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Traditional Buildings in the Oxford Region

Traditional Buildings in the Oxford Region

John Steane
James Ayres
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Oxbow Books
Pages: 480
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  • Book Info
    Traditional Buildings in the Oxford Region
    Book Description:

    The pivotal position of the Oxford region in the geological and therefore building history of England is of fundamental importance to the study of traditional construction. Oxford occupies a central position on the ancient route between Northampton and Southampton and on the east - west road between London, The West Country, Wales and Ireland. For this reason, unusually for vernacular architecture, the buildings of the region were subject to a wide range of influences. This book, the fruit of twenty years research, provides an account of vernacular architecture in the Oxford region from Anglo-Saxon times to the 19th century. It begins with a discussion of methods and procedures followed by a description of building materials, stone, brick, slate and thatch. This serves as an introduction to the heart of the book, eleven chapters dealing with surveys of cruck buildings, manorial and moated sites, town houses with particular emphasis on Abingdon, and houses in the countryside from farmhouses to cottages. There are then chapters on fire hazards, public houses and public buildings. Several appendices are devoted to wall paintings, ferramenta, apotropaic marks, carpentry details, secrets under the floorboards, fireplaces, staircases and windows. The book is richly and profusely illustrated with over 500 illustrations, photographs, maps, and a particular strength, a large number of drawings of architectural details and sketch perspectives.

    eISBN: 978-1-78297-032-3
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    John L. L. Phillips

    John Steaneis a renowned figure in the archaeological and heritage world of traditional buildings in the Oxford region. He is unrivalled in his research and presentational skills. His rich writing and lecturing, supported by an ability to produce complementary and beautiful illustrations are well known through his work on recording a very wide range of rural buildings in Oxfordshire.

    James Ayres, co-author, has a hands-on knowledge of working in stone and wood. He has written ground breaking accounts inThe Artists’ Craft, Building the Georgian CityandDomestic Interiors.He was for many years the director of the John...

  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xi)
    (pp. xii-xiii)
    (pp. xiv-xvi)

    A widespread interest in historic buildings in Britain goes back to the Grand Tour. Antiquaries such as Thomas Hearne and Browne Willis (Sweet 2004) began to study Gothic architecture, to describe buildings like churches and cathedrals and to publish numerous books about them valued by collectors. Discussions among learned men concentrated on the origins of Gothic architecture; did it emerge from the intersection of arcades of Saxon (Norman) arches, or was it a Saracenic import of the times of the crusades? More importantly Thomas Rickman’s Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of English Architecture (1817) acknowledged the existence of European versions...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Methods and Procedures
    (pp. 1-6)

    A number of manuals have been published on this theme in the last few years, some of which are theoretical in their approach. What follows is our personal impression of our experience in the field, together with some notes on work in libraries and record offices.

    In our view, surveys of this kind are best undertaken by two or more specialists. This is for several reasons. Most important it is helpful to have the engagement of at least two minds simultaneously focussed on a given building. In a different context Crawford shares this view: ‘Any mechanic will tell you that...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Building Materials
    (pp. 7-22)

    Building materials in traditional construction depend upon local availability. Whereas timber was universally employed from prehistoric times onwards, by the 13th century, when the subject of this book gets under way, stone emerges as a principal component in structures in much of the Oxford region. Stone, in its various geological forms, was less accessible than timber and its exploitation demanded social organisation. Much the same was true of brick, which necessitated a modicum of industrialisation. For this reason stone, and later brick, enjoyed a status that timber often lacked. Despite this general truth, the perversity of human nature meant that...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Primitive Houses
    (pp. 23-28)

    When considering the houses and other buildings constructed in the upper Thames Valley during the Anglo-Saxon period (c. 400–1066) we have to rely entirely on the findings of below ground archaeology. Their structures were of wood, earth and thatch and do not survive above ground. What we are left with is the marks in the ground surface made by post-holes, pits, beam slots and, more rarely, indications of where the fire for these early buildings was located. One of the most informative sites in Oxfordshire was in the Yarnton-Cassington area excavated by Gill Hey and others in the 1990s...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Cruck Buildings
    (pp. 29-50)

    A cruck is a curved timber through which the weight of the roof is taken to the ground either directly or via part of a solid wall. Mercer ((1945) 1975) describes it succinctly as:

    ‘the use of inclined timbers, rising from ground level to an apex and serving as the trusses of a roof in contrast with other building practices where the roof is supported by lateral walls, of whatever material, from which it is structurally separate’.

    Mercer classified crucks into three main forms: ‘base crucks’, ‘raised crucks’ and ‘upper crucks’. He illustrated these in figure 67 ofVernacular Houses....

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Manorial Buildings: Moated Sites
    (pp. 51-118)

    Moats are enclosures, dug around castles, manor houses and smaller properties which are marked by deep ditches, now sometimes dry but frequently or formerly filled with water. More than 5000 such sites are known throughout England. Recent mapping has identified 96 moats in Oxfordshire (Bond 1986, 180). They continued to be dug in Oxfordshire ‘well into the 17th century … [which] may account for rather more sites in the county than was appreciated in the past’ (Tiller and Darkes 2010, 36–7).

