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Glas-hirfryn: Rebuilding the house




General principles

The architect for the project is Graham Moss, Moss Co. Repairs and restoration work is by Colin and Roger Morris of Manor Joinery.

Reinstatement of the house is subject to Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent. The principle objective of the scheme is to reinstate an abandoned dwelling and return it to something approaching the plan it had attained by the end of the nineteenth century. The layout is a direct interpretation of what is discernible, retaining many of the original features in their original positions. New inclusions are partitions of the rooms on the first floor and modern bathroom. The walls will use as much of the original frame, bringing in local oak for repairs and the construction of timber floors and reinstatement of the roof. The sill walls or plinth and chimney stack will utilise the existing uncoursed rubble from the former dwelling. The roof finish will be from Llangynog slates, laid in diminishing courses. Windows and doors will be constructed from local timber.

Groundworks for the rebuilding were undertaken in September 2013. Following a break over the winter, during which further carpentry was undertaken, rebuilding the house began on 17 March 2014. This section of the website is being kept up to date during the building, so visit these pages again if want to see how the work progresses.

Despite the use of machinery for digging foundations and lifting some of the heavier timbers, the processes involved in handling and fitting together the building are the same as when the building was first erected 455 years ago. Chronicling the rebuilding the house from scratch gives some insight into the practical difficulties faced by the original Elizabethan builders.

If properly maintained the oak framework of the building should survive more or less indefinitely. With any luck, once work is completed, Glas-hirfryn should surive for at least another 455 years (until AD 2470!).



1 Digging new footings

In September 2013 the site was cleared and levelled. Footings for the timber-framed building and lateral stone chimney, based on the original design and the architect's plans, were marked out (visible here as white lines) and dug out by machine. Concrete foundations were laid on which the blockwork for the concrete slab was built.

20 September 2013



2 Laying the concrete slab

In early October 2013 the concrete slab to carry the floors and walls of the timber-framed building was laid, seen here from the north-east.

Note the foundations for what will eventually be the lateral stone chimney on the back wall of the house.

2 October 2013



3 Securing the barn roof

Before the winter, a new blockwork wall is built to secure the roof of the barn adjacent to the site of the house. This will form the west wall of the renovated timber-framed building.

Apart from the remains of a single wall post and tie-beam none of the remainder of this elevation of the original timber-framed building had survived, so cannot be accurately reconstructed.

November 2013



4 Return of the repaired timberwork to the site

A start was made on retuning both old and replacement timbers from the workshop in Minsterly to Glas-hirfryn on 17 March 2014.

Here are some of the timbers for the east wall, all labelled up so that they can be put in their correct position.

19 March 2014



5 Laying the sole plates

Like the original building, the walls of the renovated timber-framed building rest on large horizontal timbers known as 'sole plates'. Here, the two sole plates at the south-east corner of the building are being joined together. Note the mortises and peg-holes to take the wall post at the corner of the building and for the studs forming the walls. The modern practice is to drill a hole from the base of the mortises through to the bottom of the sole plate to prevent water from collecting in the base of the mortise and causing the timber to rot.

The sole plates are temporarily propped in position with baulks of timber. Eventually, stone sill walls like the originals will be built to support them.

21 March 2014



6 Finishing touches to the sole plates

The sole plates are particularly heavy timbers which can be easily become bruised or damaged during transport and putting in place. For this reason the ends of the beams are cut off and an arris cut on the top outer edge only after they have been put in place. The arris also helps to let rainwater run away.

19 March 2014



7 Raising the first corner post

The first corner post, at the north-east corner of the building, being carefully set in place, fitting the repaired tenon at the base of the wall-post into the mortise of the new sole plate.

Note rounded pilaster, carved into the repair, to match the original decoration on the outer face of the post.

19 March 2014



8 Reconstruction of the eastern ground-floor wall

The framing of the eastern ground floor wall of the house is the first to be completed, shown here with the north-west corner in the foreground.

