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Alverthorpe and Low Laithes Part 6

Low Laithes Golf Club.
The Stewards House

Graphic19 - Plate 6. Low Laithes golf club buildings prior to modernization of the stewards house.
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Graphic20 - Plate 7. View of Low Laithes in 1930 from the old seventh green before the demolition of half the cross wing and the long barn.
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The buildings comprising the golf club were formed in a letter H with an east and west wing and a centre cross wing.

Graphic21 - Fig.7. Isometric drawing of the timber frame of the stewards house by the writer.
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The east wing comprised of a barn to the south, (gents locker room), an 18th century house in the middle (the Club house), and a small cottage to the north which used to be the professionals shop. (see plate 6 & plate 7) The west wing was a long timber framed barn aisled along the eastern side with two doors (seefig.5 & fig Sa) andclad externally with brick. (see plate 7 & plate 19 and was probably demolished in the1950's)

Graphic22 - Fig.8. The north facade of the stewards house and a complete inside truss including aisling.
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The two wings were connected by the timber framed farm house which was a seven bayed structure. (see plate 7 & Fig. 5) All that remains of the farm house today are the last three bays, numbers 5, 6, & 7. (see right of dotted line) which are now the stewards quarters.(see figs 7 & 8 )The other four bays to the west which completed the range were demolished in the 1930's.(see plate 7)

The stewards house consisted of a three bayed building aisled on the south side. The northern side had been clad with double thickness of brick up to bressumer level and single thickness from bressumer level up to wall plate. (see plate 8) On inspection inside the building the joiners marks numbering the bays were found on principal to brace to tie beam, and between top of principal and tie beam. (see plate 11 & plate 17) The marks were in place where all the major timbers were joined, i.e. wall plate, tie beam and principal, and principal to bressumer. Also King post to principal rafter and tie beam. Each truss was numbered from west to east, eight in all, we have the last four.

Graphic23 - Plate 8. The north side of the stewards house showing the thickness of the cladding.
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The method of building timber framed houses is a simple one all the timbers are mortised and tenoned together, the joints are then drilled and secured by tapered oak pegs approximately one inch diameter and twelve inches long. A complete truss could be assembled either in the joiners yard or on the site where the timber was cut. After adding the joiners fabrication marks the truss could be dismantled and carried to the site of the house. Where it was re-erected on the ground using the joiners fabrication marks to indicate which tenon fitted a mortice socket and then hauled into place.

Graphic24 - Plate 9. Gable end of the stewards house showing part of truss 5.
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The principal timbers form the main box like structure with the roof timbers. In between these timbers the spaces are filled alternatively with smaller studs and plaster infilling supported by narrow pieces of split oak jammed between the grooved sides of smaller timbers.

Prefabrication is thought to be a modem technique but has been in use for centuries in the construction of timber framed houses, water mills, dams, wharfs, and ships, etc.

When oak is first cut it is soft and easily workable as it dries out it becomes harder. After a couple of centuries it is as hard as concrete and if well looked after will last indefinitely, but constant exposure to the weather or being attacked by beetles or dry rot can make these timbers decay.

I remember once acquiring a 17th century sample of timber from Wakefield Cathedral. The piece of timber was about 1 8ins long and six inches square and half of it was effected by death watch beetle. I took it to a friend who had a circular saw to have the diseased part cut off which just looked just like a sponge. The saw had just been sharpened but when the timber was put to it all the teeth turned blue.

After about 1600 when the great forests were becoming depleted more houses had to be built of stone or brick. By the 18th century many timber framed houses which had existed since the middle ages were becoming decayed. In some cases they were demolished in others the timber frame of the building was clad in brick or stone. In this way timber houses were encased and protected from further decay and so survive until the present day.

Whether this house had a thatched roof it is difficult to say its present roofing is very substantial, large stone roofing tiles roughly 2ft.by 1ft .6ins and one inch thick weighing half a hundred weight. Two holes were drilled in the top of the tiles and they were secured by two, two inch by half an inch dowel pegs, which rested on lats laid at right angles across the common rafters at suitable intervals. Very comforting when it is blowing a gale outside.

