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Glas-hirfryn: Rescuing the fallen timbers

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Part of the collapsed north wall of the timber-framed house

Bringing the house down

Until recent years parts of the second storey and roof of the building were still standing but by the time site clearance began, on 3 July 2012, much this had been brought down during gales the previous winter. The long and slow process of carefully removing and numbering the fallen timberwork and trying to work out where it belonged had begun. The work was undertaken by Manor Joinery, the firm engaged to undertake the rebuilding, with help from the owners.

Collapsed timbers from the eastern gable wall of the timber-framed house

Where whole sections of walling had fallen down it was easy to see where they belonged, but many of the timbers had become jumbled up it proved more difficult to work out where they had come from.

Where possible other building materials such as slates and ridge tiles were also salvaged so that they could be used in the eventual rebuilding work.

One of the elaborately moulded joists from one of the ground-floor ceilings

Labelling the timbers

Individual pieces of timber were carefully marked with plastic tags and their position, where known, annotated on the architect's drawing before being taken off site for safe storage.

Carved boss which had originally graced the centre of the ground-floor hall ceiling

Quality and quantity of the timberwork

Even in its collapsed state, both the quantity of oak timber and the quality of the craftsmanship were readily apparent. Given the rural location of the building it had clearly been a dwelling of high status upon which considerable resources had been expended. Much time and effort had been spent in carving all the ground-floor ceiling beams and joists with a moulding plane. The carved boss which had originally been at the centre of the ground-floor hall ceiling was elaborately carved with stylized leaves with a rose at the centre.

Ground-floor wall at the eastern end of the house.

Taking the building apart

Taking down the building provided an opportunity to study in greater detail the way in which it had been put together. The walls of the house were closely-studded, with only narrow infilled wattle-and-daub panels. There were much larger posts ('wall-posts') at the corners of the building which sat on top of a horizontal beam at the bottom ('sole-plate') and which supported a large beam along the top of the wall ('wall-plate'). The walls themselves were made of upper and lower rows of oak studs with horizontal bars ('mid rails') about halfway up. All the timbers were held together with mortises and tenons secured with wooden pegs (sometimes called 'treenails') hammered into holes that had been drilled through the timbers. Here, wooden pegs are being removed from the joints of the ground-floor wall at the eastern end of the house so that the wall could be taken down.

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