This part of the outer wall has the highest proportion of surviving timberwork where it had been protected from the weather by later extensions to the house.

24 March 2014



9 Repaired mortises

This photo shows where new pieces of oak have been filleted in to repair mortises in the mid-rail (horizontal) and wall-post (vertical) timbers in the east wall.

The timber-framing will support the weight of the renovated building and therefore needs to be structurally sound.

All the joints will be eventually pegged, but this is left to a later stage.

24 March 2014



10 New jetty brackets put in place

Here, a new jetty bracket (the curving piece) fitted to the north-east wall-post is temporarily held in place by strapping but will eventually be pegged into place. The new bracket copies the original one which had become too rotten to reuse.

The jetty bracket helps to support the jettied overhang at the east end of the building. The tenons in the end of the the horizontal beam at the top will in due course fit into mortises in the bressumer beam running along the base of the jetty.

24 March 2014



11 Scarfed joints in the sole plate

One of the two new timbers forming the sole plate on the south side of the building is gently lowered into position where they join at a scarf joint. The timbers themselves are very heavy but can be largely manoeuvred into position using rollers and levers.

Some of the original sole plate had survived (see the 'Archaeological excavation' section) but was in too poor a condition for repair and reuse.

24 March 2014



12 Building the ground-floor wall to the south

This shows the progress that has been made in building the ground-floor wall on the south side the house - the principal facade of the building.

Note the gaps in the studding that have been left for eventual windows and door.

28 March 2014



13 Oak pegs ready and waiting

The oak pegs made in the workshop have been trimmed to size and now ready and waiting to be hammered into the peg-holes to secure the mortise and tenon joints.

28 March 2014



14 Hammering in the pegs

Here, the wooden pegs are being hammered in with a lump hammer to hold the joints of the ground-floor walls together. The pegs are left jutting out from the surface for the time being. Later on, if necessary, they will be hammered further in and then the ends sawn off.

28 March 2014



15 Work on the door and window

Gaps have been left in the timber-framing of the southern ground-floor wall for windows and a door in the southern ground-floor wall. The sole plate has been left for the moment across the bottom of the door opening but will eventually be cut away to bring the opening down to the floor level inside the house.

As noted above, The aim of the restoration is to return the house to something approaching its appearance towards the end of the nineteenth century, when there was a door and window in this position (see photo of the house in the 1960s on the 'Glas-hirfryn 'home page. However, tell-tale peg-holes show that neither the door nor window were originally in this position. Peg-holes in the jetty plate above the gap for the door (see red arrows) show that there was originally studding here, joining a horizontal mid-rail shown by the mortise in the wall-post to the right (see yellow arrow). The absence of peg-holes in the jetty plate further to the right (to the right of the green arrow) show that originally the window was positioned towards the corner of the building, against the corner post to the right.

8 April 2014



16 Scaffolding for building the first floor

With the timber-framing on the ground-floor now almost complete, the scaffolding shown here is being erected so that the cross-beams and ceiling joists for the first floor can be lifted into position.

8 April 2014



17 Ceiling joists returned to site

The first batch of repaired ceiling joists have been brought back from the workshop, ready to be put into position.

8 April 2014



18 Ceiling joists at east end of house

Two days later and the ceiling joists at the eastern end of the house have now been put in place.The long new timber to the left is the replacement bressumer beam which when fitted will form the base of the jetty at the eastern end of the house.

10 April 2014



19 Ceiling joists mortised into jetty plate

Here, moulded floor joists have been fixed into mortises in the jetty beam at the eastern end of the house. Note the repaired ends of some of the joists.

10 April 2014



20 Southern bressumer beam fitted

The first storey of the house on the south and east sides was jettied out beyond the ground floor, the outer walls being founded on moulded bressumer beams. On the south side of the building the bressumer beam was fixed to the ends of the joists, jettied out over the jetty plate at the top of the ground-floor wall. The original bressumer beams were in too poor a condition to repair, but in this view mortises in the replacement bressumer beam are being fitted to tenons at the ends of the floor joists. On this side of the building.

