WHITEHALL ROMAN VILLA AND LANDSCAPE PROJECT
 
 

Raising the roof beams: a mini-blog
by Jeremy Cooper

The views expressed are Jeremy's own and the information is his own understanding - he has been known to get things wrong!

May 2011: We now know that these are certainly not roof trusses! What they are remains a mystery, although it is confirmed that they have had at least three different uses including the one we found them. It is? possible that one of them was part of a mechanism of some sort - perhaps a mill. In spite of their size and survival, the timbers are not of national-level interest, but the way they were cut might demonstrate an interesting local/regional variation on usual Roman practice.


14th September 2010: day 1 of 1

A cool day with rain threatening almost constantly - and actually falling from time to time. Not perfect from the diggers' point of view, but almost ideal for dealing with waterlogged wood.

Inevitably, the first job was to dry the surroundings a bit...

Then the protective wraps were removed to reveal the wood...

Then, over a period of a couple of hours, removing the soil all round the beams and shifting the stones leaning up against them...

Meanwhile the new homes are prepared - a chain-gang lifted dozens of buckets of water from the spring to fill two large tubes laid on the spoil heap...

More excavating...

Dave keeping the books...

Almost there...

Next, a lot of scrabbling with bare (or gloved) hands to all but undermine the beam and separate it from its bed of almost 2,000 years...

Fred ties the beam to a plank lying alongside it...

The Matbro brings a pallet as close as it can...

Then the really scary bit - lifting the beam on its splint. Not just a matter of shifting weight, but of delicacy too...

And onto the pallet...

Phew!

The Matbro (Nick driving) lifts the beam onto trestle tables...

...and it's cleaned with spring water...

Meanwhile, the same process is applied to the second beam...

During the process a stake was uncovered holding the beam in place...

Once it is clean (and photographed in detail - see below), the first beam goes back onto the pallet to be taken to the tubes in the background...

... and it's gently lowered into it's new home where it more or less floats...

The second beam makes it onto the pallet...

Thankfully, it proved to be much more robust than it appeared, although it was a bit crumbly underneath.

And so the roof beams are submerged in spring water, at least until the frosts of of winter threaten. Then, I understand, they will be moved again.

The top ends of the tubes were well sealed (to exclude oxygen as far as possible) after this photo was taken.

Here are some detail shots of the first beam...

The second beam has no particular features, but retains its rectangular cross-section rather better than the first beam...


A few snags were encountered along the way, but they were overcome and it turned out to be an altogether very successful operation! Thanks to all concerned in planning and executing it.


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