• 16th century timber frame barn
• Grade I Listed building
• Frame timbers decayed
• Plinth wall settled and bowed
• Repaired using SPAB principles
• £35,000 of new oak installed
• New wattle and render panels
• 35% of original tiles salvaged
The Wool Barn dates from the late 16th Century and is one of the first great post-dissolution barns to be constructed for secular use. It is approximately 22 metres long by 8 metres wide and is of timber frame construction standing on a high limestone plinth beneath a Cotswold stone tiled roof. The barn is seven bays in length with the central bay wider than the rest and containing the cartway with timbered porch on the south side.
The size of the barn alone is impressive but this was a structure built for both its great storage capacity and as a statement about the prosperity of its owner. The abundance of timber with the small square rendered infill is of special significance and the building justly deserves its Grade I listed status.
The barn was last repaired in the 1950’s and since that time it had deteriorated to the extent that it was in danger of partial collapse. The owners commissioned the conservation architect Nick Joyce to prepare detailed plans for its repair. With financial assistance from the RMC Environment Fund and English Heritage, the owners appointed Ward & Co to undertake the repairs.
The purpose of the work was to put the barn into good repair for future generations. Only slight alterations have been made to the design to improve its long term survival. The barn suffered from two major problems; the individual timbers within the frame had decayed and the plinth wall, on which the frame rests, had settled and bowed.
The repair works addressed the two problems using a variety of methods, each one designed to ensure longevity whilst respecting the historic fabric. The approach was one of building conservation rather than restoration and based on the principles laid down by William Morris when he founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877.
The Timber Frame
Original Construction: English oak was used to make the timber frame. Originally the oak was probably brought across the River Severn from the Forest of Dean. This must have been expensive. For this reason locally grown elm was used to construct the roof structure including the massive tie beams. The importance of this fact is that elm is less durable than oak. The original elm rafters had decayed and been replaced with a variety of oak and softwood rafters before the project had begun.
The Repairs: The approach used to reinstate the structural integrity has been to remove as little as possible of the historic timber. Timber is only replaced when it is not possible to repair using face patches or to reinforce them with stainless steel or seasoned oak.
The new rafters are of oak as all the original elm rafters had already been lost. Approximately £35,000 of new oak has been installed weighing somewhere in the region of 30 tonnes. All of the new oak pegs are nearly as strong as mild steel and they have the benefit that the joins can be draw-bored.
The Infill Panels
The panels in the barn were originally lime render on riven oak wattle. Many panels had been replaced in concrete and many others had decayed. The new panels match the original infill panels with all the wattle and staves riven on site from carefully selected green oak.
On the north slope the original tiles have been re-used. Only 35% of the original tiles were salvaged. On the south slope new stone tiles have been brought from the Naunton quarry in North Gloucestershire.
The Plinth Walls
Until some of the walls were dismantled, no one knew that the limestone ashlar was reused material from an abbey. It is currently under archaeological investigation, but it is likely that, at the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in the sixteenth century, much stone was robbed and reused in new building projects.
The internal faces of the wall are a blue lias that is thought to have been quarried locally. There are now only three blue lias quarries in existence and the new stone was bought from Somerset.