Why do some houses have bargeboards? These wooden planks were fixed to the gables of timber-framed houses from as early as the mid-14th century to cover the end of the rafters and provide some protection from the weather.
Some were plain but others had scalloped edges, and by the late 16th century they had become increasingly elaborate. Complex patterns were carved into the wood, some piercing all the way through the timber, and the shadows from sunlight created by this decoration became another desirable feature. Later, bargeboards were fitted to brick, stone and rendered buildings as well to enhance their appeal.
Traditionally carved out of oak, they would have been left in their natural state to age gracefully, but as other less-weatherproof timber was brought into use as the supply of oak waned, there came the need to paint or stain the boards. If not maintained adequately, boards eventually rot and need to be replaced, in some cases with different patterns and styles.
Whether or not you like the ‘gingerbread cottage’ look of decorative bargeboards, they are a distinctive feature and reflect craftsmanship and flair in their designs. Such decorative fripperies are rare on modern buildings, and perhaps because of this those that survive are worthy of admiration.Posted in Architecture, Blog Tagged architectural historian, building history, house detective, house history, timber-framed, vernacular architecture