Revealing the stories behind historic buildings rebuilt in new locations. Following the reconstruction of a mysterious medieval building in Wales, 30 years after it was dismantled.
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Every year, countless thousands of ordinary buildings are demolished,
smashed down to make way for the new.
For many, this fate is unavoidable.
But some are so special, they're saved.
Carefully taken down piece by piece,
stored away until a new home for them can be found
and they can be lovingly and painstakingly rebuilt.
These are not grand buildings
or exceptional pieces of architecture.
But preserved within their fabric are extraordinary stories,
stories about who we are as a nation
and what we have achieved.
About the materials and the techniques we use...
It's not as easy as it looks.
And why we build the way we do.
It feels like you're making it the way it should be made.
In this series, I'm going to uncover the hidden history
behind these seemingly humble buildings,
to reveal that it's not just the houses of the great and rich
that have remarkable stories to tell.
My grandfather was probably the first airman to die
in the First World War.
I'll be seeing how these huge, incredibly complex jigsaw puzzles,
that were once buildings,
are actually put back together again.
I'm on the quay of Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire.
It's hard to believe it now but 500 years ago,
this was the heart of one of the biggest and richest ports
in South Wales.
Indeed, a commercial hub of national importance.
Sadly, no buildings survive now from the place's medieval heyday,
but 30 years ago, there was one.
A structure, enigmatic, strange and mysterious
and was tucked away over there.
In 1983, that last surviving building
on the Haverfordwest quayside was falling apart.
But it was saved by four young apprentices
who painstakingly dismantled it stone by stone
and it's here, in these bags.
Now, nearly three decades later,
I'm going to join those four same men
as they try and put it back together again in a museum
100 miles from where it originally stood.
I'm going to try and find out what this unusual building actually was.
Who lived in it? Who worked in it?
I've studied buildings for years and I must say,
this one, I find particular baffling.
It was here, just behind this pub.
The strange tower-like structure was incredibly sturdy
with exceptionally thick walls.
Most intriguingly of all, the ground floor
consisted of a vaulted chamber and above it, on the first floor,
was a single-room dwelling that originally could be accessed
only from the outside by a ladder.
It dates to the 15th century and, unofficially,
has been called the Merchant's House.
This terrain makes things a little bit complicated
but the building stood just about here,
with its back, as it were, to the cliff in front of me.
Its site is now occupied by these ladies' lavatories.
I have a photograph of the building just before it was dismantled.
I'm standing now roughly here, almost at the door.
Incredible transformation, but what on earth was this building?
Was it related to the port just over there,
or since it had a vaulted ground floor,
I wonder if it was a fortification of some sort?
Perhaps related to the castle which is just there.
Maybe the building itself will hold some clues.
It's going to be reconstructed here,
at St Fagans Natural History Museum in Cardiff,
where buildings from across a nation have been preserved.
I'm meeting Gerallt Nash.
He was part of the original team
who dismantled the Haverfordwest house
and is now project manager of the rebuild.
Who are these guys taking the building down?
These were taken 30 years ago and they're still here,
-still working with us today.
-All of them?
So you're like the fab four rebuilding this building.
What can I say?
This is Ian, our head carpenter today.
This is Mike and Andrew, stonemasons and yours faithfully in the middle.
It's almost unique that that length of time has passed
and those guys are still here, still working on it.
That's wonderful, isn't it?
30 years on, those same three craftsmen are beginning work
on the reconstruction.
-So this is the team.
-This is the team.
I feel like I've met you all before.
Maybe slightly younger, slightly hairier.
-How are you?
What are you actually doing here?
These are the actual stones from the Haverfordwest house.
We've bagged them up in storage and they're ready to be taken down,
bag by bag and split open and used.
It's not that every stone goes back into exactly the same position?
No, it'll just be cornerstones, window stones, door stones.
So all of the edges go back?
All the arch stones will go in as arch stones
and it's building in between, just filling in.