Note the mortises in the upper surface of the bressumer beam. These will eventually take diagonal studs of the decorative panelling of the first floor walls.

10 April 2014



21 Complex joints at the south-east corner

This photo shows the complex carpentry at the top of the ground-floor post at the south-east corner of the building. Jetty brackets fixed to the two outer faces of the corner post will support the jetties on the southern and eastern elevations of the house.

10 April 2014



22 Making a start on the first floor

In the last week of April 2014 a start is made on rebuilding the jettied first floor wall at the eastern end of the house.

The house is seen here from the complex south-east corner which has brackets which carry jetties on both the south side and east end.

25 April 2014



23 Construction of the east jetty

This view of the north-east corner shows how the first floor jetty at the eastern end of the house is constructed.

At the bottom of the picture is the corner post with the curving jetty bracket which supports a horizontal girding beam running along the back wall of the house at the top of the ground-floor wall. A close-up of the jetty bracket is shown in one of the photographs taken on 24 March, shown above.

Mortised into the end of the girding beam is the jetty bressumer beam, which together with the girding beam supports the vertical, first-floor corner post.

Here, as in the original construction, the less visible back wall of the house is strengthened by diagonal braces. To maintain the pattern of the framing, this required some shortened wall studs, as shown in the sketch and the photograph below.

25 April 2014



24 Shortened wall studs

These very short wall studs are needed to maintain the pattern of the framing above the diagonal bracing on the back wall of the house.

25 April 2014



25 Wall studs set into the jetty bressumer

The wall studs and diagonal bracing on the first floor at the east end of the house are here set into mortisesf in the bressumer beam which carries the eastern jetty. Similar mortises are shown in several of the photographs taken on 10 April, shown above.

25 April 2014



26 Window opening in the eastern end

The gap in the middle of the framing on the first floor is for a window.

Mortises in the surviving lower rail of the window shows that it originally had four 'mullions' (vertical wooden bars), forming five 'lights' (openings).

25 April 2014



27 Decorative diagonal bracing

Decorative diagonal bracing being rebuilt on the first floor at the eastern end of the building. Original timbers are reused where possible but where these are missing or are in too poor a condition matching timbers of new oak have been added.

The horizontal rail above the diagonal bracing will carry the coving bars to support the jettied upper storey (see close-up of one of one of the rails in the next picture).

25 April 2014



28 Coving rails

Close-up view of the bottom of one of the horizontal rails above the decorative panels on the first floor at the eastern end of the house that will eventually hold the coving brackets supporting the jettied upper floor. The original rails were carved with vine-leaf trails (similar to those carved on the outer faces of the wall-posts and corner posts) but unfortunately none of the original ones were well enough preserved to be able to be reused in the restoration. A photograph of one of the original rails is shown in the section on 'Building recording'.

25 April 2014



29 Jetties at the south-east corner

This shows the complex carpentry needed at the south-east corner to support the jetties on both the east (right-hand side) and south (left-hand side) elevations of the house. On the south side of the house the bressumer beam at the base of the jetty is supported by a jetty bracket (see photo 30) and by the floor joists which are tenoned into the back of the bressumer beam (see photo 31)and supported indirectly by the southern jetty plate. The bressumer beam on the east end of the house is held by a short joining piece (see 'Puzzling pieces' in the section on 'Building recording') which is tenoned into both the eastern jetty plate and the bressumer beam and joined to the jetty bracket by a 'slip tenon'. The ground-floor corner post carries two jetty brackets and also supports both the southern and eastern jetty plates, which explains the complex carpentry at the top of the post (see 'Complex joints' in the section on 'Building recording'. In some half-timbered buildings a 'dragon beam' was set diagonally at the corner of a building to support jetties on two adjacent sides, but that form of construction was not used here. Both the ground-floor and first floor corner posts show traces of vine-leaf trails on raised pilasters (see section on 'Decorative detail' in the section on 'Building recording').

