not only in dating further Shropshire buildings, but in Wales and the Marches as well.

A book on Shropshire houses dated through this project is being prepared by Madge Moran and is due for publication in the middle of 2003. This will include a chapter on dendrochronology which will review the project and evaluate the results obtained.

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1995 ongoing Welsh Dendrochronology Project (RCAMW and CADW)

During 1995 and early 1996 the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales (RCAMW) and Cadw: Welsh Historic Monuments funded several dendrochronological programmes. The RCAMW programme was designed to establish a chronology for late-medieval houses in Wales, especially in Central Powys, where they have been conducting a regional survey. Cadw’s programme is a continuation of research on buildings in their care which has included several dendro-dates reported in VA. A rigorous assessment of the buildings before sampling, and the selection of buildings primarily on their dating potential, has achieved an almost 100% success rate in dating the phases chosen. The wealth of tree-ring chronologies produced by the Shropshire Dendrochronology Project carried out over recent years for Mrs Madge Moran was of crucial importance in dating the Welsh sites. So far 33 buildings and 50 phases have been dated and published, or are in press. Important sites include the twelfth-century gates of Chepstow Castle.

Current work includes the dating of the remarkable Angel Roof of Llanidloes Church, which dendrochronology has just shown to be just post-dissolution and created specifically for Llanidloes.

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LLANIDLOES CHURCH DATING -

1986 ongoing Mapledurham, Oxfordshire

So far, over 23 individual phases of building have been dated within the parish of Mapledurham, and the long-term goal is to attempt to date all historic buildings within the parish. The research has already identified one of the oldest intact survival of a cruck hall-house in the county, and an early example of mechanically-sawn timber dating from 1723.

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1999-2001 Surrey Dendrochronology Project (Surrey Domestic Buildings Research Group)

After two years, work in Surrey finished with the untimely death of Mr Peter Gray, who had spearheaded the project from its inception. The first year of the project concentrated on north-west Surrey, co-ordinated by both Peter Gray and George Howard. The distressed trees around Surrey Heath are proving a challenge, but a chronology has now been constructed for this area. The second year's work moved south-eastwards to the village of Charlwood where a second group of interesting buildings has been dated with Jean Shelley. One particular aspect of the project being studied is the dates of inserted smoke hoods and floors.

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