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Cruck Frame Buildings ~ by Angus

Cruck Frame Buildings

A cruck frame is one where the structure of the building depends on two or more ‘A-frames’ which go from the top of the building down to the ground.  These frames are usually constructed of curved timbers (the cruck blades) using the natural shape of a tree and in many cases the tree is sliced long-ways down the middle so that whatever the shape of the curve the two sides are symmetrical.  The two beams are joined together at the top by a ‘collar’ or tie-beam.

 

Cruck barns probably evolved in Anglo Saxon times and the earliest archaeological evidence comes from 4th century excavations in Buckinghamshire, but this building technique really came into its own in medieval times.  Large halls were built in towns and villages and a large cruck barn also became a sign of an individual farm’s prosperity.  The barns could be easily divided into sections or bays and threshing would have been done indoors.

 

By the eighteenth and nineteenth century cruck-framed buildings were in decline both because of the success of box framing and because they used so much timber.  Farm modernisation also reduced the need for indoor threshing areas.

The box frame as an alternative had also become popular for residential buildings because it allowed the building of second and third floors and, being a square construction, made more use of town-centre space above the ground floor.  Box framing also made it much easier to add extra wings to a building.

 

The inverted ‘v’ shape has the advantage that the roof load is carried directly to the ground so that the wall frames can be made using a lighter construction and the walls also use the cruck frames for support.  In medieval times the timber would have been felled using a two man saw and axe and then squared up with an adze.  The procedure for construction would usually involve assembly on the ground and subsequent erection to a standing position.  Once this is done the heaviest part of the operation is complete.

 

There are various types of cruck frames.  Most seem to start at ground level whilst others start just below the wall plate level (raised cruck frames).  In some constructions of wider buildings the frame starts at ground level but finishes at the collar which is a piece that joins the two cruck blades and this collar then supports the main roof timbers.

 

You can see cruck framed buildings in many parts of the country but one well-known example is the Herefordshire Cruck Barn at Avoncroft Museum in Bromsgrove (www.avoncroft.org.uk).  There is also a reconstructed cruck barn at the Greenwood Centre in Coalbrookdale near Ironbridge, Shropshire ( – home of the Small Woods Association).

 

If anyone has had experience of constructing a cruck frame structure or knows of any interesting examples of cruck barns or cruck houses please tell us about it in the comments section below.

Posted in: Practical Guides ~ On: 30 November, 2007

23 comments so far

catherine
30 November, 2007

This link takes you to a good site showing the construction of a cruck-framed building http://www.kewatch.co.uk/cruck.html

Tracy Pepler
30 November, 2007

Not that we have build one of these fancy Cruck buildings, but we used the A frame (inverted V) idea for our shelter. You can see it here:
http://peplers.blog.co.uk/2007/08/26/new_shelter_complete~2874972

We have a tarpaulin that we can lower and raise as needed so that it is not easy to see in the woods, less obtrusive! Although when it has rained it can be heavy to lift up!
The A frame structure is easy to build and very strong and the beauty of having your own trees is that you can harvest the ones that are the right size for the job!

Tracy

River
6 June, 2008

Perhaps the ultimate cruck frame building was on Channel 4′s Grand Designs television show.l
think it was series 3,it was called the woodsman’s house.Very nice.
River

McLean
28 September, 2008

We’re restoring a large cruck-framed Tudor farmhouse that dates back to the 15th century. The crucks are some 16″ wide at the base and tower to 25.5′, measured vertically to their apex. The roof is thatched with Norfolk reed.

The house is Grade II listed and has had two archeological surveys conducted, so we have full plans, down to the last timber.

Anyone intersted in building a new ‘replica’?

