Knole in flux

MOLA team

The refurbishment and repair of the east range of Knole House in Sevenoaks required the removal of the cement render from the façade and the removal of the roof tiles. The removal of the render on the façade of the east wing has allowed MOLA archaeologists to record in detail the timber frame of the structure, and a number of interesting features have been revealed.  It appears that in its earliest form, the façade had projecting bay windows which used an unusual angled moulding in their construction. Further evidence for earlier windows was recorded in the form of surviving sill beams with disused mortice holes, now hidden behind the existing windows. The use of both soft wood and oak in the construction of the first-floor windows may also represent different building phases.

Throughout the façade, there is evidence of extensive repair and replacement of major timbers. Many of these later timbers show signs of having been sawn by machine rather than being pit-sawn timbers cut by hand. The earliest steam-powered circular saws appeared in the 1790s, which suggests that the repairs and the replacement of original timbers may have been carried out during the 19th century. Many earlier and probably original timbers do however survive, sometimes just as fragments of what were formerly much larger timbers. For example, the base-plate timbers that rest on the top of the ground-floor masonry, into which the uprights and studs were fixed, have almost entirely been replaced, though in some areas they survive as a shortened timber which has been cut down in size. It is hoped that dendrochronological sampling may help us to understand these differences.

The roof of the east range was significantly more complex than anticipated and had been added to many times using different construction methods. There is a clear indication of a phased pattern of additions and extensions to the building. Again, the use of dendrochronological sampling may reveal variations in date between the roof elements if suitable timbers are found.

For information on the National Trust property, click here.

For more photos of the property by John Miller, click here.


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