Overview 3 The Origins of the Medieval Cottages 4 The Purpose of the Cottages 5 Carpenters 6 Carpenters’ 7 Trees and their Uses 9 From Trees to Timber 11 Felling 12 Prefabrication 13 Carpenters’ Marks 14 History of Timber- 15 Timber-framed 16 Architect’s Drawings 18 Types of Joints 19 and Daub 22 Doors 23 Windows 24 Staircases and Thresholds 25 Fireplace and Smoke Void 26 Jetty 27 Thatched vs. Tile 28 29 Georgian Style 30 Victorian Revival 31 The Abbey Lawn Trust 32 Restoration Debate 33 Pre-restoration Photographs 34 Restoration Photographs 35 Reading and Dating Buildings 37 Dendrochronology 38

Historic Buildings Worksheets: 40 Detective 1 41 Building Detective 2 42 Building Detective 3 43 Carpenters’ Tools 44 Draw a Timber-Framed Building 45 Glossary 46 Appendix 47


The row of medieval cottages on Church Street dates back to the fifteenth century, and these iconic buildings have a wonderful story to tell. Over the last six hundred years, the row has been continually occupied as private residences, shops, businesses and of course heritage sites.

This educational resource will delve into how these buildings were constructed; key elements of the buildings; the change in building styles as well as the restoration debate. In addition to this, worksheets are provided at the end of the resource to help reinforce the lessons learnt.

This pack has been produced by the John Moore Museum in for the sole purpose of use within schools, colleges and universities.

Copyright note: the resources included in this pack are for educational use only. Copies may be made of all resources included, but should not be published or used for any other reason than use in the classroom.

An illustration from the Bedford Book of Hours depicting carpenters in the 15th century constructing a timber-framed building. 3

The Benedictine monks of Tewkesbury Abbey built the twenty-three medieval cottages in 1410. The row of cottages was built against the Abbey precinct , which was a busy thoroughfare for local residents and religious pilgrims. The cottages were purposefully designed with a home and shop interior in mind. All of the shop spaces faced the street, so merchants and traders who had previously clustered at the abbey gate desired to rent one of these new properties. The Merchant’s on Church Street has been restored to how it would have looked as a residence and shop, allowing visitors to step back in time to see what it was like to live and work there in the sixteenth century. Tewkesbury Abbey

The average yearly rent for a merchant’s house could range from £3 to £5 depending on the location, so the Abbey would have a received a steady stream of money into its coffers from these cottages alone. In the accounts of the abbey properties in 1540, the parish priest of Tewkesbury occupied one of the Abbey Cottages. The Crown was then paying £10 to the parish priest of Tewkesbury, which is the equivalent of more than £4,000 in today’s money.

However, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the Reformation under Henry VIII, the Abbey lost the cottages and these were sold off. A wealthy silk mercer called Giles Geast purchased eleven of the cottages (38-48 Church Street) and rented them out. In his will of 1558, he left twenty- two of his in the town in the care of four trustees to provide the income for annual charitable distribution to Tewkesbury’s poor.

Did you know Tewkesbury Abbey was built in the 12th century?


The cottages were designed to be multifunctional, and provide merchants with both a place to reside and conduct business. The cottages consisted of three rooms; the shop at the front, a kitchen and a bedroom located upstairs. The restored Merchant’s House also has a workshop located at the back of the property. This indicates that the merchant was doing well financially, since he could afford to extend the building to have more living space. You will notice that no bathroom area was included in the design, with residents using an outbuilding as the toilet.

The workshop gave the merchant more The kitchen is located in the centre of the working space. This room was also used for property; this room functioned as the kitchen, the storage of goods and food. living room and dining room.

The merchant would conduct his business The whole family shared the one bedroom, from the shop area. with the parents sleeping in the four-poster bed and the children on smaller truckle beds. Trades Unfortunately, we do not exactly know what goods were sold from each of the cottages. It is likely that some of the merchant’s houses sold goods produced from Tewkesbury Abbey resources, such as wine from the grapes grown on the Vineyards or fresh fish from the fishponds. Illustrations by Swiss artist Jost Anman (1539-1591) in the Book of Trades (1568), show us trades being carried out from buildings very similar to our own. Can you identify all of the trades in the illustrations?


Working Hours Hours of work were regulated by an act of Parliament in 1563. In the spring and summer months (mid- March to mid-September) from five in the morning to either seven or eight in the evening, with no more than two and half hours for breaks. In the winter, the hours were from dawn to sunset, as it was simply impractical to work by artificial light. The best quality artificial light was that from candles which were far too expensive for most people to use on a regular basis.

Wages A ’s wages varied depending on his skill level as he worked up to the position of Master Carpenter. In the first half of the 15th century, a skilled carpenter could earn a good wage of 5d (pence) a day, depending on the location and type of work required. Apprentices could also receive a small wage if he was working with his master outside of the home on another job. There is also evidence of a carpenter receiving his wages partly in currency and the rest in goods. For example, in the 1420s, John Pekker worked for the Brewers’ Company, and he received cash and a gown costing about 16s, which consisted of four yards of ray (parti-coloured cloth) and three yards of cloth of a solid colour.

Working Conditions The construction of heavy housing frames required a good level of fitness and this was likely to decrease with age. Carpenters presumably carried on working for as long as they were physically able to do so, possibly with the assistance of younger men employed as journeymen and apprentices. There is some evidence that increasing age might be taken into account when allocating jobs on larger building sites. However, if a carpenter was physically unable to carry out their duties fully, they would not earn a full wage. Therefore, in an age before health and safety regulations, workplace accidents, particularly mishaps with , were common.