McLean
28 September, 2008

The hyper link isn’t immediately obvious, from the ‘McLean’ tag, so here’s the URL in full: http://www.churchfarm.info/

Tony Burton
4 March, 2009

We have just completed the 18 month restoration of a late medieval hall house with 3 complete crucks and with an oak box frame. It is believed to have been origonally built in c1525 and then converted to a barn in 1780′s when the 2 end crucks went missing. We have now competely rebuilt it (keeping the open hall and layout) and the stone plinth into a house again, but incorporating hidden modern green technology. The house is listed and situated mid Wales.

Pam Manix
20 May, 2009

Tony Burton—I would be very interested in seeing photos or drawings of your house. I am a medieval historian, with 20+ years former architectural experience and mad about medieval domestic architecture. Would love to see what you have done.

Lodsworth Larder
21 May, 2009

We are about to build a cruck building which will house our new village community shop, Lodsworth Larder. Ben Law who lives in the woods in Lodsworth and was featured on Grand Designs is to build it for us using local materials. Building starts June 2009.

Ken Bonham
21 July, 2009

I’m surprised no one has mentioned the great cruck frame barn at Leigh Court in Worcestershire. It’s owned by English Heritage and open to the public. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server.php?show=nav.16914

tony burton
23 July, 2009

pam manix – would love to share photos etc please pass on contact details.

Cathy Edwards
3 February, 2010

we have recently moved into Cruck House in Alcester, Grade II and the oldest house in Alcester built 1385. You can see picture on the Alcester Town web site. It’s lovely to have the safekeeping of such a building for a short part of its history.

Rustic
13 August, 2010

Hello Angus,
As far as I am aware, tree felling was carried out using axes in medieval times.
Not as stated ” In medieval times the timber would have been felled using a two man saw and axe”

The use of two man felling saws (crosscut saws) only came into use for tree felling in about 1860 ish.
This is when the modern crosscut peg and raker type saw was developed and became used for tree felling.

After felling, the timber would then have been hewed with a variety of cutting tools such as broad axe, side axe, adze or cut with a two man rip saw.
Not all of the timber was cut some was riven.

Hull Builder
15 November, 2010

I have recently started working on a cruck frame house for a client. It’s looking like it will be a beautiful building. A mixture of tradition with some modern styling thrown in. It’s a highly enjoyable project!

Welsh Girl
12 July, 2011

Stumbled upon this site by accident after googling “cruck frame”. Seems you have all overlooked the simple vernacular structures of Wales. There are still a few abandoned and run down ‘A’ frame buildings to be found (for sale) in west Wales in particular, ripe and ready for restoration. Not forgetting the wonderful resource that is St. Fagans, which has re-sited and re-built some of the best old houses in Wales at it’s site nr. Cardiff. I think it’s free entry. You can go into the old houses and see the construction, the timbers, the old thatch, see how they would have looked hundreds of years ago.
There is also a website, run by an historian, called Greg Stevenson, which enables you to book a holiday in any number of ‘cruck framed’ old Welsh houses. It’s called “Under The Thatch”. In fact I am currently writing from one of the said properties, Ysgabor Llwyn-y-Ffynnon, nr Machynllyth (I think that is how it is spelt), and am looking out from the crug loft onto 2 ‘A’ frames of original oak timbers. The house is a lovely example. Better yet is a house called Ty To, nr. St David’s and that is fantastically restored. If you are thinking of restoring a property it would be a must to stay in one of the examples Greg has. I also think he has also restored several of these himself and has loads of photos of the restorations on his website. Happy browsing!

Adam Jenkins
22 July, 2011

Welsh girl – would you mind telling me where you have seen the abandoned & run-down ‘A’ Frame buildings for sale you mentioned? I live in Llandeilo and would be very interesed in getting more info on these properties.

Welsh Girl
22 July, 2011

Hello Adam,

We saw what seemed to be a number of examples whilst driving from St. Davids to Machlynlleth on the coast road, via Fishguard, Cardigan, Aber, etc. However, they weren’t best placed, i.e. at side of busy road, in unattatractive situations, hence run down/ abandoned. If you drive the route you will see what I mean.