2 May 2014



30 Jetty brackets

One of the replacement jetty brackets which when fitted will help to support the jetty on the south side of the house. The tenon at the top will fit into a mortise in one of the wall posts.

2 May 2014



31 Joists supporting southern jetty

This view, looking from the inside of the house, shows the joists (a) tenoned into the back of the bressumer beam (b) on the south side of the building. The gaps between the joists and the jetty plate (c) will eventually the be filled with a castellated piece of timber sitting on top of the jetty plate.

2 May 2014



32 Decorated boss reinstated

The tie beam with the elaborately decorated boss at the centre of the two-bay hall is reinstated. Mortises to either side house tenons at the ends of the moulded beams running along the centre line of the house which support the floor joists.

9 May 2014



33 Moulded wall-post

At the southern end the tie beam with the decorated boss is supported by an elaborate wall-post with mouldings matching those on the underside of the tie beam (partly cut away during the later history of the house) which carry the decorative scheme virtually down to ground floor level. The photograph to the right shows the collapsed wall post in the position it was found in July 2012. Tenons on the end of the tie beam will eventually support the jetty bressumer beam on the south elevation of the house.

9 May 2014



34 Floating beam

For the moment the northern end of the tie beam with the decorated boss is left suspended in mid air on scaffolding. It will eventually be supported by the lintel above the fireplace on this side of the house, once the chimney is built about where the pile of rubble lies in the background.

9 May 2014



35 Into the unknown

The last axial floor beam has now been put in place, tenoned into the tie-beam with the decorated boss. Little had survived of the far, western, side of the two-bay hall and at the moment the original form of this end of the building remains uncertain. The decision was therefore made to construct a simple, plain wall at this end of the house, between the house and the adjacent barn, which would carry the floor beam.

16 May 2014



36 The carved boss

The carved boss viewed from below, decorated with stylized foliage and with a rose at the centre.

The drawing shows cross-sections of the boss and the mouldings on the beam. Mortises to either side of the boss held tenons on the ends of the floor beams running along the middle of the house, which have matching though smaller mouldings.

The importance of the cental boss is emphasised by the fact that rest of the beam had to be cut away in order that the boss could stand out.

16 May 2014



37 Temporary flooring

Now that most of the floor joists for the first storey are in place, a temporary plywood floor is laid down as a platform for building the front wall.

The mortises in the bressumer beam to the right, will take the diagonal studding along the front facade on the first floor.

16 May 2014



38 Interior feel

With the temporary flooring in place, the ground floor begins to feel like the inside of a house.

16 May 2014



39 Studs ready and waiting for building the front facade

This stack of timberwork, brought to site from the workshop, is ready and waiting for the construction of the first floor, front elevation of the house. To the left are vertical wall studs and to the right are the smaller diagonal studs that will make up the diamond-shaped decorative panels along the front elevation.

16 May 2014



40 Lifting the first floor wall-posts into position

The first step in rebuilding the front, southern, elevation of the first floor of the house is to lift the heavy wall-posts into position. These are much heavier than the other timberwork in the wall and a machine is therefore used to lift them into position. The other timbers is light enough to be carried up to the first floor.

Tenons in the foot of each of the wall-posts are slotted into mortises in the jetty beam along the front of the house. The tops of the posts will carry the wall-plate which will eventually carry the weight of the roof.

16 May 2014



41 First floor front elevation completed

The rest of the studding of the first floor front elevation has now been added. A photo in the section on 'Repairing the timberwork' shows how this stretch of wall was originally put together in the workshop, flat on the floor.

The diagonal studs are largely decorative, but also act as bracing to help to prevent sideways movement, along the length of the building.The wall-plate has been added to the tops of the wall-posts and will eventually support the roof.

30 May 2014



42 Openings in the first floor front wall

Openings are left in the studding on the first floor front wall in positions where windows will be eventually fitted.

For the time being these gaps also provide access to the first floor from the scaffolding. Internal stairs to the upper storeys will only be added at a later stage.