Tools A carpenter’s tools were cherished items that were carefully maintained and repaired, since his livelihood depended upon them. An cost 5d or more and a hammer was worth 8d or more, so an entire toolkit was a costly yet valuable commodity. A master carpenter would often have an apprentice learning the trade from him, once the indenture period was completed; the apprentice often received tools to help him enter the trade. More on the carpenter’s tools on the next two pages.

Living History re-enactor, John Putley, as a medieval carpenter.


What did the woodworkers’ toolkit in medieval times consist of? The list below outlines the most common tools and their purpose:

- The Adze was a used for smoothing timbers. The blade would be long and flat; fixed to the thickest end of the handle, allowing the carpenter to chip away at the timbers to shape them.

Adze  Auger and - A brace is a hand tool used with a bit ( bit or auger) to drill holes, usually in . Pressure is applied to the top and the tool is rotated with a U-shaped grip. Augur & Brace

Awl  Awl - A small pointed tool used for piercing holes.

 Broad-axe - A broad-axe is a large headed axe. There are two categories of cutting edge on broad-axes; both are used for shaping Broad-axe logs by . One side is flat and the other side bevelled.

- a wedge like tool with a cutting edge at the end of the blade, Chisel often made of steel, used for cutting or shaping wood, stone, etc.

– an instrument used for drawing circles. It consists of two arms, joined at one end, one arm of which serves as a pivot Compass or stationary reference point, while the other is extended to draw a circle.

 Crowbar - the basic shape is a long, heavy metal bar with one end shaped like a wedge, while the other end is slightly forked or split. Crowbar The wedge end can be squeezed under various objects while the bar is used as a lever to separate them, and the forked end can be used to pull out nails. Felling Axe

 Felling Axe - an axe designed especially for cutting down trees.

Gimlet  - a small T-shaped tool with a tip for boring holes. Gouge

 Gouge - A gouge (a type of chisel) serves to carve small pieces from 7 material.  Hatchet - A hatchet is a single-handed striking tool with a sharp blade on one side used to cut and split wood, and a hammerhead on the Hatchet other side.

- A mallet is a type of hammer, which would have been used to hammer in the wooden pegs. Mallet

- Planes were used for smoothing and shaping wood, and came in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Large planes would be used for smoothing planks and beams, while small planes would be used for Plane jobs like smoothing arrows.

Race Knife  Race Knife - a cutting tool with a blade hooked at the tip used for marking timbers or metal.

Ruler  Ruler – measuring tool set out in inches. Some rulers came at a set length e.g. one foot.

- hand tool having a toothed blade for cutting wood

 Sawhorse – a moveable frame or trestle for supporting timber while Saw it is being sawed.

Sawhorse  Set - hand tool consisting of two straight arms at right angles. The tool ensures that a carpenter can regularly reproduce corners and edges that are straight and form right angles. Set Square

 Twybil -A twybil is a hand tool used for green . It is used for chopping out mortices when . It combines chopping and levering functions in a single tool. The appearance of a twybil is that of a T-shaped double-edged axe with unusually long blades and a very short handle. Whetstone Twybil  Whetstone - A whetstone is a fine-grained stone used for sharpening cutting tools. We have a brilliant collection of replica carpenter’s tools in the museum, 8 which you can see and handle in our workshops! We have been using wood as a source material to build and make objects with for thousands of years. Each type of wood has its own characteristics, and we carefully need to select the correct type of wood for the purpose we have in mind.  Ash gives soft, springy timber.  is heavy dense timber.  gives tough, strong and long-lasting timber.  Hawthorn is not grown for timber. It makes dense thickets when cut back, so is used for hedging.  gives strong timber suitable for inside work.  is not usually grown for timber and used mainly for .

Tree Image Examples of Historical Use

Early vehicle Hockey Sticks Tool Handles framework Ash

Wheels Tennis rackets

Kitchen utensils Piano frames Toys Beech Shovels

Aircraft Bobbins Brooms Birch Crates

Pumps Wheel hubs Bowls Coffins Dock piles, sea Furniture defences


Walking sticks Rakes Hedges


Walking sticks Fishing rods Livestock pens

Hazel Fences Wattle

Cogs Golf club heads Piano keys

Wooden Hornbeam

Ships Timber-framed Joinery buildings

Oak Furniture Wheel spokes

Furniture Walking sticks Fences

Sweet Gates

Weaving shuttles Violins Bowls

Sycamore Decorative boxes

During the process of building a timber-framed building, more than one type of wood is required. Strong oak timber is used for the structural beams, while or will be needed for the flexible latticework in creating the wattle frames. How many different types of wood can you identify in your home?


The predominant timber species used for structural purposes in and Wales was oak. This is an immensely strong, durable and long grained timber; however elm, sweet chestnut, hornbeam and other timbers were also used for building purposes. Typically timbers were used unseasoned, shortly after felling. ‘Green’ Oak and other timbers were considerably easier to shape and joint than seasoned timber. Today, trees are planted close together so that they grow straight and tall. In the past, some trees were planted in open conditions to encourage curved sideways growth needed for buildings, ships and wagons.

Foresters and carpenters had a deep understanding of the nature of trees and timber they used. The most prized part of the trunk was the inner section of timber known as the heartwood. This contains the densest and most durable timber. The outer section of the trunks, the bark and sapwood have the dual purpose of protecting the heartwood and more importantly distributing food and water necessary for growth. The sapwood is the point at which an additional growth layer occurs each year, it is far less dense than the heartwood and it contains much higher level of sugars and moisture, making it far more susceptible to insect attack and fungal decay.