I think I also saw at least one in an estate agents in Fishguard. You’ll also see a number in use as farm buildings now. I’m not an expert, far from it, but I recognise these sorts of buildings by their long(ish) and thin structure, thick walls, usually single level, two or three small windows, old slate roofs.

You probably already know there are a number of these lovely structures not far from where you live, but off the beaten track. I think I have said enough, as I wouldn’t want your average property developer to chance upon one of these and unsensitively ‘do it up’-there has been enough of that already. If you are meant to restore one back to its former glory I’m sure the right one will find you.

Adam Jenkins
25 July, 2011

Welsh Girl – thanks for that info, i will definately keep a beady eye out.

Yes you are right property developers think they can ‘do up’ anything but most dont have the first idea of the different methods of construction compared to todays modern buildings. surely you wouldnt be allowed to do work on it unless youre competent & qualified to work on these heritage buildings???

Thanks again

Welsh Girl
25 July, 2011

Hello Adam. I suppose this is something the Welsh Assembly/ Cadw could be considering, or at least offering guidance on. Local Authorities can only do so much.

For instance in Powys there is a very impressive Unitary Authority Plan which, if you are renovating in certain ‘conservation areas’, you must be guided by and work with. It delivers a powerful message and I wish there was something similar in other areas. The Plan really captures the consequences of not protecting our hertitage, and reflects how even the smallest of changes can have a far reaching effect both upon the community and the building. It opens one’s eyes.

Perhaps a % all new housing stock should be built using traditional materials and techniques so communities don’t ‘loose touch’ with these methods and what they stand for. Plus there is a lot to be said about their ‘light footprint’ as well. And, whilst I am already on my soap box, sorry, surely there should be some responsibility on architects in Wales (and throughout UK) to raise these issues and indeed to make sure they are ‘champions’ for these old construction methods and materials.

There are lots of courses for the builder/ trades-person/ independent person to learn techniques, but you have to know where to find them and have the motivation and money to pay for them.

I think the WAG could do more to promote building conservation/ alternative technologies (like those at CAT) and should bring these issues to the fore and set some standards. Cadw could also support many more apprenticeships to get people trained up.

Hay-Hoo!

Sarah
6 November, 2011

Yes, that ‘kew’ site is good for the practical and the images, but the information is all wrong, for example -the ‘bent’ trees were desirable for both cottages and ships (not all they had left, because the navy took the straight stuff) because oak doesn’t bend easily and so a natural bend is stronger, also cruck houses have been around a lot longer than they suggest.

Pauline Boyce
26 November, 2011

I just want to say a big thank you to the above contributors for all your helpful and informative comment with regard to Tudor timber frames – and for all the useful links that you’ve given. Much appreciated!

I own the early C17th annexe to the Tudor timber framed house next door, which together form the only surviving dwelling of the original Leamington Priors, and the oldest house in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire (divided 1952). Both of which were, sadly, somewhat ‘Victorianised’ in the early 1800s.

However, in my efforts to reveal, restore and preserve as much of the house’s earlier history as possible I found sections of the original Tudor end timbers, and have tried to draw up a plan in order to see how it all went together. Well… it didn’t at first… hence my google search.

But it all makes much better sense now that I know a lot more about Tudor roof constructions.
So thank you all very much indeed!!!

The Nomad
12 August, 2012

“Dating the Past in North Eastern Wales” by Derek Williams 2004 ISBN: 0-86381-877-3 Publ.’Carreg Gwalch’

This fascinating book has ‘Cruck Framed Houses’ as the subject of its 14th Section (p75 – 79). There are many examples described.

Thoroughly recommended though I had trouble understanding “the trunk and bough” description. That brought me to this site!

Thank you contributors.

Al
3 October, 2013

HULL BUILDER do you build in Yorkshire because I’d be very interested in considering a Cruck frame building for my plot and the planners might be keen because the original houses in the village were cruck framed!
PPlease get in touch

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