30 May 2014



43 Adding the wall-plate on the back wall

A pulley is used to gently lower the wall-plate into position on the back wall of the house, making sure that that the tenons on the tops of each of the wall posts and wall studs fit neatly into each of the mortises on the underside of the beam.

All the joints fitted in the workshop but some of the tenons have swollen slightly in the rain and a sledge hammer eventually has to be used to tap the wall-plate into its final horizontal position.

The left-hand end of the wall-plate extends beyond the wall-line and will eventually support the jettied gable.

30 May 2014



44 Gaping hole in the back wall

This gap in the back wall of the house is where the lateral stone chimneys extending from the back of the house will shortly be built.

30 May 2014



45 Start of the gable jetty

Here, work has started on the jettied gable at the eastern end of the house.

The slightly bent horizontal beam at the top right is the bressumer beam which has been added to the top of the end wall of the house, which will carry the jettied gable.

10 June 2014



46 Front and back wall-plates

This shows a view of the wall-plates on the front and back walls (to the right and left respectively).

The orginal mortises in the tie-beam across the end wall are for ceiling/floor joists for the upper floor.

A tie-beam between the front and back walls of the house will later be fitted to the mortise at the top of the wall-post supporting and just peeping above the wall-plate in the foreground (see photo 49).

10 June 2014



47 A start is made on the chimney

A start has been made on the base of the lateral chimney on the back wall of the house (compare with photo 44).

The lateral chimney was one of the significant features of the original house which it is important to emulate in the reconstruction. Earlier half-timbered buildings simply had an open hearth in the middle of the hall with the smoke escaping through an opening in the roof.

The core of the new chimney and the wall to the right is being built in blockwork that will later be faced in stone.

10 June 2014



48 Adding tie-beams

View showing the two easternmost tie-beams.These are the main horizontal timbers at wall-plate level, running from the front (left) to the back of the house, which will hold the lower ends of the pricipals (or principal rafters).

17 June 2014



49 Fixing the tie-beams

The tie-beams rest on the wall-plates and are mortised into tenons at the tops of the wall-posts (see also photo 46).

17 June 2014



50 Combining new and traditional walling materials

A start is made on the the stone walling linking the Elizabethan half-timbered house and the later stone barn built against its western end. The end of the barn was unstable and had taken down and rebuilt in blockwork (see photo 3).

To provide heat insulation and damp-proofing the blockwork is faced with insulation material, then moulded polypropelene panels which help to form a cavity, and fianally faced in stone. The stone is reused from materials salvaged during site clearance. To give a traditional appearance the mortar is a 1:4 mix of natural hydraulic lime and a half sharp sand and half black grit.

17 June 2014



51 Roof trusses start to go up

The house begins to take shape as the first roof trusses are added to gable end at the eastern end of the building.

24 June 2014



52 Inner and outer roof trusses

At the eastern gable there are two close-set roof trusses set about 10 centimetres apart.

The inner roof truss, which lies directly above the jettied first floor wall at the eastern end of the house, simply has just two diagonal braces (see the lower image in photo 52, also just visible in photo 56) and has halved joints to take purlins and windbraces.

The outer truss, supported by the ends of the wall-plates (extending beyond the first floor wall-line) will eventually be supported from below by coving bars fixed to coving rails (see photos 28-28), continues the decorative scheme of the outer wall.

24 June 2014



53 The outer truss

The outer, gable-end truss, seen here reassembled in situ in the top photo. The truss has a tie-beam at the bottom, two principals (principal rafters) above, decorative diagonal and vertical studding and framing for a second floor window.

The lower photo shows the truss as last seen, assembled on the workshop floor. It was subsequently dismantled and brought to site in pieces. The surviving timbers were in too poor a condition to reuse and the truss is therefore totally made up of new oak.

