How timber samples can reveal the age of a buildingImage Credit: Love My Wales - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-east-wales-35053918
Castles and private homes across Powys, Mid Wales, are being investigated as part of a study to determine their age. The buildings dating from the medieval period are being looked into by experts who will do a range of timber tests to find the oldest ones in the area.
By the method of using tree ring dating, also known as dendrochronology, experts will sample buildings in the area and work out their exact age. In some cases, by analysing patterns in the wood, the time at which the tree was formed can be dated to the exact calendar year. This method can provide an invaluable insight into the history of a building by showing the time timbers used in the construction were felled.
When dating timber, samples are taken by drilling it out, leaving small holes. To get optimum results, eight to ten timbers should be sampled per building, with no more than two core samples taken from the same timber to avoid unnecessary damage.
After being polished, samples get looked into by the experts. Using a microscope, each ring is measured and the results get recorded and analysed.
Some of the buildings examined in the study are known to be centuries old. The 900-year-old Tretower Court and Castle, near Crickhowell, and the domestic house Hafod-y-Garreg in the Wye Valley, dating to 1402, are some of the oldest constructions experts are looking into.
Being a timber frame building from 16th century, The Three Tuns pub in Hay-on-Wye is also being tested, along with the surviving wooden gates at 12th Century Hay Castle. The castle was built by Norman Lord William de Braose but ransacked a century later. Henry III then rebuilt it, keeping the gates that were not as damaged.
Tree-ring dating has been done at Castle House, the adjoining Jacobean mansion. Results showed the building has been there since earlier than 1660.
A Jacobean mansion on the Wrexham-Flintshire border, that has also been examined, dates to 1602. That was concluded by the results of core samples taken from the timbers in the servants’ quarters.
To understand more about the landscape, ground surveys and stone analysis are also in order. However, timber tests have been crucial for getting precise results. With buildings dating to over four centuries ago, timber frame houses show that that way of building can really stand the test of time.
If you’ve got any questions about the use of timber and the process it goes through to show the age of a building or would like to share some great examples of timber in construction, we’d love to hear from you – so get in touch on Twitter.
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