Crucks, curving roof timbers that in their purest form go from the ground to the apex of the roof, have long been a puzzle. They superficially appear to be a primitive form of roof framing, but we have no real examples before 1250, by which time more sophisticated box-framing methods of construction were widespread. They are hardly found at all elsewhere in Europe, and even in Britain there is not a single example in any of the Eastern Counties. In the West of England, they were widely used until the 16th century and then die out suddenly for no apparent reason. Simple forms of cruck are easy to describe but should all curved-principle structures be called crucks, including those that start halfway up the wall (’Raised Crucks’) and those terminating in a tie beam (‘Base Crucks’), or are these a different type of structure entirely?
These are the sort of questions that keep building archaeologists and construction historians awake at night, and they are just the sort of questions that this edited volume seeks to address in 15 chapters. The book also includes summaries that tell the story of the discovery of crucks. The result is a beautifully illustrated introduction that summarises the latest thinking, forming an invaluable guide to this fascinating subject.
Review by James W P Campbell.
Cruck Building: a survey, Nat Alcock, P S Barnwell, and Martin Cherry (eds), Shaun Tyas, £50, ISBN 978-1907730795