BRADNINCH, Lower Coombe Farmhouse (SS 987 036), Plank and Muntin Screen

Felling date: Spring 1625

Muntins 1624(10¼C), 1619(9), 1618(7), 1616(13), 1614(7), 1604(h/s), 1599, 1597(5).  Site Master 1548-1624 BRDNINCH (t = 6.5 chaf-s11; 5.8 66GLMEAN; 4.5 HANTS02)

The farmhouse at Lower Coombe, Bradninch, is a typical Devon house of cob.  Virtually all of the roof and floor timbers are of elm, and unsuitable for tree-ring dating.  However, although the planks to the plank-and-muntin screen were also of fast-grown elm, the muntins were of oak.  Despite low ring counts, all eight muntins sampled matched together and formed a replicated site master of 77 rings (all probably originating from the same tree). An inconclusive date was found, but Cathy Groves (Sheffield Dendrochronology Laboratory) found a good match with a similarly tentatively-dated sequence from Chaffcombe Manor, Down St Mary, Devon (to be published in VA35).  A mean constructed from the two site masters gave greatly improved results. Dating commissioned by James Scott for the Duchy of Cornwall. (Miles and Worthington 2003, VA 34, list 140)

BRAUNTON, Church of St Brannock (SS 4891 3708), Spire

Felling dates, date ranges: Winter 1267/8, 1271-92

Clamping beams 1267 (23C), 1266 (32), 1259 (16), 1258 (13); Braces (5/6) 1205, 1235, 1238, 1238 (2), 1249 (11);  Rafters 1221, 1231, 1235, 1258 (41+7-10C NM), Plates (1/2) 1270 (19); Cleats (1/2) 1259 (27); Corner posts (1/3) 1253 (H/S); Floor beam (0/1).  Site Masters 1051-1259  BRAUNTN1 (t=8.0 SJPRIORY; 7.8 THRONE; 7.7 HERGEST1), 1133-1267  BRAUNTN2 (t=5.9 DOULTING; 5.8 RUDGE; 5.1 BRDGEFM1)

The Church of St Brannock, Braunton, is one of three churches around Barnstaple, North Devon, with mediæval broached spires.  Here the spire is of archaic construction consisting of square-canted frames in two stages within an octagonal spire.  Each stage consists of substantial corner posts tenoned into a top frame, with the corner posts connected by small-sectioned braces criss-crossing and jointed with notch-lap joints with refined entry.  The second stage is smaller than the first, with the base plates set back from the top frame of the bottom stage.  This second stage also has a centre post which is supported on pairs of clamps and which extends to the top of the spire.   Over the years the basic spire structure has suffered, the lower stage having distorted and the base plates severed.  The upper sections of the spire have been repaired and strengthened with numerous ancillary timbers making the whole an extremely complex structure. 

The spire was initially visited in November 1997 and seven timbers were sampled during the course of a structural assessment. Although many of the samples had reasonable ring counts, only two timbers dated, both without any signs of sapwood, therefore only a terminus post quem or felled after date of 1244 was given (Miles and Worthington 1998, VA 29, list 90, 111-29), and which this present entry supersedes.  

In July 2000, a more thorough recording survey was being undertaken by Wessex Archaeology, and as part of the recording brief, further tree-ring samples were to be taken to try and refine the tree-ring date of the spire.  As a consequence of this, a further fifteen timbers were sampled, and a precise felling date of winter 1267/8 was produced, together with another with incomplete sapwood of 1270, suggesting a construction date of shortly after 1271.  The dendrochronology produced two independent site chronologies, the first matching well with local established chronologies from the south-west, whilst the second matched with a much narrower selection of chronologies from mid-Devon and Somerset.  Acknowledgements are given to Cathy Groves for making available chronologies from her Devon Dendrochronology Project (Tyers et al 1997, VA 28, 138-58). (Miles and Worthington 2001, VA 32, list 116)

CHERITON FITZPAINE, South Coombe (SS 890 087)

(a)     Internal Jetty

Felling dates: Winter 1464/5 and Spring 1465

Stair trimmer 1464 (25C); Trimmer jetty joist 1464; (24¼C); Jetty joists (0/2); Post to jetty screen (0/1). Site Master 1384-1464 STHCOMBE (t=6.4 LITTLETN; 6.2 SOUTH; 6.1 PROWSEBN)

(b)     Re-used timbers

Felling dates: After 1329 and Spring 1514

Jointed cruck 1320; ?Rafter 1513 (19¼C). Site Master  120-1320 child1 (t=7.0 NEWLAND; 5.8 HANTS97; 5.6 MASTERAL)

South Coombe is a typical three-room and cross-passage Devon farmhouse although much reconstructed in the late nineteenth century when the upper floor was completely rebuilt and it was re-roofed.  The oldest sections of the external walls are of cob construction with much subsequent stone patching.  Early features on the ground floor include a stud and panel screen with chamfered studs with diagonal stops between the hall and inner room; the floor over the latter is jettied almost two feet internally into the hall.  The jetty joists are alternately plain and chamfered with the latter being diagonally stopped on both sides of the screen.  The jetty ends are morticed into a chamfered and moulded bressumer.  It is impossible archaeologically to determine whether the screen is contemporary with or earlier than the jettied inner room floor.  It contains an unusual doorway with a round arch carved in bas-relief on the screen head-beam over small shoulders on the jambs.