Medieval carpenters selected the smallest tree necessary for the job. There were three methods for the conversion of logs to useable timber; sawing, hewing and riving. Sawing was undertaken with a two handled saw with the trunk laid on trestles or over a pit. Hewing uses a variety of specialist axes including to produce a straight, plane and frequently squared surface on irregular logs. A high proportion of the timbers in medieval buildings were riven, which means to split the timber along the grain. This was a much less reliable method of producing timbers of a predetermined size, as the logs would split along the grain at the point of natural weakness. Riving produced timbers that were relatively strong, since the full length of the grain remained intact.

During this time, a management system developed for trees and woodland, which provided society with a renewable and sustainable supply of timber and woodland products. The growth cycle of the indigenous broad-leaf trees of Northern is such that once the rootstock has become established, if the tree is felled, it will rapidly regenerate growth above ground, sending up a series of shoots, known as ‘spring’, as opposed to the original single stem. It is known that some rootstocks have lasted for 1000 years, regularly being cut and re-growing, thus providing a continuous renewable crop of wood. This process of management is known as . The expertise lay in selecting which shoots should be allowed to grow-on to produce usable timber for construction (Standards) and which could be allowed to grow for a limited period to provide fuel and other woodland products. 11

Once a tree has been selected for use, there are four steps undertaken to turn the tree into timber:

1. Axe off the bark at the thick base. The cut must be as close to the ground as possible.

2. Look at the tree; which way do you want it to fall? With your axe make a V shape on the face (front). The tree will fall this way.

Felling cut Felling

Direction in which which in Direction fall will tree the

3. Now saw through the back.

4. Cut off the small branches, which can be used elsewhere or sold off. The bark will then be removed and the timber shaped.


Prefabrication means assembling a structure in a factory or site, then transporting the pieces to the place where the structure is to be located and built. The structure would then be reassembled and hoisted into position.

Timber was felled, split with wedges or sawn with a pit saw, and then shaped using an axe and an adze.

These pieces of timber were then laid out on the ground in the positions they would occupy in the frame. The carpenter would check the timbers were cut to size, and that joints were shaped and pre-bored to take the pegs that secured them.

The medieval and renaissance builders did not use metal pegs or nails to secure the separate pieces together. Wooden pegs were used instead, since the pegs would then swell and contract to the same degree as the timber framing, which ensured that the wooden pegs would not come loose. Metal nails had the issue of corroding when exposed to water; this then caused damage to the surrounding timber. A timber framed building is constantly expanding or contracting depending on the natural conditions it is exposed to; the wood contracts on dry hot days then swells when it rains.

Once the timber framing had been completed and marked with carpenters’ marks, it was then dismantled, packed up and transported to the construction site. Timbers would have been transported via the Rivers Avon and Severn to reach Tewkesbury. This would be have been quicker and easier than transporting over land.

Did you know the furniture we buy in shops today is often prefabricated? Our flat-pack furniture is carefully made in pieces, so we can easily assemble at home! Medieval timber framed buildings are the same, just on a much larger scale!


Carpenters’ Assembly Marks Each piece of timber was marked by the carpenter, so the pieces could be easily re-assembled at the building site. Carpenters’ marks were created with a chisel or a race knife. These marks are formed using a straight line often gouged with the scooped end of the race knife.

Roman numerals were commonly used to mark up the timber elements of a timber-framed building. At their simplest these look fairly familiar, though four is usually represented by IIII, rather than IV. The convention for representing four as IV and nine as IX only emerged as the 16th century progressed A clear carpenters' mark found on a and took a considerable time to be universally adopted. timber framed building in .

However, Hindu/Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3 etc.) have been identified on a very small number of timber frames dating from the early 13th century in Oxford. A further study also identified a cluster of four 14th century buildings with Hindu/Arabic numerals in an area of Somerset and Wiltshire. The common theme in these studies is that the timber framing was formed by ‘educated master carpenters’ with ecclesiastical, manorial or royal patronage. More care was required to form these Hindu/Arabic marks than the simple strokes needed for Roman numerals.

Burn Marks Another common marking found are tadpole shaped charring marks on timbers and widely described as taper burn marks.

These marks have been found in a variety of places throughout buildings, including timbers and even hidden beneath floors. This evidence suggests the marks have been made deliberately and may well have been made whilst the building was under construction. The interpretation is to see them as a form of ritual protection against Taper scorch marks found lightening and fire rather than for construction purposes. in Norfolk

Did you know apotropaic marks were When you are carved near a building’s entrance next in a timber- points, particularly doorways, windows framed building, and fireplaces, to protect inhabitants be on the from witches and evil spirits? lookout for these Pentangles and Daisy Wheels were distinctive marks! very common protection symbols!


For thousands of years, timber has provided the main source of structural material for building. The greatest period of timber building in England and Wales was between 1200 AD and 1700 AD, a period that saw the development of a sophisticated prefabricated building system, which provided the majority of buildings throughout the cities, towns and villages.

There is little evidence of a significant change in either the structural or the joinery techniques immediately following the Norman Conquest. One of the main reasons we are allowed glimpses of the sophistication of the craft of pre 1200 is that builders stabilised their timber structures by sinking the posts into the ground or a continuous series of logs into a trench. While these ‘earth-fast’ systems provided a stable structure, it was at the cost of their longevity.

The majority of timber-framed buildings were not originally prestigious but they have become more precious as they have become rarer. It is the process of alteration and rebuilding, in response to changing need and fashion, rather than the false but generally held perception that timber is a relatively short-lived material that is responsible for the diminished stock of historic timber buildings in England and Wales. Tewkesbury is a town renowned for its beautiful timber-framed buildings, since its built heritage has been protected and preserved rather than demolished and replaced. Can you think of any reasons why this has happened?

Pre-1200 timber buildings were provided with rigidity by their posts being set into the ground.

