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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 5 March, 2003, 16:24 GMT
Cathedral find rewrites history
Dan Miles and Tim Tatton Brown
Dan Miles (left) and Tim Tatton-Brown
Historians may change their age-old approach to restoring ancient buildings after the surprising discovery of 13th Century Irish wood in the framework of Salisbury Cathedral.

Previously it was not thought possible cathedral timbers could have survived until recent dating technique developments proved otherwise.

Scientists have found Dublin oak dating back to 1222 underpinning the lead in the cathedral's eastern chapels, English Heritage said.

The oak was found in the North Nave Treforium, the famous cathedral's medieval lean-to roof, and its North Porch - one of the finest crown-post roofs in Britain.

Previously, historians assumed such timbers were replacements.

"They are among the few remaining original roofs in the cathedral and some of the oldest in Britain," a spokeswoman said.

They were generally thought to be replacements for the old ones thrown out when lead was stripped
Dan Miles
Restoration work would now have to take a "more aware approach", he added.

Peter Marshall, of English Heritage's Scientific Dating Service, said: "They will greatly increase our understanding of major historic buildings and are likely to have a profound effect on how they are repaired in future."

Dan Miles, of the Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory, said: "In the past boards like this would have been disregarded.

"They were generally thought to be replacements for the old ones thrown out when lead was stripped.

"Tree ring dating is beginning to show more and more detailed information about the importance of such material."

Tim Tatton-Brown, consultant archaeologist to Salisbury Cathedral, said: "This very important new series of dates has given us, for the first time, an independent sequence of dates for the whole of the cathedral."

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