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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.

A cruck frame

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.

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.

Our Country Buildings division 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 to successfully obtain planning consent in sensitive environments, it also ensures that your building blends with the setting and wider environment.

Each of our bespoke oak outbuildings are designed and built individually. 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 meet your individual needs 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.

Designing an oak garage with room above to fit the local Gloucestershire vernacular

Below are two recent examples of where this understanding has been crucial to their success:

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 clear 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). 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.

In addition, the permission stated that a local stone plinth (which was carried out by the client in preparation for the oak frame) be included and 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 allowed us to build a garage that both fitted in with the local vernacular and met our client’s requirements.

Designing a room over garage in South East England

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 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.