Post- 1200 timber frame buildings were built on dry stone foundations, which meant the wood did not get damp or rot from being on the ground.


It is possible to divide timber-framed buildings into four building types:

 Box frame


 Aisled construction

Box Frame Box Frame (example right) construction consists of wall frames connected at intervals by cross beams. The roof is a separate structural element that sits onto the external , the roof acting as a lid on a box. Box frames have roofs with no supporting the rafter at mid span. Although the tie beams helped to avoid the weight of the roof forcing the walls outward, collars were added to the pairs of to lessen the spreading action of the roof.

Post and Truss Post and Truss (example left) is by far the most common surviving timber framed building form. This form makes use of the roof. Roof and wall elements are structurally united within each cross frame. The cross frames include tie beams, as they do in box-framed construction. The important difference in post and truss construction is that principal rafters are jointed into the tie and this forms roof to carry purlins, which in turn support the rafters and roof covering.


Aisled Aisled construction (see example right) provides additional internal space by dividing the structure into a central and two side aisles. Wall posts become internal, arcade posts, and the aisles are roofed over with lean-to roofs at an angle matching the main roof.

Cruck (see example left) are cross frames made up of pairs of inclined timbers, most frequently book matched halves of the Purlin same tree, which meet at the apex and are tied together by some form of collar. Typically this ‘A’ frame supports the Wall purlins (normally trenched onto the cruck Plate blade) and the wall plates (frequently supported by the cruck’s collar). Thus, crucks transfer the load of the roof to the ground. This means the external walls are not necessarily structurally significant and frequently act simply as an enclosure.


On the John Moore Museum website, we have an extensive collection of photographs chronicling the story of the Abbey Lawn Trust Cottages. There are also excellent interactive of the buildings, which highlights and explains the key features of the properties.

An architect’s drawing by Jeremy Benson (1960s) of the Merchant’s House, 45 Church Street, Tewkesbury

Jeremy Benson’s architect drawing depicting the current John Moore Museum building 18 and exterior of the Abbey Lawn Trust Cottages There are many different styles of joints that can be found in timber-framed buildings, the diagram below shows only some of them. We will look at a few of them closer in the following pages.


Mortice and Tenon Joint: Woodworkers around the world have used this joint for thousands of years to join pieces of wood together, especially when the adjoining pieces connect at right angles.

A mortice and tenon joint is both Tenon simple and strong. It comprises two components: the mortice hole and the tenon tongue. These two pieces are Mortice almost always secured with oak pegs.

The :

This joint gets its name from the shape of its mortice and tenon, which resembles the tail of a dove. Once the connection is made, it becomes very difficult to pull apart, because of its wedge shape.

Dovetail joints, in timber framing, are most commonly used to connect roof purlins to the rafters.

You can also see dovetail joints on furniture, as they are often used to attach drawer sides to drawer fronts.

An illustration showing how a dovetail joint can be used in a timber-framed


Dovetail joint used in furniture


Scarf Joints

Improvements in their understanding of geometry enabled carpenters to develop complex lengthening joints known as scarf joints. Using these joints, the carpenters were able to provide timbers longer than those which were naturally available.

Many different forms of can be found, and they are often located near a main post. The illustrations below are a few examples of scarf joints typically found in timber-framed buildings:

Bridle Scarf Joint: This joint is used in buildings to join two beams together in order to form a continuous line – mainly purlins, wall plates and sill beams – because trees are seldom as long as buildings. Bridle Scarf Joint

Face-Halved Scarf Joint

A connected edge-halved scarf joint

The complexity of building joints vastly increased after 1200AD , as carpenters gained greater experience of using geometry in designing their buildings.

The right hand graphic shows the complex joint where a post meets the , tie beam and roof structure.

Would you like to try assembling these joints? The museum has a collection of different joints within our educational resources, so you can have hands-on experience of how a medieval carpenter formed these buildings!


Wattle and daub is a composite used for making walls, in which a woven lattice of wooden strips called wattle is daubed with a sticky material usually made of some combination of wet soil, , sand, animal dung and straw.

Wattle is usually made of hazel or willow sticks, since they are very flexible and perfect for weaving. They are woven around upright oak posts before being covered with the daub .

After the wattle lattice frame had been covered with daub, both the panels and the timber frame were lime-washed. This was regularly re-applied on a yearly basis, since it served as a water-proofer, an insecticide and decorative coating. The ‘black and white’ treatment of timber frame houses is largely a Victorian fashion, since the houses traditionally had ochre plasterwork with the timber beams becoming in the Old Baptist Chapel increasingly silvered with age.

Some of the original wattle and daub still exists in the John Moore Museum and the Old Baptist Chapel, so don’t forget to take a look when you next visit us!

Brick infill later Wattle and daub replaced wattle infill between the and daub panels timber framing. despite being more expensive.

Did you know the phrase Why not book onto ‘Breaking and Entering’ originated our ‘Historic Buildings’ in the medieval period? People school workshop and used to break through the wattle try weaving a wattle and daub walls to get into a home! panel for yourself? 22

Door Types Double-: One of the earliest used door designs in Britain was called a double-plank door, which is both simple and sturdy in its construction. It is made by joining together two layers of planks – vertical boards on one face and horizontal on the other. In external doors, the vertical face is set to the outside, because it sheds rainwater more efficiently. The earliest doors usually had two or three vertical planks, but four-plank construction became common in the 17th century. Double-plank design

The and plank: The second type of door is called the batten and plank door. This design is different from the double-plank type, https://www.buildingconservation.com/articles/earlybecause the external-timber vertical-doors/early boards -are held together with two, three timber-doors.htm or four horizontal ‘’, also known as ledges. This is the type of door used in the Merchant’s House, which you can see from the pictures at the bottom of the page.

