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A Nicely Curved Tree

Cruck framed cottage  Swanbourne

The Monday Photo

There’s a way of constructing wooden framed buildings that’s almost unique to Wales and the West of England, and that’s the cruck frame. This 15th Century cottage in Swanbourne has three of them.

It’s a two bay house, so there’s one cruck frame at each gable end, and another in the middle, between the bays.

Each frame has a pair of curved main timbers, the cruck blades. What you need to make them is a nicely curved tree, sawn down the centre to create a pair of matching cruck blades. It was usually an oak, sometimes an elm.

A true, or full, cruck frame has blades that run from near the ground to right at the apex of the roof. But this is a base cruck; the cruck blades stop at the upper tie beam.

This might be because tall enough trees of the right size were not available, or perhaps because the gable end roof was to be half hipped, as the other end of the roof still is. Maybe it was a bit of both.


From the age of the cottage the chimney is probably a later addition, and when it went in, the half hipped gable end had to be turned into a plain gable end. And it’s often a sign of a later chimney that it is placed to one side of the roof ridge.

Buckinghamshire is about as far East as cruck framed buildings were built. This might be that trees further East were mainly managed by coppicing, which doesn’t produce the big curved trunks cruck frames need.

The original wattle and daub between the timbers has been replaced by brick and stone. Can you guess how many different lots of masonry have been built into this gable end? As a clue, not all of them were built using a level…

I use Pentax cameras for many of the photos on the North Bucks Wanderer.

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