ABERGAVENNY, Priory Church of St Mary (SO 3010 1413): Choir stalls

Felling date ranges: 1476-1506 and 1487-1517

North stall base plates 1476(h/s), 1410; Stall side to north stalls 1465(h/s); South stalls joist (0/1); South stall upper middle rail 1265(h/s?); South stall top plate 1447(h/s?); South stalls panels 1482, 1425; South stall rear base plate 1462. Site Master 1349-1482 ABERGVNY (t=9.2 HERECB2; 8.1 WALES97; 7.7 MASTERAL)

Many pre-Reformation features of great interest survive in the Benedictine Priory of St Mary because it was adapted as a parish church after the dissolution, including substantial portions of the canopied and traceried monastic stalls and screens.  These were thought to be of two phases; the elaborate south range is dated by the inscribed name of Prior Wynchester, prior in 1493, but the north stalls are less elaborate and appear to be earlier.  The felling date ranges of 1476-1506 and 1487-1517 generally supports the presumed construction dates, but access difficulties in sampling the recently-restored stalls restricted sampling.  Dating commissioned by Hugh Harrison on behalf of CADW who grant aided the work.  Description:  F H Crossley & M H Ridgway (1959), Archaeologia Cambrensis, CVIII, 20-28; Tracy, Charles, with specialist contributions from Hugh Harrison and Daniel Miles 2002,  The Choir-stalls at the Priory Church of St Mary, Abergavenny, BAAJ, 155, 203-54; (Miles and Worthington 2000, VA 31, list 112)

BLAINA, Chapel Farm, Coalbrookvale (SO 1909 0896)

Felling date: Summer 1567

Collar 1566(26½C); Crucks 1554(35), 1521(H/S), 1487. Site Master  1147-1566 CHAPELFM (t = 8.7 SALOP95; 8.6 WALES97; 7.1 HEREFC).

A cruck-framed, stone-walled, upland farmhouse. Two cruck-trusses of distinctive ‘Monmouthshire’ type survive, with spurs and prominent saddles. The trusses defined the inner-room and (?single-bayed) hall of an open-hall house. An unglazed diamond-mullioned window may belong to this phase.  The insertion of a fireplace with large stone lintel produced a hearth-passage plan house. The downhouse has been reconstructed but is reliably said to have been a cowhouse. The relatively late date of this upland hall-house is particularly interesting, as it is the latest open-hall house to have been dated in Wales.  Reconstruction drawings by Paul Davis are deposited in the NMRW.  Dating commissioned by the owner. (Miles, Worthington, and Bridge 2004, VA 36, list 169)

Chepstow, Chepstow Castle (ST 534 941)

(a)     Outer Bailey Main Gates

Felling date range: 1159-1189

Diagonal ledgers (6/11) 1151 (H/S), 1148 (H/S), 1141 (H/S), 1120, 1115, 1113; Middle rails (1/2) 1150. Site Master 1045-1151 CHEPSTW1 (t=10.3 SOUTH; 10.0 BRISTOL; 9.3  WALES97)

(b)     Gates between Barbican and Upper Bailey

Earliest possible felling date: After 1500

Horizontal boards 1489, 1476, 1466. Site Master 1423-1489 chep45 (t=5.8 neu1; 5.1 BAYTON; 4.9 GIERTZ)

(a) Several historic timber doors survive at Chepstow Castle, the most notable being the main gates to the outer bailey.  Previously thought to have been Civil War replacements to a gateway conventionally dated to 1225-45, the average tree-ring felling date range of  1159 – 1189 show that they are the original doors, and that the second phase of building at Chepstow is at least a generation earlier than previously thought.  Remarkably, they were in constant use until being replaced in replica as late as 1964.  The gates are round-headed, typical of the Norman period of architecture, and are divided into upper and lower panels by a pair of mid-rails between which a horizontal bar slid to secure the two leafs.  The stiles are ‘L’ shaped, flush with the 2 ¼-inch thick bevelled-edged boarding.  The backs of the gates are tied together with diagonal lattice bracing above and below the middle locking rails.  Interestingly, the angle of the bracing of the upper panel is at a slightly different angle than the lower panel, and seems to be an original design feature. The front of the gate was covered with wrought iron sheets reinforced with iron strips and secured with iron nails through the whole thickness of the doors and clenched over roves on the bracing behind.  The samples came primarily from the mid-rails and the lattice bracing, and were cored with a micro-borer using compressed air for cooling and dust clearance, in order to minimise the surface disturbance of the timberwork.  The dating has identified the earliest provenanced post-Roman examples of see-sawn timber and mortice and tenon joints from Britain.

(b) The doors to the Upper Bailey from the Barbican were not physically sampled, but instead full-size monochrome photographs taken by Ken Hoverd were used.  The weathered end-grain of the horizontal planks were very suitable for measuring, and five could be dated.  None retained any sapwood or heartwood/sapwood boundaries, but the clustering of termini post quem dates suggests construction in the first quarter of the sixteenth century.  The doors consist of two layers of butt-edged 2¼-inch planks, the fronts laid vertically and the backs horizontally, and secured with large clenched spikes in a diamond pattern.  These gates are virtually identical to those between the Middle and Lower Bailey which, being of fast-grown elm, were not suitable for dating, but can now be ascribed the same construction period.  The dating of the doors was a major part of a detailed study of early carpentry at Chepstow, and was commissioned by R C Turner for Cadw:  Welsh Historic Monuments. (Miles and Worthington 1998, VA 29, list 94)