Museum News

Raising the Sole Street frame: The process

By 24 June 2016January 26th, 2021No Comments

On the weekend of 18-19 June we saw our 15th century medieval frame from Sole Street start to be re-erected. This was a great achievement for the whole team and a spectacular event to watch for all who came.

In this blog, we talk to our history associate, Danae Tankard, to learn more about the building and the work still to come. Watch the time-lapse of Sole Street here.

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Q. Where was Sole Street originally located?

A. “The medieval house known as ‘Sole Street’ was originally located in the hamlet of Sole Street in the parish of Crundale in Kent – about 10 miles south west of Canterbury.”

Q. What is the earliest part of the house?

A. “The earliest part of the house, which includes the aisled hall and a ground-floor chamber, is thought to date from c1350 to c1425. The use of aisles was a practical solution where the ground plan of a timber-framed building was too wide to be spanned by a single tie beam.

The space was divided into a central nave and side aisles, with the collared rafters supported on the arcade plates, with short aisle rafters resting on the wall plates. However, in the case of Sole Street, a relatively small timber-framed house, the use of aisles probably reflects local carpentry traditions.

Aisled or ‘quasi-aisled’ (having an aisle on one side only) houses were relatively common in Kent in the 14th century and continued to be built in the 15th century; Sole Street is one of a number of similar single-bay aisled halls in the North Downs near Canterbury.

By the late 14th century new house types were emerging in Kent in particular the ‘Wealden’ house (the Museum’s Bayleaf farmhouse is a typical example) with its jettied upper chambers and unitary roof.”

Q. Did Sole Street undergo any modifications during its history?

A. “At some point between c1485 and c1550 the service end of the house was replaced by a two-bay cross wing, giving a pair of service rooms on the ground floor and a two-bay chamber on the first floor. The wing was jettied at the end of the building.”

Q. When did the Museum acquire Sole Street?

A. “Sole Street was first offered to the Museum in 1967 at which time it was described as ‘derelict’. It had been divided into two cottages some time before 1839 and each cottage was in separate ownership. One half had been empty for years and the other had been occupied until the early 1960s.

Permission had been given to pull the building down and build a new house in the site. When the building was dismantled in 1970 it was discovered that the medieval timbers were in a poor state of preservation and many were missing altogether. The elm timbers of the hall had been so badly infested with beetles that the main posts broke up and could not be rescued.”

Q. What happened to the original timbers?

A. “The surviving timbers remained in store until 1988 when Richard Harris, then Research Director, began a detailed examination of them. Despite their fragmentary state it was considered that the building’s frame could be reconstructed with a degree of certainty.

A process of timber repair followed and in late 1990 the museum’s Master Carpenter, Roger Champion, began to erect the frame, combining original timbers with a substantial quantity of new timber. The building opened as part of the Museum’s new catering facilities in 1991, providing an indoor seating area for those using the Museum’s café.”

Q. What processes are left?

A. “The frame is now almost complete and some of the wattle panels have been inserted. Once the roof has been tiled, the internal carpentry will be done and the wattle panels daubed. The building should be completed by the end of the year.”