Paper 105 b the black death and building a hampshire case study
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Paper 105-b: The Black Death and Building: A Hampshire Case Study. Richard Haddlesey The University of Winchester. Background. researching late medieval timber frame buildings in Hampshire (1200-1530) concerned with structural techniques and their chrono-typologies

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Paper 105 b the black death and building a hampshire case study

Paper 105-b:The Black Death and Building: A Hampshire Case Study

Richard Haddlesey

The University of Winchester


  • researching late medieval timber frame buildings in Hampshire (1200-1530)

  • concerned with structural techniques and their chrono-typologies

  • with an increased accuracy in dating methods, can the effects of the Black Death be seen in English carpentry?

  • “dendrochronology is the most significant advance in dating buildings” [since c14](Morriss 2000)

The black death
The Black Death

1348-50 in England

the population was cut by up to 50%

Led to a rising middling class driven by a smaller workforce and increased wages

Small, poorly built houses gave way to better built, larger ones that mimicked those of the Lords

Space was are rare commodity pre Black Death and towns were crowded and filthy with retail units on split levels

The pentice at winchester1
The Pentice at Winchester

Keene’s detailed survey of Medieval Winchester in 1985 suggested the Pentice was built in one campaign

James & Roberts however, used dendrochronology to question this theory in 2000

By the mid-14th century nomenclature had changed to ‘sub penticio’, ‘subtus le Pentis’ inferring by this time the Pentice was a colonnaded walkway

Dendrochronology suggests otherwise

35 high street boots the chemist
35 High Street (Boots the Chemist)

Only the central bays remain and is presently fronted by a 15thC gabled frontage

It lays parallel to the street front rather than at right angles

35 High Street is of a Wealden style and dates to 1339

They exist predominantly in the Weald (east Sussex and west Kent) (Harris 1978, 65)

Because it was a Wealden House built in 1339, it is safe to assume that there would not have been a covered walkway obscuring it

James & Roberts 2000, 189

Harris 1978, 66

The high st winchester 1459 1340 and 1316
The High St. Winchester (1459, 1340 and 1316)

James & Roberts 2000, 198

Edington priory church wiltshire
Edington Priory Church, Wiltshire

Immediately following the Black Death, The Bishop of Winchester commissioned the building of a Collegiate Chantry in Wiltshire to make provision for his soul

It seems likely that such a building was in direct response to the sheer loss of life he would have witnessed during that time. Platt suggests, the almost military austerity of the church is due to the lack of available tradesmen (Platt 1996, 138-9)

The hampshire evidence
The Hampshire evidence

We shall now take a look at Hampshire as a whole

James (2001) suggests “the increase in rural wages as a result of labour shortages following the Black Death, seems to have brought a wave of rural house building in more substantial materials”

What evidence do we have for this?

Baillie s dendrochronological evidence
Baillie’s dendrochronological evidence

Baillie suggests the “Black Death has a clear environmental context” (Baillie 2006, 38-9)

He sees a clear ‘slump’ in tree-ring patterns from AD 1333 to 1360 with a sharp rise toward the end of the century from 1380 onwards (ibid)

He also see’s a change in character in the timbers after the mid-fourteenth century. Whereas all the timbers felled in the phases up to 1370 had been long lived, those felled in the early to mid 15thc were wide ringed and fast grown (ibid)

This is reflected well in the Hampshire data as a hiatus on dated buildings occurs between 1347 and 1359 followed by a sharp rise in dated buildings from 1388 onwards

The effects of the dendro gap on hampshire buildings
The effects of the dendro gap on Hampshire buildings

We know church architecture moves from the elaborate decorated to the simpler perpendicular

We see a desire for less cramped and cleaner living in art and iconography (Lindley 1996, 126)

With a gap of nearly two generations, does the carpentry change?

Cecil Hewett claims the scarf joint is the most useful joint when trying to assign a date to a building (Hewett 1962, 240)

The scarf joint
The Scarf joint

Scarfs can be grouped into 3 main types of development in Hampshire

Type 1 - splayed on the left (1249-1360)

Type 2 - halved in the centre (1400-1500)

Type 3 - mortised scarf on the right (1301-1528)

Hewett 1962

The scarf joint1
The Scarf joint

The main characteristics of the development of the scarf joint are that it seems to regress in complexity

Is this reverse of complexity a result of a loss of skilled workers?

Thank you

Thank you

[email protected]

Supervised by Prof Tom James, Dr K Wilkinson, Dr A Richardson and Mr E Roberts