    There is a certain correlation between moats and the underlying geology. In this county they are concentrated in...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Ashbury Manor
    (pp. 119-136)

    Ashbury Manor was, in Margaret Woods’ words, ‘probably the most important stone house in Berkshire’ (1965, 197). It is, of course, now in Oxfordshire at the south-west corner of the enlarged county. It lies on the north side of the village, on lower ground than the church and inn. The first edition of the 25 in to 1 mile OS map of 1882 shows this well. It stands on a bluff with a long ravine housing a spring and former watercress beds, which slopes in a north westerly direction and formerly had an acute angled return, but this part of...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Town Houses
    (pp. 137-180)

    Before looking at examples of town houses and public buildings in urban settings, it may be helpful to consider how these towns arose and what were their physical characteristics. There had been two walled towns in Roman Oxfordshire, Dorchester on Thames and Alchester, both situated on a major north–south road going from Silchester to Towcester. There were also a number of other settlements like Asthal situated alongside roads. Neither Dorchester nor Alchester survived as a major settlement in the Middle Ages. Instead a network of small towns grew up in the late Anglo-Saxon period. Some originated as fortified towns,...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT Abingdon
    (pp. 181-214)

    The town lies on a gravel terrace north of the Thames at its confluence with a tributary, the river Ock. Recent excavations have suggested that this was anoppidum,because the Late Iron Age and Roman settlements were surrounded by a defensive ditch. Rectilinear structures, timber built, have been found superimposed on a series of Iron Age round-houses. In the post-Roman period there was an early nucleus of settlement by St Helen’s Church (St Helena being the Emperor Constantine’s mother, pointing to a very early Christian dedication) with a radial arrangement of streets known as East and West St Helen’s...

  14. CHAPTER NINE Houses in the Countryside
    (pp. 215-296)

    There are more medieval houses surviving in villages than might be thought, but they are often in a fragmentary condition, enveloped in later additions or alterations. Such, for instance, is the timber framed wing of Checkendon Rectory, poking out from under 18th and 19th century alterations (Fig. 9.36). The first thing to be noted is the position of such buildings in the village. They are often built gable end onto the thoroughfare, revealing few windows to the highway, a more secure location than when built parallel with their windows facing the road. They are very rarely found in terraces within...

  15. CHAPTER TEN Farm Buildings
    (pp. 297-344)

    Of all the buildings that inhabit the English landscape farm buildings are an endangered species. They are seldom exterminated but they are often changed out of all recognition to become strange legends. Farmers will assert that barns are no longer suitable for their original purpose, the storage of produce, and then proceed to fill them up with everything else, which belies the premise of their argument. With the advent of the combine harvester the storage of cereal crops and threshing, formerly carried out in barns, are now done in a single action out in the fields. Many farm buildings are...

  16. CHAPTER ELEVEN Fire Hazards and Fire Prevention
    (pp. 345-360)

    Fire was one of the many hazards of life in early modern England. There were a number of major causes for this. Probably the most important was the widespread use of combustible building materials – especially timber and thatch. This was compounded by the lack of adequately built chimneys of stone or brick. In towns in particular the practice of trades such as brewing, baking and malting, mostly in unsuitable premises, provided a further problem. They often had stacks of hay, straw, corn and timber. Furthermore, although thatched roofs were often whitewashed this material was, fundamentally, flammable. Once a fire had...

  17. CHAPTER TWELVE Brewhouses, Inns and Public Houses
    (pp. 361-376)

    In Medieval Oxfordshire, as in the rest of England, there were three main types of victualling house, the alehouse, the tavern and the inn. They are problematic to study because many of the buildings associated with these functions are difficult to distinguish from private houses. What is clear is that there were great numbers of them. Anthony Wood argued that there were about 370 ale houses in the city of Oxford in 1678. In 1830 there were at least 136 public houses and 13 inns and posting houses (VCH OxfordshireIV, 437). In the city these were concentrated in the...

  18. CHAPTER THIRTEEN Public Buildings
    (pp. 377-390)

    So far we have considered examples of private buildings, most used for domestic accommodation or (as in farm buildings) involved in the pursuance of a livelihood. We have also recorded a number of public buildings, including a town hall, two almshouses and a courthouse. It is to these that we now turn.

    Town halls have been the subject of an interesting study by a Canadian historian, Robert Tittler (1991) which forms the basis for most of the following paragraphs. Tittler concludes that in early modern England no less than 202 town halls were constructed, converted or experienced a substantial rebuilding....

  19. APPENDIX A: Ferramenta
    (pp. 391-393)
  20. APPENDIX B: Marks including apotropaic marks
    (pp. 394-397)
  21. APPENDIX C: Windows
    (pp. 398-402)
  22. APPENDIX D: Doorways and doors
    (pp. 403-406)
  23. APPENDIX E: Wall Paintings
    (pp. 407-412)
  24. APPENDIX F: Secrets under the floor boards
    (pp. 413-416)
  25. APPENDIX G: Carpentry details
    (pp. 417-421)
  26. APPENDIX H: The fireplace from down-hearth to chimneypiece
    (pp. 422-427)
  27. APPENDIX I: Steps, stairs and staircases
    (pp. 428-432)
  28. APPENDIX J: Tree ring dating (dendrochronology)
    (pp. 433-434)
  29. APPENDIX K: Thatch and smoke blackened thatch
    (pp. 435-436)
    (pp. 437-444)
    (pp. 445-452)
  32. INDEX
    (pp. 453-463)