Dendrochronology at Falkland Palace


A big project is under way to date some of the surviving original timbers throughout Falkland Palace. Anne Crone of AOC Archaeology Group and her colleague, Alan Duffy have been working their way through the buildings taking samples of the roof over the South Range, the roof of the Stables and the doors into the Chapel.

Photo 1- Alan sampling in the South Range roof using a corer powered by an electric drill.

Photo 1- Alan sampling in the South Range roof using a corer powered by an electric drill.

The timbers in the roof spaces were sampled by coring, powered by an electric drill (Photo 1). In the South Range roof this sometimes involved getting into very uncomfortable positions (Photo 1), while in the Stables we had to use a scissor lift to get up in amongst the timbers (Photo 2) and that was even more uncomfortable! The corer removes a core of wood 10 mm in diameter (Photos 3 & 4); back in the laboratory the core has been glued to a wooden mount and the surface prepared so that the ring-pattern is clear. The sample is now ready for measurement and analysis.

Photo 2- Working from the scissor lift in the Stables.

Photo 2- Working from the scissor lift in the Stables.

Photo 3- Removing a wooden core from the corer.

Photo 3- Removing a wooden core from the corer.

Photo 4- The wooden core. The growth-rings are just visible at the right hand end of the core.

Photo 4- The wooden core. The growth-rings are just visible at the right hand end of the core.

A different approach to sampling the doors of the Chapel has been taken because we cannot drill holes through them. The doors have all been made with vertical oak boards and the end-grains are visible on the tops of the doors. The surface of each board is prepared by finely sanding and cleaning it (Photo 6) and then a cast of the ring-pattern is made using Fimo clay (Photo 7). The Fimo clay is baked hard and so a reverse copy of the ring-pattern can be used for measurement.

Photo 6- Anne at work in the Chapel at Falkland Palace, preparing the wood so that a cast of the ring-pattern can be taken.

Photo 6- Anne at work in the Chapel at Falkland Palace, preparing the wood so that a cast of the ring-pattern can be taken.

Photo 7- The cast is made using Fimo, a modelling clay – here the black Fimo cast can be seen in situ over the prepared surface of the vertical board.

Photo 7- The cast is made using Fimo, a modelling clay – here the black Fimo cast can be seen in situ over the prepared surface of the vertical board.

Photo 9- 9Using the measuring equipment at AOC’s dendrochronology laboratory.

Photo 9- 9 Using the measuring equipment at AOC’s dendrochronology laboratory.

In the next few months Anne will be measuring and analysing the samples in the dendrochronology lab at AOC’s offices in Loanhead (Photo 9). We are very excited to find out what when the original beams can be dated to. Keep an eye on the blog and Facebook page for updates on the results!

South Range Palace roof.

South Range Palace roof.

Stables - view from roof

Stables, view from the roof.

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