On looking at the building I am trying to remember how we first got into it. On looking at the photographs renovation must have been well on the way as the roofing tiles had been taken off and the roof covered by some waterproof covering. Access must have been over the low wall of the aisling in bay 6, this bay being the only one with free access. (see fig. 9) All the ground floor rooms were either boxed in (bay 5) or used as kitchens bays 6 & 7,

Bay 5

On the gable end facing towards the car park (truss 5) the whole truss was bricked up with just the tie beam bressumer and principals showing. It would appear that nothing was supporting the roof except the bricks?, but the gable end timbers are off set on the eastern side of the tie beam at the other side of the bricks. (See plate 10, & fig. 7 & fig 8 the bricks resting on the upper surface of the tie beam)

Graphic25 - Plate 10. The gable of truss 5 from inside.
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This plate shows the whole open truss 5 to be in place behind the gable end bricks. The king post is supported by principal rafters and the latter linked by oblique braces to the tie beam with two purlins and a brace from principal to tie beam each side. (See left side of plate 12)

Bay 5

Graphic26 - Plate 11. Southern principal of truss 6 showing joiners mark and boxing in of part of bay 5. The rest of the ground floor was the stewards kitchen.
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Graphic27 - Plate 12. Northern side wall-plate of bay 5 with scarfe joint.
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Graphic28 - Fig.9. A diagram showing boxed in areas. The rest of the ground floor was the stewards kitchen.
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This bay was completely boxed in 3ft. below wall plate level, the ground floor room contained a table tennis table on which we played occasionally, access being by the door in the north side to the table tennis room only. (see plate 8) I cannot remember what the bay was boxed in with it was either plywood or hardboard which completely covered any of the timber framing which might have been visible.

The ground floor level inside the building was actually 1ft. to 1ft 6ins below outside ground level, which gives a ceiling height of roughly 7ft.6ins.

In this bay the joints in the wall plates were visible over the top of the boxing. The northern wall plate west end had sagged free from its opposite piece, possibly because the rest of it had been cut off on the other side of the truss and there was nothing to counter balance the weight of this piece, (see plate 12) the vertical peg is just visible protruding from the upper part of the joint. Any horizontal pegs in the scarfe joint must have held it and stopped it from sagging so this one must be missing.

Looking at the area between the northern wall plates and the top of the lower boxed in part on plate 12 it can be seen that the studding is present on both sides of the boxed window part which should give light from a window, (there is no window showing in the northern wail, see plate 8 we must assume that there is a window frame there on the inside of the wall similar to Plate 14 & Plate 15)

The studs should have supported the sagging wall plate, but it is difficult to see the peg holes on this plate and there are no peg holes on this side of the wall plate on plate 14. In normal circumstances the studs are mortised into the underside of the wall plate near to the outside face and pegged, the peg holes coming through to the other side. This makes it possible for the peg to be knocked out from the opposite side. It looks as if the brace from principal to wall plate can be seen between the two pieces of separated wall plate.

The southern side wall plate (plate 13) shows the two vertical pegs and the horizontal one of the scarfe joint being well supported by the brace from principal to wall plate. This brace is a good example of how braces and studs are mortised and tenoned into the under side of wall plates near the outer face.

Graphic29 - Plate 13. Southern wall-plate of bay 5 and scarfe joint.
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Bay 6.

This bay was occupied on the ground floor by the kitchen of the stewards quarters. The rest of the bay above was completely untouched by modernisation, the north side was enclosed by a brick wail one brick thick which had protected what to me was the most complete example of studding by minor timbers I had so far come across. All the minor studs were in-situ minus the infilling including the window frame all that was missing was the actual window. The studs were grooved down the sides to take the split oak laths to support the plaster infilling.

In most timber framed buildings found today, the minor timbers with the exception of braces, have been removed and the resulting spaces filled with brick or stone, most buildings are either clad on the outside (similar to this one on the northern side) or in between the principal timbers, replacing the studs etc. In some obscure cases the timber frame can be completely buried within the wall making it appear to be a stone or brick building of later date.

The only way to determine the age of the building is to get into the roof and examine the roof timbers.

Bay 7.