The batten and plank design

The ledged and braced door: The third type, the ledged and braced door, started to appear in the mid-19th century and used the same basic form as modern mass-produced doors.


In some cases the planks would originally have been joined together The ledged and braced design using wooden pegs, but the use of iron nails was more prevalent. Once driven through plank or batten, they were ‘clinched’ in place (flattened out on the inner side) with their points buried in the inner face to tie the timber together. heads were often left exposed on the outer face of the door to add a rich texture and pattern.

Hinges Most surviving early doors have wrought iron strap hinges. They may have been fixed in the outer or inner leaf, and they may be set into the face of the planks. Early examples simply had a loop at the hinged end, which is hung on an iron hook set into the door recess or doorframe.

External (front) view of Internal (back) view of the backdoor to the the backdoor to the Merchant’s House Merchant’s House


Window frames and doorframes were constructed into the timber frame itself rather than being separate components, as is the case nowadays.

The glazing of windows became increasingly common in the early 1600s; until then most windows were open to the elements with protection being provided by sliding or hinged shutters. Groves can be seen in the timber near the window in the Merchant’s House. Inside the window, there are vertical timbers, called mullions.

In the Merchant’s House, our windows are covered with cloth, which would have been treated with animal fat to make it more durable and strong. At night, the family would have closed over the wooden shutters to help keep the heat in the house Workshop in the Merchant’s House and provide better security.

At the front of the building is the shop with its ingenious tilting shutters. At night the shop is shut up tight, but in the morning the merchant would tilt the shutters outwards into the street creating his shop window and his counter all in one. Customers in the past would not have entered the shop; instead, business was purely conducted through the open window. Unfortunately, we were not able to reinstate the ingenious tilting shutters because it would have blocked the pavement. The photograph below is of a wooden model showing the construction of a typical timber-framed building with the shutter counter mechanism at the front.

Did you know people used to take their glass windows on holiday with them? The glass was so expensive that people were afraid it would be broken or stolen when they were away!


Staircase The stairs are solid oak, cut through the diagonal to make a triangular shape. The upper section is still original and now well worn after six hundred years of use. The original steps have narrow treads, which tells us that people in the past had smaller feet than today.

Outside steps All the buildings in the row have steps leading up to the front door. This makes sense when you remember that Tewkesbury is prone to flooding. It rarely reaches Church Street, but has occasionally lapped at our doorsteps.

The original steps in the Merchant’s House.

Thresholds The threshold is the strip of wood or metal that runs across the bottom of a doorframe. In houses today, we only have thresholds on doorways that lead to the outside; however, within the Merchant’s House, there is a high threshold at each doorway on the ground floor. There are many reasons for having these thresholds, which include:  Protection against the weather, especially draughts and rainwater.  Reduces heat wastage.  Acts as a barrier against unwanted insects and small pests.  Prevents dust and dirt spreading between rooms.  Provides greater stability to the building’s structure.

The threshold between the shop and hallway. Notice how the timber-frame is built upon a stone foundation.


The risk of a house fire was extremely high and greatly feared by the populace, especially since many early timber-framed buildings had open fireplaces.

At the time when the Merchant’s House was built, various timber structures were used to keep smoke from

the open fire from going everywhere. Here a small bay

or void has been sealed off from the upper part of the house as a place for the smoke to circulate and

eventua lly disperse through the rafters. or stone

chimneys did not become common features of small

timber -framed buildings until the 17th century.

Plastered ceilings were rare in all classes of building until Smoke stained rafters in the smoke void the 1600s , so floor or ceiling beams were vulnerable to in the Merchant’s House smoke damage.

The word curfew derives from the French couvre-feu (cover fire). This object is made from unglazed terracotta clay. It is a large domed lid with a

handle and holes pierced around the top half.

In medieval times, a bell would be rung in the evening as a signal that

everyone must go to bed. This was known as the curfew, and it told the

town’s inhabitants that they should cover their fires. If a protective guard covered the fire, it would smoulder safely throughout the night, and could

be easily re-ignited the next morning. The holes in the cover meant that Curfew

oxygen could still get into the fire and it wouldn’t go out altogether.

A fire in one timber-framed building could quickly spread to its neighbours, especially since buildings

were closely packed together. The Great Fire of in 1666 was a devastating fire that destroyed 13,200 houses, 87 parish churches, The Royal Exchange, Guildhall and St. Paul’s Cathedral, all of

which started from Thomas Farynor’s baker’s shop on Pudding Lane.

“Lord! what sad sight it was by

moone- light to see, the whole City almost on fire.” Samuel Pepys – 5th September 1666


Jettying is a building technique used in medieval timber- frame buildings in which an upper floor overhangs the floor below. A house could also have multiple jetties, with buildings being up to four storeys high, with each storey stepping forward from the one below. In the case of the Merchant’s House, the ends of the floor are exposed to view between the two storeys, the lowest beam of the upper wall simply resting on top of them.

The origins of the jetty are not known, but several reasons and benefits have been suggested:

 Streets were narrower, and the footprint of the buildings needed to be kept small.

 It increases the available space in the building without obstructing the street.

 It provides shelter and protects the lower floors from the weather. Jetty on the Abbey lawn Cottages, Church Street, Tewkesbury  It prevents water from running down the lower walls and getting into the wattle and daub panels, thus making them unstable.

 A symbol of wealth and status, if you could only afford one jetty you would want it to face the street.

Did you know, in 1276, it was ordered that jetties should be at least 9ft above the ground so as not to impede men on horseback?


