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Skylarks Vernacular Building

Since September, we've been hard at work at Skylarks Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Nottingham. The task at hand, to design and build a timber frame building with inspiration drawn from the late Anglo-Saxon period. So with the help of volunteers from Skylarks Experimental Archaeology we accepted the challenge!

The concept was to create an small 'village' at Skylarks Nature Reserve with six Grubenhaus' and a larger timber frame outdoor classroom to be used for teaching and events. The inspiration for this is based on archaeological evidence of an Anglo Saxon village. Creating a design that is truly representative of the Anglo Saxon period is difficult, as generally the only evidence that remains is the post holes from the timber frame. The final design for the project was created following discussions with the team at Skylarks and a visit to the Anglo Saxon village of West Stow.

The building was constructed by the Hill Holt Wood Construction Team and volunteers from Experimental Archaeology. Before any work on site commenced, the timber needed to be processed. Rangers at Hill Holt Wood processed timber from our managed woodlands using our sawmill, with Ben, our resident joiner, cutting the frame from the drawings produced.

Once on site, the first task was to dig out the foundations for the oak posts to sit into. As foundations go, this went without a hitch, except from a troublesome piece of sandstone that refused to break apart on the final hole. Following this, we dropped the oak posts into the holes and rammed the limestone aggregate around them to secure it in place. Using a laser level, we carefully adjusted each post to ensure to highest level of precision.

The timber ring beam was placed on the top of the posts, which, thanks to the precision of the first stage, went in with ease. The following day we returned to erect the principal rafters and ridge beam. We followed the construction of the roof with a topping off ceremony: a ritual that has its roots located in Scandinavia, appeasing the tree dwelling spirits displaced in its construction.

Following the ceremony the sub rafters and battens were fixed into place, ready for the shingle roof to be constructed. Again without the aid of the volunteers we would not have been able to construct this as quickly as we did, completing the entire roof in two days.

The final stage was the fitting of the handcrafted doors. Ben worked incredibly hard milling the Douglas Fir logs into planks, and then crafting the doors in the workshop. The doors were installed on site easily by partially milling out the timber frame, a hinge was created without using metal.

Our role in the construction is now complete, and, although it looks a bit odd with doors and no walls, we would definitely recommend a visit! The volunteers will complete the construction by filling between the posts with wattle and daub.

If you would like to find out any more information on the project please leave a comment or contact us at

#timber #frame #timberframe #building #oak #green #greenoak #vernacular #skylarks #skylarksnaturereserve #nwt #notttingham #hillholtwood #hhw #designhhw

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