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This is the oldest wooden building in Britain, or possibly Europe, or possibly the world. The village of Greensted-juxta-Ongar is a short walk west of Chipping Ongar in Essex, on the A414. (The name is sometimes less correctly spelt Greenstead.)

The construction is a unique survival of a technique of building with split logs. The oak logs were split in half and the rounded side used for the outside. It "is of stave construction, not timber-framed, and relies solely upon grooves, lap joints and pegs to hold it together. There are no mortise and tenons or dovetail joints." This work forms the nave of the present church; the rest of it, with a white timber tower contrasting with the black oak, dates mainly from a restoration in 1848.

The dating is uncertain. Recent dendrochronology has reassigned it. It was once thought to be an old Saxon church, possibly around 850, but this apparently came from a faulty tree ring dating in 1960. In 1996 scientists at Sheffield University revised it to 1053 +10 -55 years, so that it could be at the very end of the Saxon period, or just possibly early Norman. As its construction is unique, stylistic details are less help. This does not mean that there was not earlier building there, only that the trees now forming the main fabric were cut down in those years. If it was Norman, it was presumably built for Homo Dapifer, the lord of the manor recorded in the Domesday Book.

In any case it is still certainly the oldest timber building in Britain, of any kind, and the reevaluation of the dating hasn't necessarily dethroned it from wider claims. And it's in lovely countryside.

www.beenthere-donethat.org.uk/greensted01big.html for a photo
www.bloxwich.demon.co.uk/vag/walker/aisled1.htm for construction details in my quotation
www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba10/ba10news.html for dendro date
www.johnsear.co.uk/Ongar/ongar.html for Domesday holder

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