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Friday, 7 February, 2003, 07:42 GMT
Timber tests to solve church riddle
St Idloes church's roof
The provenance of the church roof is uncertain
An historic mid Wales church could be about to give up its secrets, thanks to new timber-dating techniques.

Historians want to know if the roof on a 16th century building in Llanidloes is one of the finest examples of its kind in Wales - or was simply made from bits plundered from a nearby abbey.

Historian Dr Charles Kightly
Dr Charles Kightly : awaiting results

A number of churches from the time were built of crafted stone stolen from monasteries closed by Henry VIII.

But experts want to find out if St Idloes' impressive timber-arched roof was also hauled the 15 miles from the nearest abbey.

Samples drilled from the roof will undergo tests based on dendrochronology, the science of dating objects based on tree-ring growth.

The tests are accurate to within a few months and should date the timbers atop St Idloes once and for all.

Historian Charles Kightley is confident the date-testing will put the age of the structure beyond doubt.

He said: "If we can get a tree-ring date from it, and if we find that it was done from trees cut in say, 1540, we'll know that it was actually made purpose-built for this church."

If the roof is not a plundered impostor, but custom-made for the church, it will be the latest example of its kind in Wales.

It is set to make a fitting centrepiece for an exhibition at the town's, famous 17th century market hall, tracing the history of timber-framed buildings.

After six centuries, it seems this historic church is at last about to give up its secrets.

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales' Steve Jones
"New techniques should date samples to within a few months"
See also:

03 Feb 03 | Wales
02 Dec 02 | Wales
04 Jan 03 | England
08 Jan 03 | Wales
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