Hammer-beam


A Hammerbeam roof is a decorative, open timber roof truss typical of English Gothic architecture and has been called "...the most spectacular endeavour of the English Medieval carpenter."[1] They are traditionally timber framed, using short beams projecting from the wall on which the rafters land, essentially a tie beam which has the middle cut out. These short beams are called hammer-beams[2] and give this truss its name. A hammerbeam roof can have a single, double or false hammerbeam truss.

Design

A hammerbeam is a form of timber roof truss, allowing a hammerbeam roof to span greater than the length of any individual piece of timber. In place of a normal tie beam spanning the entire width of the roof, short beams – the hammer beams – are supported by curved braces from the wall, and hammer posts or arch-braces are built on top to support the rafters and typically a collar beam. The hammerbeam truss exerts considerable thrust on the walls or posts that support it.[3]


A roof with one pair of hammer beams is a single hammerbeam roof. Some roofs have a second pair of hammer beams and are called double hammerbeam roofs (truss).

A false hammerbeam roof (truss) has two definitions:

  1. There is no hammer post on the hammer beam[4][5] as sometimes found in a type of arch brace truss;[6] or
  2. The hammer beam joins into the hammer post instead of the hammer post landing on the hammer beam.[7]

Examples

Possibly the earliest hammer-beamed building still standing in England, built in about 1290,[8] is located in Winchester, in Winchester Cathedral in Pilgrims' Hall, now part of The Pilgrims' School.


The roof of Westminster Hall (1395–1399) is a fine example of a hammerbeam roof. The span of Westminster Hall is 20.8 metres (68 ft. 4 in.), and the opening between the ends of the hammer beams 7.77 metres (25 ft. 6 in). The height from the paving of the hall to the hammerbeam is 12.19 m (40 ft.), and to the underside of the collar beam 19.35 metres (63 ft. 6 in.), so that an additional height in the centre of 7.16 m (23 ft. 6 in.) has been gained. In order to give greater strength to the framing, a large arched piece of timber is carried across the hall, rising from the bottom of the wall piece to the centre of the collar beam, the latter also supported by curved braces rising from the end of the hammerbeam.

Other important examples of hammerbeam roofs exist over the halls of Hampton Court and Eltham palaces, and there are numerous examples of smaller dimensions in churches throughout England, particularly in the eastern counties. The ends of the hammerbeams are usually decorated with winged angels holding shields; the curved braces and beams are richly moulded, and the spandrils in the larger examples filled in with tracery, as can be seen in Westminster Hall. Sometimes, but rarely, the collar beam is similarly treated, or cut through and supported by additional curved braces, as in the hall of the Middle Temple, London.

Recently, as part of an extensive restoration project undertaken by [1]

Other examples are in the Parliament Hall in Edinburgh, the Great Hall in Edinburgh Castle, the chapel of New College Oxford, and the Great Hall of Darnaway Castle in Moray.

It is incorrectly believed by some that the widest hammerbeam roof in England at 72 ft (22 m) wide is in the train shed at Bristol Temple Meads railway station by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt.[9] In fact, the roof at Bristol Temple Meads railway station uses modern cantilever construction; the hammerbeam style elements are purely decorative. The hammer posts and brackets support nothing, as all the weight of the roof is braced and supported by the massive side walls via the main timber ribs of the roof and the pillars inside the train shed.[10]

Further reading

Lynn Towery Courtenay, English Royal Carpentry in The Late Middle Ages: The Hammer-beam Roof. University of Wisconsin--Madison, 1979.

References

Template:1911

Template:Architecture of England

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