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Dating architectural features

Timeline of architectural styles

Blueprints, models and renderings are all helpful ways Kurt Kohlstedt Colorful Past: When a building is lost to history, we Mexico City is massive and famous for its Your donations are vital to keeping us independent and strong! Contributions are used for: Paying our exceptional staff Paying outside contributors Travel costs for more ambitious stories Weekly Pakistani buffet. Feel free to browse the archives to add episodes. Could it be that this window was inserted when the altar was moved from the chancel to a position in front of the screen and more light was needed in this part of the church?

In the absence of any documentary evidence relating to the building of the church in Meldreth, the dating of the phases of construction is dependent on architectural features. In a predominantly rubble building, the most useful diagnostic features are capital types, the profiles of arch mouldings and the forms of windows, all of which have typical forms in each century during the medieval period.

The earliest original capital forms are the so-called scallop capitals on the entrance arch into the tower and on the exterior of the tower. These were simple and inexpensive. More elaborate are the stylised leaf capitals, known as 'water-leaf' on the second stage of the tower, with their characteristic upturned scroll at the end of the leaf, though this window is entirely 19thc. The more elaborate foliate capitals of the north door of the nave, which, though 19thc follow capital designs of the late 12thc, and there would have similar-style capitals on the original south door before it was replaced with the present 15th-century porch.

All of these forms are characteristic of the period By the time that the nave arcade was constructed in the 15th century it was more common to have moulded capitals that follow the here octagonal shape of the piers. More useful as an indication of date in Meldreth church is the form of the windows of which there is a good representative selection covering the whole medieval period.

Dating historic buildings

The single lancets in the chancel are typical of the 12th century in parish churches, where windows were generally small in order to minimise openings in the structure and to avoid the expense of glass. The windows are on the outer face of the wall with wide splays internally to maximise the amount of light into the interior.

The next stage was for the lancets to become larger and to be elaborated with mouldings around the head of the window, with flanking free-standing shafts with capitals, as can be seen on the first two stages of the tower. The upper stage of the tower shows the next development, which was to place two lancets side by side beneath one arch with a pattern in the stonework at the head of the window.

Here, there are four cusps to create a quatrefoil. The window arch is linked to half arches either side to create the effect of arcading. Also in the late 13th century, a larger window was inserted into west wall of the tower.

Dating Historic Buildings

This has been completely reconstructed in a later restoration but it illustrates well the way in which the bars of stone tracery within the window become much thinner and allow greater freedom in the design of the pattern. The free-flowing forms, the use of reverse-curve ogee arches and the variety of patterns is typical of the s and s.

Note, too, the sharpness of the mouldings around the windows compared with the more rounded forms of the earlier tower arch.

By the time that we reach the 15th-century south aisle, the patterns have become rectilinear with marked vertical emphasis achieved by extending the mullions the vertical bars of stone through to the head of the arch. This feature of design the so-called Perpendicular style became fashionable from the midth century onwards. Also typical of the late medieval period are the shallow, 'depressed' arches in place of the more steeply pointed forms of the 13th and earlier 14th centuries.

It should also be remembered that the elaborate tracery patterns would have been integrated with the design of the stained glass that originally filled these windows, prior to its destruction by Dowsing in See the style section of this website for an introduction and bibliography, with pages and bibliographies on specific styles. Dating by style depends on having a corpus of firmly dated examples.

By Peter Draper

How are these firmly dated? Mostly exact dating derives from original documents or plans which give a building date. These could include architect's plans, building accounts or contemporary descriptions of the building in the course of erection, or newly built.

This site gives guidance on researching documentary evidence. Beginners might like to start with the basics of researching an historic building. Physical evidence from the building itself could include an exact date, either from an inscription or dendrochronology.

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