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Abbey Barn

Abbey Barn

Conservation/Restoration Award Winner 2007

Location: Abbotsbury, Dorset
Building Owner: Ilchester Estates
Architect: Philip Hughes Associates
Builder/Main Contractor: J. Layzell & Sons
Structural Engineers: Warning Association
Joinery: J. Layzell & Sons
Wood Species: English Oak, English Elm

Abbotsbury Abbey Barn is one of the largest barns in England (272ft long), dating from the 15th century, is listed grade I and is a scheduled ancient monument.  A condition report identified significant decay in the timber roof structure and thatch together with loose stonework at high level. Thus the overriding philosophy was to retain historic fabric as far as possible and to undertake repairs using traditional materials sourced, where possible, from the Estate – FSC oak from Melbury Park and elm from two suppliers from source in England.  All new timber was finished with a traditional wooden block plan to complement the original surface finish of the roof timbers (pit sawn and / or adzed).

Existing bearing timbers and short struts were replaced where necessary in oak due to its great resistance to decay where in contact with damp masonry. In some instances the decay extended well up the elm principal rafters. New sections were jointed to the existing with splayed scarf joints, chosen for aesthetic and structural reasons. The joints were designed to tighten with shrinkage of timber wherever possible.

The proper device to support the trusses whilst the ends were renewed was specially designed and fabricated for the project to clasp around the timbers, supporting them without fixing into the historic timber. Additional softwood timbers were run above the thatching purlins to take new thatch fixing to minimise the risk of damage / splitting of the historic timber.  The severely decayed medieval porch roof structure was strengthened with shaped oak piecings to the profile of the area of decay to minimise cutting into sound timber.

The work provided the opportunity to record previously inaccessible areas of the building and training opportunities for apprentice carpenters.