Using thatch for roofing goes back as far as the Bronze Age (2500 BC – 800 BC) in Britain. Thatching is the use of straw or grasses as a building material; the most common materials used in Britain were wheat straw, Norfolk reeds and heather. These lightweight and cheap natural materials didn’t put a lot of strain on the beams or the wattle and daub walls.

Many Medieval and Tudor houses had thatched roofs. However, for those who were rich enough to afford it, a tiled roof was also available, which was more weatherproof and durable than a thatched roof. The monks of Tewkesbury Abbey decided to spend more money in order to have the terrace tiled rather than thatched. Built on A shaped roof trusses, the Abbey Lawn Trust Cottages have a roof that stretches over the entire row of 23 houses (see photo on right). This was a good preventive measure against the spread of fire, and the tile roofing would not need as much upkeep, whilst thatching requires maintenance on a regular basis.

Thatch roofing had been banned within the City of London by building regulations dating back to 1189. These rules were reinforced after a terrible fire in 1212 when an estimated 3000 people died. Shortly after this fire, the City authorities ruled that all new houses had to be roofed with tiles, shingles or boards. Any existing roofs with thatch had to be plastered to conform to the new regulations.

Tightly woven and compacted straw thatching A photograph of the Abbey Lawn Trust used in roofing. Cottages, highlighting the expansive tiled roof stretching over the entire row.


In England, the remains of buildings prove that the art of brickmaking was highly advanced by the time of Henry VIII. Hampton Court Palace is a fantastic example of a surviving Tudor Palace made of hundreds of thousands of brick. However, the majority of the population could not afford this expensive building material.

Making Bricks Clay was dug out of the ground and kneaded into an appropriate consistency. The clay was then pressed into a wooden mould lined with sand or straw to prevent the clay from sticking, and any excess clay was scraped off with a stick, knife or wire. The brick maker would mark each brick he created with an initial or a fingerprint, we have an example within the museum’s collection.

Brick mould The brick-shaped lump was left to dry in the sun. Once the green (unbaked) bricks were solid enough to lift without being squashed, they were carefully piled up into a massive heap called a . In the centre of this was a pile of wood, which was lit, and then the clamp left to burn. Restricted oxygen supply in the middle meant that the fire burned for a long time at a high temperature, firing the bricks over a period of several days. When the clamp eventually cooled, the bricks were unstacked, put on carts and transported to the building site. Moving bricks was expensive, so clay was dug and fired as close to the construction site as possible. Firing could take place only in the summer, so work was generally stopped from October to April. Decorative effects could be achieved on the bricks by dipping their ends into sand and then placing the sandy ends close to the central fire. Under intense heat, the sand vitrified, giving the exposed face a shiny, dark-coloured end. These vitrified headers could be built into the walls in patterns, normally large interlinked diamonds. The lively effect was known as diaper work and covered the walls of many Tudor palaces.

Building Regulations As a consequence of the Great Fire of London, in February 1667, the Rebuilding Act stated that: ‘all the outsides of all Buildings in and about the said City be henceforth made of Bricke or Stone.’ However, Royal proclamations dating back over 60 years demanded that new buildings be built from brick. In October 1607, King James I stated that new brick or stone buildings would ‘both adorne and beautifie his said City, and be lesse subject to danger of fire’. The Great Fire became the perfect opportunity to enforce, re-state and refine existing rules. The Tylers’ (brick-makers’) Guild did not have enough members to undertake the work, so they relaxed their admission regulations and trained people from the provinces to make bricks. After this, there was Unknown artist, c.1666 an explosion in the industry as thousands of new homes had to be rebuilt in the city, and hundreds of new brick-makers and builders were 29 able to establish businesses across England.

41 & 42 Church Street, Tewkesbury,

By the Georgian era, bricks had become cheaper to produce and buy. As a result of this, many people wanted to have brick homes, rather than the timber-framed buildings of the past.

Have a look at the photo above of 41 and 42 Church Street. The bottom section of the cottages have a brick front, whilst the top is the original timber-framed structure. This would allow people on the street to know that the owners are wealthy enough to afford a brick house. However, the back of the houses, not seen by the public, were often not covered with bricks.

If I add a few bricks, my property will be worth more and everyone will know I am doing well financially!


By the 1860s, half-timbered buildings were becoming common, although design elements of Gothic Revivalism are often included in the architectural composition. As a result of this, medieval timber frame buildings in urban areas were often given a 19th century makeover in order to match the newer surrounding half-timber buildings. This was achieved through the painting of the walls white and the exposed timber beams black. However, the earlier origins of a building are normally apparent from an internal inspection.

Early post-medieval timber buildings are the result of a constructional expedient rather than any deliberate design intent. Timber was abundant at that time and usually available locally, and despite carpentry skills being well established, embellishment of the frame was mostly reserved for high status buildings. This position contrasts noticeably with the 19th-century timber frame buildings where decoration of the exposed timber is often profuse, even on fairly modest buildings.

Unlike the earlier timber frames, 19th century timber framing is often confined to a single elevation, typically a prominent . Significantly, the timber frame is usually only partly structural, with elements of the framing providing little or no support or bracing. Architects were fond of incorporating the more technically challenging and visually striking elements of the earlier frames and multiple jetties are quite common, particularly in urban settings. It is also common to find that the ground floor is constructed from solid masonry, while the upper storeys are fully or part timber framing.

There are a number of significant differences that set most of the Victorian buildings apart from their post-medieval predecessors. The fundamental difference between the earlier timber frames and the revival buildings is the thickness and composition of the load bearing walls. Typically, the walls of 15th & 16th century timber frame buildings rarely exceed 150mm, whereas the revival buildings typically have an external wall thickness no less than 225mm (the length of a standard brick) and sometimes considerably more. Consequently, many but not all of these buildings have partially composite load bearing walls built from a variety of materials. The infill of the wall panels is no longer wattle and daub, but more commonly, mortar rendered bricks or .

