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EARLY TIMBERED BUILDINGS
OF THE HUDDERSFIELD DISTRICT
BY JAMES WALTON B.Sc., F.S.A.

CRUCK-TRUSSED BUILDINGS - CRUCK-TRUSSED BARN BUILDINGS

UPPER OLDFIELD BARN, HONLEY
No cruck-trussed houses of more than one bay have survived in our district but there are a number of barns of three or four bays. Upper Oldfield, a delightful unspoilt hamlet on the moor edge above Honley, is a veritable museum of local folk architecture ranging from an early cruck-trussed barn, in which the nuns of Kirklees stored their tithes, to the long mullion-windowed houses of the hand loom weavers.

Plan of Upper Oldfield Barn, Honley

The cruck trusses of the barn are of the type in which the curcks meet at the apex and are joined by a collar-beam and a tie-beam which carries the lower purlins on its free ends. It differs from Far Field Head only in the more massive nature of the crucks themselves, which measure 1ft. 6ins. By 10ins. At the base. Originally there were four cruck trusses dividing the barn into three bays: but one gable truss was replaced by a stone wall at the time when the barn was encased in stone. Addy has suggested that the number of bays to which a land-holder was entitled depended on the size of his holding in the common fields and that he was taxed on this number of bays. If such was the case then the length of his building was fixed and more bays could only be added as his extra wealth and status allowed. There was nothing, however, to prevent a landholder from increasing the width of his building. The distance apart of the cruck feet was limited by the size of timber obtainable and could not be increased. Extra width could only be achieved by extending stone walls, so producing “outshuts”. This gave rise to a nave-and-aisles plan with the crucks standing freely in the center of the building to form the nave. The wall-plates carried on the extended ends of the tie-beams were thus reduced to lower purlins.

Upper Oldfield Barn, Honley Sketch

To have extended the rafters at their original slope would have resulted in extremely low side walls, a state of affairs which was prevented somewhat by raising the tie-beam and decreasing the pitch of the roof. The following figures indicate to what extent the tie-beam was raised and the roof pitch decreased:-

 
HEIGHT TO TIE-BEAM
ROOF PITCH
BUILDINGS WITHOUT OUTSHUTS    
FAR FIELD HEAD 5ft. 5ins. 43 deg.
CARR HOUSE FARM 4ft. 10ins. 42 deg.
BUILDINGS WITH OUTSHUTS    
UPPER OLDFIELD 8ft. 35 deg.
SNOWGATE HEAD 7ft. 5ins. 38 deg.

The plan of Upper Oldfield barn is typical of early barns throughout the district whether they are cruck-trussed or frame-trussed. On outshut, the narrower of the two, was included in the barn itself. The other outshut served as a mistal for the cattle on one side of the main entrance are recessed, thus affording greater height to allow the entry of loaded wagons of hay or corn.

A second door, the “winnowing door”, faces the first and the space between the two, the “threshing-stead”, was kept clear for threshing and winnowing. Even to-day some small farmers still thresh their corn with a flail and at the beginning of the present century the practice was quite widespread in our district. The corn was spread out on the threshing – stead and beaten with a flail until the grains were dislodged from the ears. The straw was gathered up and so also was the mixture of grain and chaff. Then, on a suitable day, both sets of doors were opened to create a breeze; the mixture of chaff and grain was placed in a basket and gently agitated so as to cause a steady steam to pour over the lip of the basket. As it fell the breeze carried away the light chaff and the grain dropped straight down into a pile.

GREENHILL BANK BARN, NEWMILL
This barn, cut out of Greenhill bank, is almost hidden from view, merging as it does into the hillside itself. It is a delightful example of a four-bayed, cruck-trussed barn, almost identical in plan with Upper Oldfield. Its cruck trusses are of the same type but the tie-beam height and roof pitch differ considerably from those in the preceding table. The tie-beam is high, 9ft. 5ins. Above ground level, but the roof pitch is at the relatively steep angle of 45 degrees. Normally this would result in either a very narrow outshut or a low outshut wall, but this is not the case where the cruck trusses are lifted on to high stone stylobats, so increasing the height of the ridge-tree and of every part of the structure.

