6th January 2014 / posted by BenKirk
The Importance of Regional Styles
OAK FRAME OUTBUILDINGS
It has always been fascinating how certain styles and types of framing only seem to have been used historically within certain areas, whilst carpenters were itinerant workers they clearly did not travel from one side of the country to the other and so certain styles and details are more prominent in some parts than others and in some cases unique to certain areas.
The most well-known example of this is the Cruck frame which was widespread throughout what was known as Highland England (the West, South West, Midlands and Wales) but basically unheard of in the far South-East of England (Surrey, Kent and Sussex) It is this distinct regional variation that gives different regions so much of their distinct character and identity.
A typical cruck frame barn in Oxfordshire
But it is not just in these Macro features that things vary, it is some of the smaller details that at first glance one may not notice immediately, that in the wrong location somehow look out of place. Simple features like brace styles, barge board details and window styles vary throughout the country and being locally distinctive contribute to the vernacular of an area.
At Country Buildings we are often involved in buildings that are within sensitive areas, whether that be a conservation area, a national park or within the grounds of a listed building. We are acutely aware that “the devil is in the detail” and have an understanding of local building traditions and styles. It is this knowledge and attention to detail that not only helps us to successfully obtain planning consent in sensitive environments, it also ensures that our buildings blend with their setting and the wider environment.
Each of our bespoke oak outbuildings will be designed and built individually and whilst we offer a range of standard buildings to suit many situations it is our ability as a bespoke company to tailor our buildings to individual situations that sets us apart. Simply ensuring that the roof material chosen blends with other buildings on the site can make a huge difference and even details such as window sizes can make or break a project.
OAK GARAGE WITH ROOM ABOVE
Two recent examples of where this understanding has been crucial to the success of a project are explained below:
We were commissioned to build an oak garage with room over as part of a development within the grounds of a listed building in Gloucestershire. In this instance the client already had planning permission but the consent was very express that certain details had to be adhered to. The conservation officer had insisted among other things that the braces in the oak car port openings were not to be the typical swept “knee brace” that is so common in many oak frame buildings.
There was a distinct local method of bracing that was found elsewhere on the farmstead which involved a horizontal “pillow’ of timber at the head of the posts. – Now structurally this is not the right way to go about things, these timbers have no way of resisting any forces to stop the building racking (effectively falling over like a pack of cards) I think historically there was some sort of pegging through the pillow and in to the plate but this would not be enough to resist forces by modern standards.
This presented a problem in that we had to ensure that the building would pass current regulations and of course would stand for years to come whilst respecting the local vernacular. A very simple solution was to provide hidden bracing in the oak garage bay, a few quick calculations by our engineer confirmed this would suffice and it was decided this was the route to go.
The typical knee brace have been replaced with vertical ‘pillows’ to respect the local style.
In addition the permission instead on a slate roof, a local stone plinth which was carried out by the client in preparation for our building and also that there were to be no barge boards (exposed end rafters) on the building, again a detail found locally that was to be respected.
It was the understanding of these details and the ability to adapt that won us the job as well as ultimately ensuring that the building blends with the other buildings on the site as well as those in the wider village.
The 3 bay room over garage sits well in its landscaped setting – note no barge boards to the gable end.
ROOM OVER GARAGE
The second project is in stark contrast and was similarly a room over garage again built within the grounds of a listed building. This time however the project was in West Sussex where brick for the plinth is common place and clay tiles are much more predominant than slate.
Curved knee braces are common place within the south east of England and barge boards are often found on rural and outbuildings.
Both buildings are similar in size (albeit one is 4 bays and one 3 bays) and their use and general construction are very similar. - But in detail, materials and style they are very different.
If they were to swap places they would simply look out of place and alien to the vernacular of their environment but in their own location they are beautiful buildings that enhance the setting and will stand for years to come.
The curved knee braces and barge boards to the gable ends match local barns in the area and ensure the building blends with its environment.
This garage in West Sussex has distinct handmade clay tiles and a brick plinth, common in the area.