Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Walling and windows, Aldeburgh Moot Hall

click photo to enlarge
A book I was reading recently offered a reason I'd not come across before to explain the jettying out of the upper storeys of timber-built houses of the 1500s and 1600s. When architectural historians discuss this subject it is usually in terms of increasing the floor space of the storeys above ground level without impinging on the width of the street at ground level. However, the author of my book, an architect specialising in restoration rather than an academic, described it as a way of giving rigidity to the floors in the upper storeys. He noted that most floor joists were laid with their widest dimension fixed to the floorboards, rather than as is the case today, the narrowest dimensions at the top and bottom. As a consequence of this the floors were springy, and flexed downwards towards the middle. Making the joists project beyond the top of the ground floor walls and building the upper floor wall at the end of them, beyond the line of the lower wall, counteracted this and gave rigidity to the floor. Is this so? I don't know, but it does sound plausible.

Shortly after I'd read this, and while I was still cogitating on the matter, I visited the Moot Hall in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, a structure that illustrates the principle. Pevsner says this building "stands as incongruously as if it were an exhibit. It must once have been in a little town centre, before the sea pushed its relative position back." The Moot Hall was built c.1520-1540 as a meeting place for the town's council. It still serves that purpose, though today it also hosts a charming little museum. The upper floor is an addition of 1654, reached by some external steps. Presumably the brick noggin infill between the timbers is a later addition. In fact the Hall has been repaired and restored on a number of occasions down the centuries, though particularly in 1854 when the ornate chimneys were added.

I'd like to have taken a decent photograph of the whole of the building, but the weather and parked vehicles conspired against me. However, this section of the walling and windows appealed to me for its decorative value and the lovely mixture of materials so I grabbed a shot. I've always had a soft spot for a good section of wall and windows, and this image is just the latest in a steadily growing sequence on my blog - see here, here, here and here for further examples

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 18mm (36mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/200
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On