None of the original timbers had survived in situ at the time when the building was being dismantled in 2012, having collapsed even before survey work undertaken in 2008. Only the tie-beam and the two principals had survived, but the pattern of the studding is based on the visible mortises in the surviving timbers as well as on analogy with similar buildings elsewhere.

24 June 2014



54 The inner truss

The upper photo shows the inner truss with its two diagonal braces being assembled on the workshop floor, before being dismantled and returned to site. In this case, most of the original timbers were sufficiently sound to be reused once they were repaired.

Again, most of the truss had collapsed before the building was dismantled in 2012, but the lower photo shows what it looked like in situ when survey work was being undertaken in 2008 (photo: Tony Rowland).

24 June 2014



55 Jettied gable beginning to take shape

This view shows eastern elevation of the house with its two jetties under construction.

The first floor jetty is supported by the end of the axial floor beam extending beyond the ground floor wall-line and by girding beams on the front and back walls, all resting on jetty brackets (see photo 23).

The jettied gable above is supported by the wall-plates on the front and back walls which extend beyond the second floor wall-line.

The wall-plates have been left too long for the moment but will eventually be cut to length.

24 June 2014



56 Partition walls on the first floor

Studding has been put in place between the first and second floor tie-beams to form room divisions, with a door opening to the right.

24 June 2014



57 Adding a second truss

A week later and the second roof truss has been added.

Nothing had survived of the western gable of the house - the far end of the building, shown in the lower photo, where the house butts up against the later stone barn.

The original form of this end of the house remains uncertain and consequently the western gable is being built in building blocks, to be faced externally in weatherboarding.

1 July 2014



58 A door in the attic

The second roof truss has a doorway leading to an attic room at the eastern end of the house with diagonal struts to either side, between the tie-beam below and the principal rafters above.The door head forms a shallow arch cut into the collar-beam connecting the two principal rafters towards the apex of the roof.

This is the only surviving doorway at Glas-hirfryn and may indicate the original appearance of other doorways in the house.

1 July 2014



59 Restoration of the attic door

The photo on the left shows the restored door frame on the upper storey of the house, with its repaired door head cut out of the collar beam. The principal rafter on the near side is original but the one on the far side was in too poor a condition to reuse and has been replaced with new oak.

To the right is a view showing the door in situ in 2008, before the collapse of the truss. Note the wattle infill of the panels of the truss frame (photo: Tony Rowland).

1 July 2014



60 Adding stone sill walls

Stone sill walls (or plinths) are now being added below the sole plates around the exterior of the building, reusing stone salvaged from elsewhere on the site. The upper photo shows part of the sill wall on the south side and the lower photo is of the north-east corner of the house.

Of necessity, the form of the sill walls differs from the original ones identified during excavation (see the section on 'Archaeological excavation'), where they were shown to be made of large rounded and weathered boulders simply bonded with clay, with little or no below-ground foundations.

In the restoration it has been necessary to use much smaller and thinner stones which are laid on a damp-proof membrane on top of a foundation of building blocks. The new stonework is bonded with a coarse lime mortar, though it is interesting to note that because of the mix being used (see photo 50 for details) the pointing has to be done with the fingers rather than a trowel.

The original sill walls were also much broader than the sole plates. In the restoration, however, to inhibit water from collecting which might cause the timber to rot, the new sill walls are fairly flush with the outer face of the sole plates.

8 July 2014



61 A forest of treenails

This photo of the eastern elevation of the house shows the numerous oak pegs needed to hold the joints together.

Wooden pegs, also known as treenails or trenails (literally 'tree nails') are recorded in building accounts as early as the late thirteenth century. At Glas-hirfryn over 250 have already been used in this end wall of the building alone.

For the moment (as noted in photo 14) the pegs have been left jutting out from the outer face of the wall. Once the wood has dried a bit more they they will be driven in a bit further before the ends are trimmed off.

8 July 2014



62 Progress with the lateral chimney

In an earlier photo (photo 47) the core of the lateral chimney, on the back wall of the house, was shown being built of building blocks.

