3 Beautiful Listed Buildings And The Carpentry Involved
Until the advent of the printing press made the distribution of knowledge and plans easy, carpentry was a trade passed down from person to person. Archaeologists can make educated guesses on how carpenters worked based on ancient tools, but details have been lost.
Carpentry features in many of England’s listed buildings — sites chosen for their beauty, historical importance, or architecture. Here are three of the most interesting from different eras.
Church of St. Andrew
Also known as Greensted Church, this is the oldest known wooden church in the world. Some dating places its origin in the mid 800s; another dating indicates it was built in the 11th century. The builders stood palisades — logs — edge-to-edge in gravel trenches to create the walls, and the roof rested directly on the palisades. The wood was probably worked while green, making it easier to split. The ends would have been charred and treated with pine tar to minimize deterioration. Carpenters probably used natural features — the joint between a limb and trunk, for example — to create curved objects.
By the time Warwick Castle was built about 1000, carpenters belonged to guilds formed to protect their members and had to complete an apprenticeship. Although the castle’s structure is stone, many of the objects inside the castle would have been created by carpenters — furniture, dishes, and even artwork. Wood was still the primary material for most everyday things, including wagons and barrows, and carpentry required a knowledge of mathematics and woodworking, making carpenters among the most skilled professionals — and highest wage earners — around. Nowdays Warwick Castle is primarily used as a tourist attraction providing events and castle weddings.
Completed in 1472 after nearly 500 years of work, York Minster contains beautiful examples of carpentry and woodworking. This late in the Middle Ages, quality carpentry often revealed a building’s status and prestige, and kings and nobles hired and retained the best possible carpenters to create works of art for their homes. Woodworkers may have used a primitive sandpaper made of fish skins, but most smoothing was probably done with planes. Saws, axes, vices, and other implements had improved, but still resembled much older tools. Finishes probably included oil, varnish, or even paint, although multiple restorations have made original finishes difficult to determine.
Carpenters and the wood they work continue to provide beauty and utility around the world today, both inside and outside the home.
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