The cruck is a simple and elegant feature of a type of building construction which was at its most popular in medieval times. The A-shaped profile is such a pleasing form, especially for architectural historians, that Hallamshire Historic Buildings chose it for a logo! There is evidence of cruck framed building being built between the tenth to seventeenth centuries, though they seem to be have been most prevalent between 1300 and 1500. A cruck makes use of two matching (usually curved) cruck blades leaning against one another. The matching blades are created by splitting a specially selected trunk (usually oak) down the middle.
A short and sweet explanation of what a cruck framed building is, in the wider context of timber framed buildings, can be found towards the end of this article.
There are some interesting photographs showing a cruck framed barn being built on Castle Howard Arboretum Trust’s old website. Whilst the photos are great, the initial paragraph is misleading.
An authoritative document, published by the Council for British Archaeology in 1981, includes a full and fairly academic study of cruck buildings by Dr Nat Alcock, a leading authority on cruck framed buildings. There are contributions from a number of experts and the document includes a catalogue of cruck framed buildings compiled by Dr Alcock, members of the Vernacular Architecture Group and others. The catalogue of cruck framed buildings is still maintained here:
A pdf of the CBA report is linked to at the bottom of this page
In his introduction, Dr Alcock is quick to highlight the significance of Sheffield in the study of cruck framed buildings and mentions two names that will be familiar to many who have an interest in Sheffield’s history and architecture1:
A new view appeared at the end of the 19th century, when a group of architects and antiquaries living near Sheffield discovered the remarkable concentration of crucks to the west of that city, which still largely survives its urban development. These men, in particular S O Addy (1898) and C F Innocent (1916) also began to recognize the wider distribution of crucks and the early documentary references to them. They were the first to suggest crucks as the most primitive form of building still existing over much of the country.
This was written in 1981. Hopefully we still have a ‘remarkable concentration of crucks to the west of the city’. Sadly, with Bennett cottage we have experience of a cruck framed building that, at the time of writing has had its crucks removed and if threatened by demolition. For an idea of what it might once have looked like (albeit this is on a grander scale), have a look at this cruck barn conversion in High Storrs.
* Addy, a solicitor and prolific writer on a range of history related subjects, published The Evolution of the English House in 1898. In 1916, Architect CF Innocent published The Development of English Building Construction