Here, a start is being made in facing the outside of the rebuilt chimney in reused local stone, again reclaimed from elsewhere on the site. As elsewhere (see photo 50) a cavity is being incorporated between the building blocks and the stonework by using moulded polypropelene panels.

8 July 2014



63 The chimney grows

The upper photo, a fortnight later, shows the inside of the chimney reaching wall-plate level. With the chimney up to this level it is now possible to press on with inserting the last roof-trusses, since in the reconstructed building the tie-beam is to be built into the inner face of the chimney (see photo 65).

The lower photo shows the inside of the chimney on the ground floor. This is built in block work but will eventually be faced with stone. A steel lintel has been inserted across the opening but will eventually be masked by an oak lintel. In the reconstruction, the lintel also supports the end of the of the beam with the decorative boss at the centre of the two-bay ground-floor hall.

22 July 2014



64 Lining the chimney flue

The chimney of the of the reconstructed building will eventually look authentic from the outside, but rather than being open to its full it is to be lined above the level of the lintel on the ground floor. This view shows the top of the chimney at about wall-plate level showing the lined flue packed round with vermiculite to provide insulation.

Compromises such as this are needed in order to maintain the original appearance but at the same time to meet modern building standards in what will be a lived-in home.

22 July 2014



65 Getting ready to add the last roof truss

Now that the chimney has reached wall-plate level the tie-beam of the last roof truss is shown here in the upper photo being manoeuvred into position.

The lower photo shows one of the two principals forming the truss reading and waiting to be lifted into position. Once these are in place a start can be made on building the roof.

22 July 2014



66 Last roof truss in place

The last of the roof trusses has now been built. Unlike the other two roof trusses, none of the original timbers had survived in a useable condition, so new tie-beam, principals and braces have been made in new oak to match to design of the other two trusses.

Now that the last of the roof trusses in in place a start can be made on building the roof.

30 July 2014



67 Adding the ridge-piece

The ridge-piece has now been added along the top of the roof, now that the last of the roof trusses is in place. This is made of three squared pieces of oak that are jointed together.The next task will be to add the purlins and then the rafters.

30 July 2014



68 Purlins and rafters delivered to site

All the timberwork for the roof will be in new oak, shown here in the upper photo soon after delivery to site from the sawmill. This gives an impression of the volume and weight of timber that would have been needed for the roof of the house when first built in the sixteenth century.The timbers for the purlins are the smaller stack of larger ones towards the back.These will be the horizontal longitudinal timbers fixed to the principals forming the apex of the roof trusses. The bigger stack of smaller timbers in the foreground will form the rafters. These will be the inclined lateral timbers, resting on the purlins, which will support the roof covering.

In the lower photo a start has been made on cutting out the lap joints in the purlins for fixing them to the principals.

Like many other building terms, the English words 'rafter' and 'purlin' have an ancient origin. 'Rafter' is of Germanic origin and is first recorded in the tenth century.'Purlin' is probably of French origin and first recorded in the fifteeth century. The equivalent Welsh terms rheswyddnau and trawslathau are first recorded at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

30 July 2014



69 Lower purlins added

A week later, and the lower purlins have been added to both sides of the roof. Like the ridge-piece these are made up of three squared pieces of oak jointed together and held by lap joints cut into the top of the principals (or principal rafters).

New oak is again being used for each of the purlins since none of the original ones survived in a reusable condition, given that the roof needs to be structurally sound. Great care is taken, however, to make sure that the new work carefully matches the original as closely as possible.

See photo 70 for the terms used to describe the various elements of the framework of the roof.

7 August 2014



70 'Today we have naming of parts': the roof framework

This photo and accompanying sketch show the main elements of the framework of the roof - wall-plate, cross-beam, principal (or principal rafter), collar, brace, ridge-piece and purlin.

Still to be added at this stage are the upper purlins and the windbraces. As noted in photo 66 the roof truss in the foreground is entirely made of new oak and lap joints to take the upper purlins have still to be marked out and cut out of the principals.

