Discoveries from the Deverills, Part 9: Hidden evidence from Warminster

on Tuesday, 04 April 2017. Posted in Architecture, Wiltshire Places

The VCH fieldwork has discovered so many very good houses in Kingston Deverill in particular.  These represent hitherto largely hidden evidence of the Deverill Valley’s past wealth.  At the same time further evidence of early 16th century buildings in Warminster has been discovered, which suggests that the discoveries from the Deverills are just part of the bigger picture.

I was given the opportunity to look at one of a row of probable merchants’ housing in the High Street; the flat of no.16 High Street, Warminster. It doesn’t look much from the outside, but I found some fantastic evidence of a nearly complete 3-bay early 16th century timber-framed house.  Recent dendrochronology results gave a precise felling date of 1513. It has a very similar roof structure and ceiling height to Manor Farmhouse, Kingston Deverill. It also has see-saw marks, convincing evidence of an early date. To digress; timber conversion methods may not instantly grip your interest, but they are a useful dating feature. See-saw marks are the result of leaning a baulk of timber on a single trestle, standing on it and sawing down from the top to where it touches the trestle. The sawn end is brought down and the same process is repeated at the other end. The result is two different patterns of saw-marks at 45 degrees that meet in the middle. Duncan James, a Herefordshire archaeologist maintains that you won’t find this feature after about 1530.

 

See-saw marks on timber from King’s Arms in Downton, a former medieval pub

Unfortunately the marks were too faint to photograph, so I show a much more striking example from the King’s Arms in Downton, a former medieval pub.

Carved Tudor rose

Another mysterious detail I found was what looks like a Tudor rose carved on the back of a timber, and an 18th century staircase made out of 15th century panelling. All this goes to show that the study of early fabric in towns can go a long way to unravelling not only the date of a building, but also to point towards periods of economic prosperity when money was available to update and refurbish.

Dorothy Treasure

Principal Buildings Historian, Wiltshire Buildings Record

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