A Wiltshire barn repair

Barn  dated 1767

Dating from around 1767, this barn is an very early example of cut nails being used in construction. Most information you will find on the web give 1790 as the earliest instance of cut nails. Thankfully this was not another barn conversion, but a sympathetic repair for the storage of farm machinery.



The barn is aisled and 5 bays long, with 6 cross frames.
Constructed from Oak, some of which has considerable sap wood.
Roof angle is 51.34 degrees, or 15ft rise in 12ft run. Originally half hipped, the rafters are existing and this feature to be reinstated. The hip construction is pre-Georgian.
Outer low level walls were of loose rubble, rendered and very unstable.
At the start of the project the roof was asbestos, but had originally been thatched. The asbestos was replace by Double Roman tiles to match the rest of the farm.
The entrance roof is a single mono-pitch but from the existing timbers is can be seen the entrance was originally hipped, at the same angle as the main roof, with a gablet.

Jowl posts

The jowl posts are unusualy deep, and of a gunstock patten.
The tie beam sits above wall plate without the normal cog or dovetail joint. Only jowl post joins the tie beam to the top plate. This allows the wall plate to be scarfed at the post. The joint was, possibly later, reinforced by nailed iron straps


The ridge is diagonally set 100x100mm held on nailed brackets. Unusually the top of the bracket is flat and the ridge is halved to sit on it. More usually the bracket would have a "V" notch.
The principal rafter top joint is also unusual as it is not notched as might be expected for this date. This may have been to save time during manufacture.

Nailed joints

All of the wall braces and at least one aisle top plate scarf in the North East wall are fixed with nails cut from flat sheet giving a rectangular cross section. The process of cutting nails from sheets of iron was "supposedly" not invented until 1790. Clearly we have an issue here. The nails are clearly original and therefore suggest an alternative method of forming nails was being used at this time. Further details of the nails will follow.


The graffiti found so far - 'WT 1769', which is likely to be the approximate build date for the barn. The initials are interesting as the 1791 Brixton Deverill census has a William Tucker, Carpenter.
The earliest date noted so far is 1767.

One of the aisle purlins has 'End Braces' written in red crayon. This was clearly written by the carpenters before the timber was erected, due to it's difficult positioning. It was followed by a pair of initials which were initially hard to decipher.
However on finding a name written on the North East top plate, “Frowd” it was possible to search the historical records and Edward Frowd 1716-1776 came up as the most likely suspect.
He was a "gentleman" so the scrawled name is possibly an indication it was his estate and the barn was built for him, rather than being written by his hand. Once this name was known the earlier red initials made complete sense "EF", Edward Frowd.

A series of hammered / embossed "S in hexagon" marks were located on one of the rafters at the Southern half hip. It looks like a "practice" section of timber. Whilst these have still to be identified, they may be sawyers marks.


We need to repair the tie beams at the brace junction but this is delayed at present as we have bats living in the top mortice. You can see the staining they cause as they squeeze into the narrow slot.

Historical Interest

Musket ball

I noticed an odd looking peg hole in one of the principal rafters. It looked to be filled with a white "chewing gum" material. On further investigation the white colour was corrosion and with a poke of the knife a lump of lead came out.
Half of a 3/4 inch musket ball !
It must have been fired into the tree while it was still growing. When the tree was felled and sawn for the roof timbers the ball was cut in half by the saw and remained in the timber. You can see the saw marks on the flat side.

Grain pits

The large pit in the floor, around 1.5m square and 3m deep may be a feed pit for a grain elevator similar to this one. It has feed ducts with guillotine shutters which presumably fed grain by gravity to the pit. We have the broken remains of a pulley wheel that on inspection looks to be a twin pulley line shaft. The elevator probably dates from the 50's and may have looked like the one on page 12 of this survey - Granary Survey