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Traditional Oak Framed Buildings

We often talk, write and wax lyrical about traditional oak framed buildings - but what is the style of an oak framed house? The answer is that there is no definitive answer, as with any building it depends on the era that the house was first constructed, and the techniques used in the house's construction.

It was really only within the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries that oak framed buildings became standardised. Until then, construction techniques could vary between regions and even carpenters, but within this era English framing became more standardised with the 'scribe rule' framing method.

Here's a brief run-down of how 'traditional' timber framed and oak framed buildings have evolved throughout the centuries:

Primitive - the earliest we know of timber framed buildings are primitive structures from perhaps half a million years ago. A series of 'A' framed structures were built in a row to create a simple dwelling space, with the frame covered in animal skins to protect from the elements.

Iron/Bronze Age - round houses became more prevalent in this era, using post holes where posts were buried into the ground, and smaller coppiced materials with a degree of flex were woven in between the posts and finished with mud, straw and daub. Early evidence of mortise and tenon joints have been discovered from this era.

Medieval - influences from the Roman occupation of Britain became apparent with house building techniques during this time, most notably the use of triangulated roof trusses that are so common still today. Pegged mortise and tenon joint techniques apparently lost during the Saxon and Viking rulings were once again introduced during the reign of King Henry II from 1154. New influences from the Plantagenets in France, such as the use of diagonal braces between mainbeams, and the use of crown posts, plates and collars that could be decoratively moulded in the popular Gothic style also became widespread.

Middle Ages - regarded as the golden age of timber framing, where the Medieval hall house was the pinnacle British timber framed buildings, and carpentry skills were at an extremely high standard. These grand buildings were built for wealthy merchants and landowners, and in their most basic forms consisted of one central open hall with 'bays' that formed rooms, a dais and large central fire in the hall. No chimneys were present during this time so smoke from the fire would drift upwards and out of a small hole in the roof.

Post-Medieval - during this time, two-storey accommodation became more popular, as well as the use of smoke bays and open chimneys. Intricate carpentry incorporated into the building became a wealth and status symbol. But after the Great Fire of 1666, regulations were put in place to limit the use of timber in buildings in the London area. The use of bolts and brick gradually diminished the use of timber to internal flooring and roof trusses.

20th century - the use of concrete and gang nailed truss rafters all but replaced the use of timber framing and traditional oak framed building techniques during the majority of the 20th century. But a rediscovery of the skills, sustainable resources and style used in oak building has resurged in Britain since the 1980s, and continues to be a popular method of construction today.



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