|Example of a basic cruck frame|
A cruck house is a house with a timber frame made up of pairs of beams that curve inwards to form an arch shape, these are then stabilised by horizontal beams which results in 'A' shaped crucks and the crucks are then joined together using slightly lower cross-beams. These frames were used across Britain up until the mid 17th century and they were most commonly used in the construction of barns, although they were also used as the supports of peasant houses, such as the cruck house that I helped build.
|Walls made up of tightly woven osiers |
(long sinewy shoots of willow)
That was the extent of my house building experience, and after that morning I may have been muddy, tired and thoroughly blistered but it also gave me a new sense of historical understanding. I suppose it is easy to write in an essay 'life in the 17th century was hard for the peasantry', but it is difficult to imagine the extent of their hardship. Certainly before having this experience I might have listed their hardships as things such as poverty and disease but I wouldn't have included house building. However, on reflection surely house building and maintenance would have been a hardship faced by peasants given the importance of the home as a place of shelter. There wasn't a housing market in the seventeenth century like there is today, if you wanted a house you would have to rent one from the landowner or rent land and with permission build your house. The process of building and maintaining such a house is strenuous, difficult and hazardous but it was something that people would have had to do in the seventeenth century.
|The cruck house that I helped to build before the turf was |
put on top of the stone base wall and before the roof was thatched
So given my experience of building a house like a 17th century peasant I take my hat off to them and their fascinating building techniques; and I am now extremely appreciative of the construction industry for building houses for us so we don't have to!
I am not an expert on house building, past or present, so if there are any inaccuracies in this please comment and let me know.
Tudor Houses Explained by Trevor Yorke
Period House Fixtures and Fittings 1300-1900 by Linda Hall