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Explore England's Past

Dating Vernacular Buildings

Medieval roof, 124 High Street

Medieval houses usually followed a common arrangement whose traces can sometimes be detected in what appear to be much later buildings. But the best way to date the original construction is through the internal roof structure. Where this remained structurally sound it was replaced less often than visible features, and can be roughly dated by comparing carpentry techniques - though as these changed slowly, particularly in country areas, the science is not precise.

The greatest advance in building-dating has come from the development, over the last few decades, of scientific tree-ring dating or dendrochronology, which can provide an accurate date for when oak timbers used in a building were felled. The technique is based on the fact that each tree-ring (representing a year's growth) is of a different width, depending on growing conditions that year.

Content generated during research for the paperback book 'Burford: Buildings and People in a Cotswold Town' (ISBN 13 : 9781860774881) for the England's Past for Everyone series