The ground floor was occupied by the steward and the 1st floor partially by a bedroom built of one brick thick walling. The walls rested on the floor boards and were to tie beam height. This plate shows the studding on the north side of bay 6 with the principal of truss 7 on the right is the brick wall.

Graphic30 - Plate 14. Northern principal of truss 7 and minor studding.
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Graphic31 - Plate 15. Principal of truss 6 and minor studding forming the window frame of bay 6.
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Graphic32 - Plate 16. The east end of the building and truss 8.
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The bedroom took up about three quarters of the bay and this plate shows the far side of the bay or southern side with the small part of bay 7 not used by the inserted bedroom. The brick walling of the bedroom on the left and the end gable of truss & fully enclosed by studs and infilling as per isometric drawing. Fig.7.

Graphic33 - Plate 17. Truss 7 top of principal, wall-plate & tie beam.
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Looking back from the side of the bedroom at the top part of the principal of truss No.7 the joiners mark being visible at the top also the wall plate sitting none too snugly on the shoulder of the principal.

Graphic34 - Plate 18. Part of the gable of truss 7 south side.
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This is the top of open truss No.7 with brace from principal to tie beam off set on the under side. (see bottom right hand corner) The underside of the tie beam also shows the top of the bedroom wall.

In most of the houses I have worked in before, the interiors have been thoroughly modernised with the various bays split up into rooms and passages, fire places and chimney stacks inserted, staircases, false ceilings put in until the house has become unrecognisable for what it was.

In some cases a house like this would have been made into a row of three one up and one down cottages. Like the west wing of "The Batty house" which could quite easily have been made into at least three cottages.

Many timber framed buildings can be recognised by the pitch of the roof, and some by the extension of the roof to cover the brick or stone cladding, but in some cases even this can be disguised by re-roofing where new common rafters have been laid from ridge to gutter bridging the sagging older timbers.

One building with a very good timber framed partition wall had horizontal lats laid across the timbers and a skimming of plaster put on completely disguising the wall. The one thing which let down a lot of old timber framed houses was leaky roofs and damp creeping up the walls. The local health authorities of the thirties felt obliged to condemn them especially with their lack of modern amenities such as hot water, bathroom or toilet.

Dimensions of timbers.

             Length      Depth      Width
Principal    15ft. 3ins. l ft.6ins. 10 ins.
Tie Beam     19ft. 6ins. l ft.3ins.  1 ft
King Post     7ft. 6ins. 6ins.       9 ins.
Wall Plate   34ft. 3ins. 1ft        10 ins.
Bays         12ft. 9ins. 19 ft       6 ins.
Aisle        11ft. 6ins.  6 ins.
Height of truss 24ft.bottom of Principal to Ridge.
The Tie Beam measurement is centre to centre of wall plate.
The Bays are centre to centre of principal and centre to centre of wall plate.

The Timber farmed barn (see plate 19).

Graphic35 - Plate 19. The timber framed barn forming the west wing of Low Laithes farm.
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I am very grateful to Mr. John Goodchild for the loan of this photograph. The photograph has been taken from the lane which ran round the topside of the barn to Mill Lane. The carpentry appears to be of the same period as the house. The right hand principal seems to be a normal one with all the usual mortise and peg holes, and one near the bottom of the post for the middle rail. The left hand principal at the other side of the truss is different having only one mortise hole for the brace to the wall plate and no others. This could be because this was a doorway open from ground to wall plate, to allow loaded hay carts into the building. (see Fig.5 & Fig.5a)

Whereas the right hand principal seems a normal tri-angular shaped piece of timber in width, the left hand one appears to be taken from near the outside of the tree trunk, i.e. rounded off on one side, which would account for it being used as a door post as mortise holes would only have to be cut on one side.

There does not appear to be any peg holes or mortise holes on this side of the principal except for a brace from Principal to wall plate. The barn is aisled on the eastern side from the southern end to where it meets the cross wing of the house. The roof is covered with large stone roofing tiles similar to the house. (See plate 19) The brick cladding on the right of the first bay is different to the rest of that side of the building and the upper portion appears to be leaning somewhat.

It is quite possible that this end of the barn is the part where the second doorway opened out onto the yard on the north side of the house or crosswing. (see Fig 5a)


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