Timber-framed buildings in West Yorkshire: an overview
Ancient timber-framed buildings have always attracted the attention of antiquaries. Dr Henry Johnstone's 17th century notebooks (for a projected history of Yorkshire) contain a drawing of the front of Rockley Hall (The Headrow, Leeds) that has the added note 'taken down in 1709'. The drawing shows it having two timber-framed wings with the profile of a crown-post roof. This is important evidence for the use of the crown-post in the County where the king-post roof form was predominant by the late-15th century. The surviving solar wing of Cad Beeston (Beeston Hill, Leeds) is one of the few buildings to survive with a crown-post roof (dendro-dated to post-1421). It is one of a group of high-status court-yard plan houses that include Horbury Hall, and Haselden Hall (Wakefield, demolished). A small number of timber-framed buildings were recorded, during controlled demolition, by the WYAS; these include Elland Old Hall and Rothwell Manor. At Elland a 13th century aisled hall overlay one of the 12th century, and the crown-post roof of the solar wing had evidence for passing-braces, a very early feature. Rothwell was more typical of c.1500 having close-studded walls and king-post trusses with I-framing, where the infilling studs are parallel to the post.
There are about 35 buildings in the County that survive with exposed timber-framed walls, although there are hundreds of others that were encased in stone during the 17th century that still contain visible remains. From this group a picture emerges of a distinctive 'Northern School of Carpentry' that followed a different building tradition than those found in the Midlands and the South of England. Substantial oak-framed buildings with close-studded walls usually had gabled wings where the walling was separately framed from the jettied gable, and the side wall-plate was extended to carry the tie-beam of the gable king-post roof truss that supported a heavy stone-slate roof (called 'thackstones'). Each wing had its own stair contained in lean-to pentices, as at Lees Hall (Thornhill), accessed from the dais-end of the open-hall to provide access to the solar. These halls mostly had a curved canopy carried above the dais to a head-beam to which the curved struts were attached, the best surviving example is at Bankhouse (Skircoat). The halls were heated by timber-framed and plastered fire-hoods, built against stone reredos walls and supported on large transverse beams called 'bressumers'. The walls of the hall ranges were usually close-studded and decorative framing was normally confined to the cross-wings, where broad diagonal-framing was set either-side of the first-floor oriel window, as at New Hall (Elland) and Shibden Hall (Southowram). During the 16th century more decorative framing was introduced with diagonal-framing set between upright studs, so as to form a chevron pattern, as found at Hopton Hall (Mirfield) and Wormalds Hall (Almondbury). At the Old Rectory (Mirfield) the wall framing is further subdivided into two registers, a feature also found at Ryshworth Hall (Bingley), and in two demolished timber-framed inns (Six Chimneys and The Golden Cock) in Wakefield. The House at the Maypole (Halifax), built in the late-15th century, was an early use of chevron framing that had additional offset studs; this feature is also found at Kirklees Priory Gatehouse (Clifton). Sharlston Hall (Sharlston) has a stone-built hall range with a two-storey timber-framed porch that uniquely has the only surviving example of decorative quadrant-framing (more typically found in Cheshire) that bears a carved inscription and the date 1574. Topographical engravings and prints illustrate that the Wakefield, Leeds and Halifax had many timber-framed buildings, many of which also bore carved inscriptions and dates (mostly in the 1550s).
The latest dated timber-framed building recorded in the County is the House at Top of Woolshops (Halifax) that was built on a corner site with two original stone walls separating it from adjacent buildings, the walls following the line of the jettied upper storeys with shaped corbels, one bearing the date 1670. This is explained by national legislation that came in to force following the Great Fire of London in 1666, that required new timber-framed buildings to have stone fire-break walls built between adjacent properties, as was found as far apart as Halifax and Exeter. John Horner's drawings of Halifax (published as a book of engravings in 1835) illustrate several buildings in the town with this characteristic feature, showing that timber-framed buildings continued to be built in towns up until the late-17th century.
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