A perfect example of a half-timber Victorian revival building. This is the back of Graham Court on Oldbury Road, Tewkesbury.


The Abbey Lawn Trust is a buildings preservation charity that aims to preserve and improve the attractions of the town as a place of historic and artistic interest. To help fulfil these aims, the Trust runs the John Moore Museum, the Merchant’s House, and The Old Baptist Chapel, as well as maintaining the Secret Garden, a pleasure garden adjoining the grounds of Tewkesbury Abbey. Most of the properties that are owned by the Abbey Lawn Trust are listed as Grade 1 in architectural importance.

Timeline 1935 – Hearing that Woolworths was interested in developing the site, Tewkesbury Abbey Precincts Fund was set up by Robert Holland-Martin & Vincent Yorke to preserve the area around the Abbey from unsuitable development. 1940 - Robert Holland-Martin persuaded Miss Zula Woodhull, a wealthy American, to purchase Abbey Lawn House and gardens, which was formed into a trust, the Abbey Lawn Trust (ALT). 1939 to 1945 - Abbey Lawn House was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence and used as a convalescent home for soldiers. 1945 to 1960 - The Trustees added to their property holdings along Church Street but without any definite idea of restoring the Abbey Cottages. 1960 to 1964 – By now the ALT owned all the cottages, which were in a very poor state of repair, while Abbey Lawn House was infested with dry rot and later demolished. Seeing little prospect of raising enough money to do repairs, the ALT stopped re-letting the cottages as they fell vacant. The intention was that Tewkesbury Borough Council would re-house any existing tenants so that the trustees might demolish the cottages. The Lawn around the Abbey was to have been extended to cover the whole of the land between the Abbey and Church Street. There were even plans to possibly save some of the better examples of cottages and to move them closer to the Abbey, thus creating a small open-air museum. 1964 to 1967 – Research uncovers that the cottages formed a rare surviving late medieval terrace of 23 shops and houses. Architect, Jeremy Benson, produced a feasibility scheme for their repair, estimated to cost £60,000 (£800,000 in today’s money). This was a turning point, for it showed the trustees that there was a possible future for the cottages and fund raising for their restoration began. 1973 – The Merchant’s House is opened to the public. 1980 - The John Moore Museum (41 Church Street) opens its doors to the public. 2012 – The Abbey Lawn Trust receives a Heritage Lottery Grant for the Merchant’s House. 2012 – The Abbey Lawn Trust takes over the lease of the Old Baptist Chapel to open it as a heritage attraction. 2015-2017 - Thanks to grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Abbey Lawn Trust, Tewkesbury Borough Council and Tewkesbury Town Council, the Old Baptist Chapel was renovated. 2020 – The Old Baptist Chapel is dendrochronology tested, and a date of 1458 was discovered.


Debate raged as the townspeople of Tewkesbury argued over the fate of the medieval cottages. Should the buildings be restored back to their former glory or pulled down? Would it be worth the cost of repairing them, when Tewkesbury still has plenty of timber-framed buildings? Would it be a better investment to turn them into modern housing or shops? Consider all the benefits and disadvantages of restoring the buildings. Is it better to preserve our built heritage or design new buildings for each generation?



Between 1967 and 1972, the Abbey Lawn Trust restored the row of medieval buildings on Church Street for both heritage and commercial use. Photographs were taken during the restoration to record the process.

They started the massive restoration project from both ends of the medieval row and met in the middle! 35

The architect in charge of the restoration project was Jeremy Benson. 36

Timber-framed buildings can be read like a book, as the styles developed and changed across

the decades. This means that merely looking at the exposed timber structure can give us a rough building date. Properties in the countryside were typically a little later at changing their building styles than their urban counterparts, so location can play a huge part in a house’s development and appearance.

So if a building had an open , crown post roof supports and a jetty, then it will probably have been built in the late fifteenth century. The more building features that you find, the greater the chances of getting a more accurate date!

This building styles chart was created by the Building Archaeological Research Database (BARD). For more information click here: http://www.buildingarchaeology.com/


If you want a more accurate date for a building, then a dendrochronology test can be undertaken if the original timber beams are exposed.

What is dendrochronology? • dendron (= “tree”) • chronos (= “time”) • - logy (= the study of) • The science that uses tree rings dated to their exact year of formation

When did dendrochronology begin? Dendrochronology was pioneered in the 1920s.

Tree-ring analysis The size of a tree ring is dependent on the weather:  Wide ring = warm and wet weather conditions  Narrow ring = cold and dry weather conditions

The number of rings a tree has is dependent on the speed of its growth.

Fast growth = fewer rings Slow growth = many rings

A precise dating method: • Light bands are spring growth • Darker wood is summer growth • ¼ ring for spring • ½ ring for summer • Full ring for winter • Don’t just count the rings to discover a tree’s age 38

Species generally suitable for tree-ring analysis of buildings in the UK are oak and

Cross section of oak Cross section of pine

Tracing oak through the centuries Oak chronologies extend back before 5500 BC in Ireland and 10,000 BC in Europe. The majority of our oak reference chronologies come from surviving medieval buildings.

Dendrochronology typically has a success rate of 80% in determining a building’s date. On account of the large number of buildings now dated by tree-ring analysis, we can see popular stylistic trends in different regions of the UK. All that is needed is a core sample from a timber beam, which can then be compared to the oak references that already exist to give us a date.