Greenhill Bank Barn 1

At Greenhill Bank the cruck feet rest on stone stylobats 5ft. 2ins. Above ground level, thus raising the ridge-tree a corresponding amount higher than in the cottages at Far Field Head and Carr House Farm. The practice of standing the cruck trusses on wooden blocks or single stone slabs no doubt originated to prevent the feet from decaying. Where stylobats several blocks high are used their function seems to have been not only to preserve the crucks but also to make the best use of timber; for the length of a cruck was limited by the size of the trees available and the only method of increasing the height of the ridge-tree beyond this limit was by raising the crucks on stylobats, as was done at Greenhill Bank.

Greenhill Bank barn is set at right angles to the contours; this necessitated cutting back the hillside at the upper end and building a high wall at the lower end to keep the ridge-tree level. Such buildings, with their lower gable looking on to the valley, are common in hilly and mountainous countries such as Lake Distict, Wales and particularly Switzerland and Scandinavia. Invariably in such cases the livestock are housed at the lower end of the building underneath the floor of the barn itself; such is the case at Greenhill Bank.

Greenhill Bank Barn 2

In plan Greenhill Bank is similar to upper Oldfield except that it lacks its symmetry, having two bays above the threshing-stead and one below. The main entrance is recessed and is flanked by outshuts accommodating the mistals and stables. The upper outshuts accommodating the mistals and stables. The upper outshut does not extend to the end of the building, presumably owing to the nature of the site. The lower end of the building, preoccupied by a mistal, reached by doorways from the field at the rear and the road, as well as by two steps from the threshing-stead. The hay “moo” was stored on a raised floor above this end mistal. A peculiar feature of this building is the flagstone paving of the two upper bays which are clearly marked off from the threshing-stead by a line of flagstones set on edge. Connected with this is the fact that the part of the central cruck truss between the tie-beam and the collar-beam is filled with a riven oak lath and plaster screen nailed to a number of upright oak rods. This screen coupled with the paved floor, suggests that the two upper bays may at one period have been used as a dwelling but the absence of hearth or windows indicates that such occupation must have been early – before either of these amenities was considered necessary. Such an arrangement of upper dwelling and lower mistals is general in mountain areas where the gables face the valleys but definite proof of this at Greenhill Bank is lacking. There may be some other explanation for the flagged floor and the lath and plaster partition.

SNOWGATE HEAD BARN, NEW MILL
This barn has three cruck trusses each with an extended tie-beam and a single collar-beam. The crucks are much more angular than any others in the Huddersfield district, but they were never employed as true elbow crucks in the sense that the more vertical portion carried the wall whilst the roof rested on the upper sloping part. At the base they measure 1ft. 5ins. By 7 ½ ins., indicating that each pair of crucks was sawn from the same tree. This probably represents a later tradition, replacing the use of separate trees for each cruck, although it may also simply indicate that larger trees were available in the district. When the stone walls were built the ends of the tie-beams were embedded in the walls and the wall-plates were raised about two feet on to the tops of the walls themselves, thus necessitating considerable alterations which have made any interpretation of the framework difficult.

Snowgate Head Barn, New Mill

CROFT HOUSE FARM BARN, SCHOLES
This barn has two cruck trusses of the same pattern as Upper Oldfield, Greenhill Bank and other barns so far discussed. Presumably one truss decayed and then the tops were sawn off and replaced by a queen-post truss. Insufficient evidence remains to attempt any reconstruction of the original building.

WOOLDALE HALL BARN
Only part of one cruck truss now remains. When the barn was demolished the date 1593 was found carved on the ridge-tree. The very fact that the date was carved on the ridge-tree and not in a more conspicuous position, suggests that it was the date when the ridge-tree was replaced and not the date of the original building.

NETHER END, DENBY DALE
The building at Nether End Farm, now used as a mistal, is a simple rectangular structure of four bays with four cruck trusses. One gable, as so often happens, has no truss. Whether this was due to the fact that one gable truss decayed or whether another bay was added when the stone wall was built it is impossible to determine. The cruck trusses themselves have extended tie-beams carrying the wall-plates and no two collar-beams, the upper collar being notched in a manner similar to the one at Dean Head. Three holes underneath the collar-beam, provided to take the upright rods of the wattle walling as at Far Field Head, afford the only evidence of the nature of the early walling. The present stone walls were built in 1663, assuming that the date on the gable is the date when the change took place.

Nether End, Denby Dale

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