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Wingrave Historic Buildings Workshop: 'How old is that house?'


Details sent out before the workshop

On a dry but rather chilly Saturday in October, an enthusiastic group of house detectives met in Wingrave for this extremely interesting and well-organised study day. In addition to Historic Buildings’ Group members, there was good representation from Wingrave residents, several of whom kindly opened their houses for internal inspection.

Following an introduction to the use of tree-ring sampling for dating houses by dendrochronologist Andy Moir, participants were split up into small groups, each of which was given seven houses to examine, describe and attempt to date. Two of the seven were available for internal visits; the remaining five were surveyed from the outside. In addition to honing their dating skills, group members were also trialling the use of recording forms which had been developed in Surrey, with a view to adapting them for use in Buckinghamshire.

Andy Moir taking a dendrochronology core While the groups tramped around the streets of Wingrave, Andy took core samples from a house in Nup End (pictured, right), and participants were able to watch this process first-hand. Andy extracted several good cores from this house during the morning and had taken others from two other village houses earlier in the week. He will take these back to his laboratory with the hope of getting dates for the three buildings.

Having gathered data from all the houses, the groups re-convened to discuss the results, compare notes and give feedback about the survey forms. It was generally agreed that the forms were too complicated, particularly for use by amateur house detectives, and that examples and guidelines were needed to allow users to record details accurately about each building.

Looking forward to the next phase of the project, a sub-group was formed with the intention of collating information about all the buildings in the county which have been dated using dendrochronology. By comparing descriptions of these dwellings, it is hoped that a relative chronology of dateable features might be developed for Buckinghamshire, which could be used to date other houses more accurately, as has already been done in Surrey.

Everyone who took part in the study day commented on how much they had enjoyed the experience, although we all felt that we had much to learn! Thanks are due to Peter Marsden and Andrew Muir for their hard work in preparing and running the day; to Jane Muir for splendid refreshments; to Andy Moir for his support and participation in the project; to The Council for British Archaeology who supported the day financially through a substantial grant.

Little Manor Participants in the workshop examining the exterior of Little Manor, Nup End Lane