1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Half-timber Work

HALF-TIMBER WORK, an architectural term given to those buildings in which the framework is of timber with vertical studs and cross pieces filled in between with brickwork, rubble masonry or plaster work on oak laths; in the first two, brick nogging or nogging are the terms occasionally employed (see Carpentry). Sometimes the timber structure is raised on a stone or brick foundation, as at Ledbury town hall in Herefordshire, where the lower storey is open on all sides; but more often it is raised on a ground storey, either in brick or stone, and in order to give additional size to the upper rooms projects forward, being carried on the floor joists. Sometimes the masonry or brickwork rises through two or three storeys and the half-brick work is confined to the gables. There seems to be some difference of opinion as to whether the term applies to the mixture of solid walling with the timber structure or to the alternation of wood posts and the filling in, but the latter definition is that which is generally understood. The half-timber throughout England is of the most picturesque description, and the earliest examples date from towards the close of the 15th century. In the earliest example, Newgate House, York (c. 1450), the timber framing is raised over the ground floor. The finest specimen is perhaps that of Moreton Old Hall, Cheshire (1570), where there is only a stone foundation about 12 in. high, and the same applies to Bramall Hall, near Manchester, portions of which are very early. Among other examples are Speke Hall, Lancashire; Park Hall, Shropshire (1553–1558); Hall i’ th’ Wood, Lancashire (1591); St Peter’s Hospital, Bristol (1607); the Ludlow Feather’s Inn (1610); many of the streets at Chester and Shrewsbury; the Sparrowe’s Home, Ipswich; and Staple Inn, Holborn, from which in recent years the plaster coat which was put on many years ago has been removed, displaying the ancient woodwork. A similar fate has overtaken a very large number of half-timber buildings to keep out the driving winds; thus in Lewes nearly all the half-timbered houses have had slates hung on the timbers, others tiles, the greater number having been covered with plaster or stucco. Although there are probably many more half-timber houses in England than on the continent of Europe, in the north of France and in Germany are examples in many of the principal towns, and in some cases in better preservation than in England. They are also enriched with carving of a purer and better type, especially in France; thus at Chartres, Angers, Rouen, Caen, Lisieux, Bayeux, St Lô and Beauvais, are many extremely fine examples of late Flamboyant and early Transitional examples. Again on the borders of the Rhine in all the small towns most of the houses are in half-timber work, the best examples being at Bacharach, Rhense and Boppart. Far more elaborate examples, however, are found in the vicinity of the Harz Mountains; the supply of timber from the forests there being very abundant; thus at Goslar, Wernigerode and Quedlingburg there is an endless variety, as also farther on at Gelnhausen and Hameln, the finest series of all being at Hildesheim. In Bavaria at Nuremberg, Rothenburg and Dinkelsbühl, half-timber houses dating from the 16th century are still well preserved; and throughout Switzerland the houses constructed in timber and plaster are the most characteristic features of the country.