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Timber frame construction in North East Scotland: a century of precedent 1830s - 1930s.

Bruce, Iain Stevenson


Iain Stevenson Bruce


William Brogden

Charles McKean

Brown Morton


This study was prompted by a natural inquisitiveness about the concentration of timber buildings in both Braemar on Deeside and Fochabers on Speyside, and the assumed association with the history of timber extraction in the respective river systems. Reinforced by childhood memories of timber buildings in other locations, the idea turned into an ironic quest for a Lost Tradition of Timber buildings in North East Scotland. The fieldwork provides both substantive and extensive material with 198 records of extant buildings, and archival research having produced evidence of 156 others. However, in a field characterised by transience and lack of documentation, this total cannot be considered definitive. Whilst the study presents a significant body of information about a Victorian interest in timber frame building not previously identified in the literature, the lack of any previous research in this area means that the work represents a phenomenon which is isolated both historically and culturally. The study adopts a taxonomic methodology and a selection of case studies offers a comparative analysis in which frame typologies and their characteristics are examined. The geographical area is illustrated in map 1 fieldwork buildings distribution map. This is structured on 10km transects and individual buildings identified numerically in a north to south sequence within these transects. Fieldwork specimens represent a diversity of both buildings and frame types, and the extensive use of timber buildings by the railway companies demonstrates they merely exploited an already established capability and knowledge for timber building and were not responsible for its introduction into the geographical area of study. It is clear that the majority of the fieldwork examples are of building types that would have been `modern' to the late 19th century with only dwellings, church buildings and mills having historic precedence. This aspect introduces the enigma of the antecedents of their construction methods, particularly in view of the parsimony of the contemporaneous literature. A total of four differing frame types have been identified and a previously unrecorded post and rail system is represented across all building types. This frame is described and illustrated in Chapter 3, Construction Types, and features in a comparative drawing of known historical frame designs not previously published. The identification of this frame and its extensive use is considered one of the main contributions of the study. The taxonomy is presented in terms of discrete building types as uncovered by the field study. This has revealed a considerable number of dwellings constructed by tradesmen for their own family's use, a structural elegance represented across the building types and an unexpected lack of agricultural buildings In an attempt to reduce the historical and cultural isolation of the survey data, the data is examined in a broader context, the availability and suitability of materials, the availability of knowledge and skills and prevailing socio-economic and cultural attitudes.


BRUCE, I.S. 2007. Timber frame construction in North East Scotland: a century of precedent 1830s - 1930s. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jun 30, 2011
Publicly Available Date Jun 30, 2011
Public URL
Award Date Jan 31, 2007


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