There were originally an upper and lower series of windbraces, for which mortises are shown. Windbraces are short curved braces connecting the principals and the purlins, designed to keep the roof ridgid. These are cut on site (see photo 71 and will be fitted later).

7 August 2014



71 Cutting new windbraces to match

In the foreground is one of the two surviving original curving windbraces, with tenons at each end, rescued from the fallen building.

Above this is a template of one of the original windbraces, cut from plywood, that has been used to mark out the stack of oak windbraces shown towards the back, newly cut out on site.

7 August 2014



72 Chimney cladding approaching wall-plate level

As the stone cladding on the massive lateral chimney approaches wall-plate level, the last little piece of timber-framing is added to the back to the house, between the chimney and the adjacent barn, in order that work can progress on the roof.

A small panel of timber-framing is recorded here in photos taken by the Royal Commission in the 1950s but had disappeared before repair work started on the housel. This was no doubt all that survived of a larger section of timber-framed wall, reduced in size when the chimney was enlarged in probably the eighteenth or nineteenth century. Like the rest of the timber-framing on the back wall of the house this probably originally extended down to the sole plate on the ground floor, but had later been largely replaced in stone probably due to decay of the original timberwork.

As noted elsewhere, the objective is to return the house to something approaching its form in the nineteenth century. At this point, therefore, the reconstruction copies what is known to have been there in the nineteenth century rather than what may have been there originally.

12 August 2014



73 Putting the windbraces in place

To the right, one of the new windbraces has been fixed in place. The matching one on the left is waiting to be added.

1 September 2014



74 Old and new windbraces

One of the two surviving original windbraces has been put back in place to the lower right. The other windbraces are new ones cut to match the original ones.

1 September 2014



75 Open Doors

Visitors came to the Open Day on 1 September to see for themselves how the rebuilding work at Glas-hirfryn is progressing.

The Open Day was just one of the venues taking part in Cadw's annual Open Doors events - an annual celebration of the architecture and heritage of Wales. It is part of European Heritage Days, which take place in fifty European countries each year. In Wales, Open Doors runs throughout the whole month of September and provides an opportunity for people to visit places not normally open to the public or to visit for free sites that usually charge.

1 September 2014



76 Cutting new rafters

None of the original rafters had survived in a useable condition, so replacement ones are being cut on site from new, sawn 4 by 3-inch oak.

10 September 2014



77 Bridle joints and bird's mouth notches

In the traditional way, the upper ends of the rafters on each side of the roof are joined at the apex by a 'bridle joint' (sometimes called a 'slot mortise and tenon' joint).

The upper photo shows the slot mortises for 'bridle joints' cut in one end of the rafters. These will be matched with tenons cut at the ends of the rafters on the other side of the roof.

The lower photo shows the 'bird's mouth notches' cut into the lower ends of the rafters that will fit on the wall-plates.

When fixed in position, the rafters will be pegged together at the apex of the roof and also pegged to the ridge-piece, purlins and wall-plates with wooden pegs.

10 September 2014



78 Fitting the first rafter

A hot and sunny day in the second week of September and the first of the rafters is being put in place on the roof.

10 September 2014



79 Woodworking tools

Once all the rafters are up, most of the carpenty on the framework of the house will be completed.

Many of the tools that have been used are essentially similar to those use to build the original house, though modern tools such as chain saws, rotary saws and electric planers have also been used where called for.

The drawing on the right is of one of the jetty-brackets at the half-timbered house at Old Impton in Radnorshire, taken from Richard Suggett's Houses and History in the March of Wales. The photo is of one of the slightly later, plain jetty-brackets from Glashirfryn for comparison (not to scale).

One of the carpenters at Old Impton took the opportunity to show many of the tools that were used for marking out, cutting and shaping the timbers. These include a two-person saw, a notched blade or 'wrest' for setting the teeth of the saw, and implements such as a carpenter's square and bevel used for marking out timber before it was cut.

10 September 2014

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