Limitations of dendrochronology A few conditions can limit the success of obtaining an accurate building date. These include:  Sapwood – Full sapwood must still exist if an exact felling date is to be determined.  Recycling – timbers were reused in the construction of new buildings if they were still in good condition. As a consequence of this, the timbers will provide an earlier date than the actual building construction.  Number of rings – Managed trees can reach the size for construction within 30-40 years.

Using dendrochronology Knowing the date of a building’s construction is always fascinating to discover, and as a museum, we believe it is important to uncover the facts for our visitors. We thought we had a fairly accurate date in mind after seeing the historical documents that still survive and the style of the building. We had the timbers in the Merchant’s House dendrochronology tested in 2015. The test results proved that the terrace was several decades older than we had believed, with the oak being felled in the years 1405 to 1408, with the building constructed circa 1410. Consequently, we had to broaden our timeline and researching commenced. We also discovered that the timber had originated in Shropshire, somewhere close to , and then it was transported via the River Severn to Tewkesbury. In 2020, the Old Baptist Chapel was also tested. The analysis of the timber samples came back with the date of 1458, which proves that this building was around during the Battle of Tewkesbury! The dendrochronology report of the Merchant’s House can be found in the Appendix. 39


Complete the sentences using the words in the box at the bottom of the page.

In Tudor times, many people lived in timber-______buildings.

Some of these wooden buildings were built over ______years ago.

The ______timbers are fixed together with wooden ______.

Tudor builders used ______and ______to fill the walls.

Circle the materials which were used to make daub.

cow dung clay mud straw feathers horse hair

lime plastic glass cotton metal wood

The windows are covered with ______- ______because ______was too expensive.

The joint holding the timbers together is called a ______and ______joint.

The part of the building that hangs over the street is called a ______

Jetty glass 600 oil-cloth wattle framed

Oak mortice daub tenon pegs


The builders are confused. Can you match the words to the pictures to help them build their house?

Mortice and tenon joint

Timber-framed house


Oak peg




Can you put these building steps into the correct order?

The outside walls of the house Wattle panels are woven in the are painted with lime-wash to gaps between the timbers and make them weatherproof. strengthened with layers of daub .

Carpenters cut the joints and The branches are removed and peg holes and mark each timber the timbers shaped to fit the

so that they know where to fit frame. them.

The timber frames are hauled The carpenters cut the trees 1 into position with ropes and down and saw the trunks into slotted into place. lengths called timbers.


The carpenters are busy at work. Label the tools and equipment that they are using in the diagram below:



______& ______

Using the terms in the box at the bottom, fill in the missing gaps:

 If the carpenter wants to sharpen his tools, he will use a ______.

 The carpenter wants to check that the timbers are at a 90o angle, so he will use his ______- ______.

 The carpenter needs to bore holes in the timber, so he will use his T-shaped ______.

 Mortice and tenon joints needs to made, so he will use his ______.

 To hammer in the wooden pegs, he will need to use his ______.

Twybil Mallet Set Square Whetstone Gimlet


You are an architect commissioned to build a timber-framed building. Design your building and label each room’s purpose and key features. Include the following terms in your architect’s drawing:

Jetty Thresholds Fireplace Stone foundations

A-frame roof Doorways Staircase Chimney or Smoke void


Box Frame – Timber framing in which posts and wall plates carry roof trusses, as opposed to being cruck-built. Brace- A diagonal timber strengthening a frame Collar Purlin – An alternative name for a crown plate Coppice - Coppice are trees whose poles are harvested every few years to produce wood for small items, charcoal and . Dendrochronology - The science of dating timber by analysis of tree-ring widths. Hatchet - A single-handed striking tool with a sharp blade on one side used to cut and split wood, and a hammer head on the other side. Jetty - An upper floor overhangs the floor below. Jowl – The enlarged head of a main post, which permits the tie beam, wall plate and post to be jointed together. Also applied to the enlarged head of any post. - a thin flat strip of wood, especially one of a series forming a foundation for the plaster of a wall. Mouldings – Decorative profiles cut into the surface of a timber Posts – In wall frames, vertical members that rise the full height of the frame, being either main posts at the bay divisions or intermediate posts within the bay; shorter uprights are known as studs. In roof trusses, king posts, queen posts and crown posts carry longitudinal beams, all other uprights being known as struts. Preservation - To keep or save from or decay. Principal Rafters – Rafters jointed into the ends of a tie beam Purlins – Longitudinal roof timbers, intermediate between wall plate and ridge, carried by roof trusses and giving support to the common rafters. Rafters – Timbers which run up the roof from wall plate to apex, supported on the wall plate and purlins. Restoration - The action of returning something to its former condition. Sill Beam – A sill is the lowest horizontal member of a window frame. A sill beam is the lowest member of a wall frame, into which the posts and studs of the frame are tenoned. Soffit – The underside of a beam Standards- Standards are trees allowed to grow to their natural height and shape, which give large constructional timber used for building and furniture. Wattle and Daub - a material traditionally used in building walls, consisting of a network of interwoven sticks and twigs (wattle) covered with mud, clay, straw and manure (daub). Whetstone - a fine-grained stone used for sharpening cutting tools by friction. Wind Brace – Brace running from principal rafter to purlin, to stiffen the roof structure





The John Moore Museum is dedicated to education for all ages, backgrounds and circumstances. As such, we provide both formal and informal education opportunities for a variety of audiences, including school workshops, loans and outreach sessions, museum workshops, costumed tours, talks and different ways of telling stories. The main themes of our education programme are Local History, the Tudors, Living Things (Science), Places of Worship, Flooding (Geography) & Travellers. To find out more about our education programme for schools, please contact our Learning and Access Officer on 01684 297174 or via [email protected]