Houses and Nails - Sarah Woodbury

Houses and Nails

How long have we been using nails to hold pieces of wood together? The answer is … a long time.

“Bronze nails, found in Egypt, have been dated 3400 BC. The Bible give us numerous references to nails, the most well known being the crucifixion of Christ. Of course we should not forget that model wife in Judges who in 1296 BC drove a nail into the temple of her husband while he was asleep, “so he died.””

In the UK, early evidence of large scale nail making comes from Roman times 2000 years ago. Any sizeable Roman fortress would have its ‘fabrica‘ or workshop where the blacksmiths would fashion the metal items needed by the army. They left behind 7 tons of nails at the fortress of Inchtuthil in Perthshire.

For nail making, iron ore was heated with carbon to form a dense spongy mass of metal which was then fashioned into the shape of square rods and left to cool.  The metal produced was wrought iron. After re-heating the rod in a forge, the blacksmith would cut off a nail length and hammer all four sides of the softened end to form a point. Then the nail maker would insert the hot nail into a hole in a nail header or anvil and with four glancing blows of the hammer would form the rosehead (a shallow pyramid shape).”

wood houseThe oldest wooden house we have still standing was built in 1287. It is a two story structure in Switzerland:

“It is the summer of 1287 in Schwyz in central Switzerland, four years before activists in this region signed the Federal Charter, the country’s founding document.

A well-to-do local family is in the middle of building a fine two-storey wooden house. They’ve already cut the timber from the local forest and they are helping the master carpenters assemble their dream home.

They are proud of their comfortable new dwelling with its modern blockhouse design and practical layout. The family, whose name we do not know, hope their house will last and be passed on to the next generation.

Amazingly the house still stands more than 700 years later, now a museum and the oldest surviving wooden house in Europe.

By some quirk of fate the House of Bethlehem survived the ravages of time, a fire which destroyed most of the village in the seventeenth century and the kind of wrangling that led to the even older Nideröst House (1176), just a stone’s throw away, being dismantled and put into storage in 2001.”  Read more here.

This is the oldest wooden church in England, dating to 1050.  Read more here.

One of the oldest houses in Wales was built in 1402. Unfortunately, wood rots and decays, so these type of houses are few and far between. Read more here.