The Cruck Barn at Park Hill Event – an Overview
Despite forebodings about the weather, the day of 2nd September 2023 dawned bright and sunny. It was some time since Pendle Heritage Centre had hosted an event of this scale with nationally famed speakers, and much time and effort had gone into the planning of the day to celebrate this 40th anniversary event. The focus was the cruck barn and traditional building practice, and this was drawing in people from over a wide distance.
The morning sessions were in two parts; one being based in the garden and the other in the barn itself. The former was led by Alan Gardner, former National Senior Buildings Conservation Manager with the National Trust and former SPAB Technical Director. He discussed the use of lime in the many natural products used in building conservation. The production of these included a wide range of surprising ingredients and samples of these were passed around.
The sessions in the cruck barn were taken by Paul Simons, a renowned architect and specialist in timber framed buildings, and presently chair of World Heritage UK. These were based on a quarter sized timber framed building with the component parts laid out to be erected by the willing participants. The method of jointing was described in detail together with the marking of the component parts and their sequence in erection. All were amazed at the complexity of some of the joints, especially those to the corner posts.
Latterly Paul went onto discuss a portion of Jacobean staircase which had originated from the house at Bank Hall, near Rochdale. This stair, which had been in a very poor state of preservation, had been removed for research and stored by Paul, resulting in the publication of a recent paper. It is an example of one of the first staircases passing through several floors, which relied on cantilevered quarter landings supporting the flights and not reliant on a continued structural newel supporting the outer strings.
After each session and a coffee break the participants switched to the one they had not attended. An excellent buffet lunch was served in the café of PHC. This break allowed many of those present to renew acquaintances and talk to the speakers.
The afternoon session began with Paul Simons speaking on `The genius of medieval carpentry`. Paul discussed various buildings with which he been involved, whilst being a director of McCurdy & Co Ltd, timber frame reconstruction specialists, who designed/repaired and erected many buildings including the Rose Theatre in London and the Great Barn at Harmondsworth. It was sobering to be shown a large post supporting the stage of the Rose Theatre which was so tall that part of it forming a column could not be lathe turned but had to be finished by hand.
The second speaker was Sue Wrathmell, a conservation and vernacular architecture specialist. Her subject being the keynote lecture was `The story and historic significance of our cruck barn`. She described how the barn in which we were sitting was rescued and re-erected by Pendle Building Preservation Trust Ltd. The barn originally formed part of the Towneley Estate, and, with the chamfered edges and stop ends to the crucks, was considered a structure of some status. The re-erection was finally completed in 1992. After a tea break, Sue gave her second lecture entitled `Cruck buildings in the North West`, which presented a general overview of the building type in the area.
The event finished around 4.30pm and the 52 delegates departed having enjoyed a most satisfying day.