The internal jetty was first identified in Devon houses by Alcock and Laithwaite (Med Arch XVII 1973) who postulated that it was a late medieval development in the county.  This is borne out by the present 1465 date, the first for an internal jetty in Devon.  Two sections of jointed crucks with deep chamfers were found built into a later extension to the house, of which one gave a terminus post quem date of after 1329.  A section of what might have been a rafter was found in the same structure and gave a felling date of spring 1514.  Dating commissioned by Rebecca and Peter Child who provided notes on the building. (Miles and Worthington 1998, VA 29, list 90)

HOCKWORTHY, Hole Farmhouse (ST 043 207)

Felling date / date ranges: Spring 1460; 1462-94; 1476-1508

Purlins 1453(h/s), 1459(35¼C); Principal rafters 1460, 1468(1). Site Master 1306-1468 HOLEFARM (t= 8 WALES97; 7.9 CHILVRTN; 7.1 OLDBRFA1)

The farmhouse is built of rubble stone with a tiled roof, formerly thatched. It had a three-cell plan with a central open hall. The medieval roof survives over the hall (smoke-blackened) and inner room, and has side-pegged jointed crucks, tenoned collars, ridge piece and trenched purlins. The 1460 felling date presumably represents a stockpiled timber. Sub-medieval alterations include the insertion of the hall ceiling and the stack backing onto a cross passage. Later changes included a two-room extension at the lower end. Dating commissioned by the owner. (Miles, Worthington, and Bridge 2005, VA 35, list 156)

SOWTON, Bishop’s Clyst, The Great Barn (SX 982 920)

Felling dates: Spring 1387

Arcade plate 1386 (40¼C); Base cruck 1354 (H/S); Wall plate 1342 (H/S); Brace 1319.  Site Master 1145-1386 BCLYST1 (t=9.3 EXCATH1; 8.4 SOUTH; 7.1 HANTS97)

The Great Barn at Bishop’s Clyst is a seven-bayed stone-walled barn which originally extended to nine bays.  The roof is of base cruck construction, with the end truss of upper aisle posts not unlike the Great Hall at Stokesay Castle.  Above the tie are queen posts with either horizontal or inclined spurs or bearers clasping the upper purlins to the principal rafters.  An interesting detail are the main wind braces which are simply plumb cut at the intersection with the cruck blades and fixed with a single face peg.  The crucks reduce in section to the thickness of the arch-braces, giving a sharply cranked effect at the elbow of the blades at wall-head level.  The date of 1387 is interesting in light of the several archaic features found.  Further information on the barn as well as adjoining fifteenth-century stables, and the Bishop’s Court itself, can be found in N.W. Alcock ‘The medieval buildings of Bishop’s Clyst’ Trans Devon Assoc XCVIII (1966) 133-140+.  The structure is now in an extremely poor condition and in advance of a restoration proposal the owners, Mr & Mrs Myers who commissioned the dendrochronology. (Miles and Worthington 1997, VA 28, list 82)

WESTLEIGH, Hall range, Eastleigh Manor (SS 488 280)

Felling date range: 1483-1528 subsequently revised to 1482-1514

Purlins (1/2) 1474 (1); Collar, Arch-brace, Principal rafters (0/5).  Site Master 1405-1473 east06 (t=6.4 SENG1; 5.5 SYARDE; 5.3 WINDSOR2; 5.3 MDM11)

Eastleigh Manor is a Grade II* listed house of stone rubble with ashlar dressings.  The North range consists of a three-bay first floor principal chamber over a parlour or Hall, and the stair-case.  The parlour ceiling beams have elaborate rolls flanked by hollow-ogee mouldings and the north ground-floor window retains some late medieval heraldic stained glass.  The roof is of arch-braced collar construction with moulded arch-braces rising from a timber corbel table.  There are two tiers of threaded purlins, both originally with wind-braces.  The roof over the stairs is of much simpler design and evidently not intended to be seen.  The North-west wing appears to have predated the parlour range as the chimney stack truncates the wing's roof structure.  This roof is again of arch-braced collar construction with two tiers of purlins.

The dendrochronology was intended to date firmly each of the two early phases, the first floor principal chamber and the NW wing. Only the first floor chamber dated with a single sample without sapwood giving an estimated felling range of 1483-1528 (subsequently revised to 1482-1514).  The site exhibited appalling inter-site cross matching to the extent that some pairs of timbers, clearly cut from the same tree, failed to match together.  See Miles, D H, 1994  The tree-ring dating of Eastleigh Manor, Westleigh, Devon, Anc Mon Lab Rep, 41/94. (Miles 1995, VA 26, list 64 Part I)