Do you think the fact that you were there when it came down
is going to help you putting it back together,
or could anyone follow those instructions?
It helps immensely,
because there may be little quirks in the walls or the roof.
You get that in your memory and you'll be able to put it back.
I'll be interested to see where they all go
because it's quite a puzzle from where I'm standing.
But before the stonemasons can get to work,
an artificial cliff needs to be constructed.
In a secluded glade in the museum grounds,
a hillside is dug away and huge boulders lifted into position.
This is to replicate the location where the building
I have an idea of what the building will look like eventually.
This is a cut through the building, a section,
and it's got a vaulted ceiling, a floor structure.
You can see, the building is built up against this rockface.
So it's hard up against a cliff?
-That didn't put you off at all?
-No, no, no.
You're not just trying to rebuild a medieval building,
you had to make one
where you've got to rebuild a medieval environment?
-Medieval bit of landscape?
-Yes, we do. It's the whole package.
-You don't make things easy.
-No, we don't.
The exceptionally sturdy construction
of the mysterious cliffside building,
leads me to believe it could be a fortification
connected to Haverfordwest's castle.
The castle was built in the early 12th century by the Normans
during their conquest and settlement of South Wales.
This became a gateway into South Wales
with the town and the port growing around the mighty castle.
I'm meeting Simon Hancock, curator of the town's museum,
to if the Norman/English settlement of Haverfordwest
could offer some clue to the purpose of our 15th century building.
The Normans began with the settlement of Pembroke in 1093.
They removed the native population who were disbursed north.
It became known as Little England, this part of Wales.
William Camden, writing in the reign of Elizabeth I,
described Pembrokeshire as Anglia Transwalliana,
Little England beyond Wales and that name has always stuck.
It was absolutely a beacon of the power of the English kings
in South West Wales and it attracted enormous hostility.
It was a war zone. You were talking of a 150 year timespan.
The troubles continue into the 15th Century
and the town and castle, they were attacked by Owain Glyndwr
during his uprising in 1405.
That's correct, isn't it?
That's right. We know they took the town.
There was no Geneva Convention
so any civilians would've been either captured, enslaved
or put to the sword.
We know the castle withstood assault.
This is fascinating.
The town's destroyed 1405, our building was erected maybe 80 years later yet.
The memory of the destruction
and the centuries of destructive attacks on the town
before 1405, inspire, inform,
encourage the builders of our little house
to be very, very conscious of attack.
The psychology of defence would've been paramount.
It's now September, four months since building work began.
Stonemasons Mike and Andrew are completing the vertical base walls,
using traditional lime mortar to bind together the tonnes of stone.
Soon they'll face their greatest challenge,
the construction of the vault.
In a way, you've basically recreated a little corner of Haverfordwest
and this is the cliff face.
Because of the vaulted arch,
we need something substantial to hold it.
Are you excited about the next stage because this is, up till now,
a relatively traditional building.
You're about to get medieval, aren't you?
It'll get exciting when we come to the vault.
Because we don't build them often, it's going to be good.
That's the exciting bit.
That's exciting, what we look forward to.
For me, the biggest mystery about our little building is that vault.
A vault takes an awful lot of time, of labour, of materials,
basically expense to build.
Normally, you'd find them in the buildings of the great and the good,
in churches, castles, places like this.
This is the Bishop's Palace in Lamphey, near Haverfordwest.
Much of the palace dates to the 15th century, the same as our building.
It's fortified with high walls, battlements and gate houses.
This is for protection
but it's also a statement of power and status.
This is one of the Bishop's great halls, built in the 14th century
and if you just ignore the scale of it for a second,
there's something very familiar about it.
If you look, there's a staircase leading up to the first floor
where the living quarters are.
This is where the Bishop would hold court.
Down below, you have this magnificent vaulted chamber.
Look at this, isn't this incredible?
This is a barrel vault just like ours
and it's the most simple kind of vault that there is.
It's the kind of thing that the Egyptians used underground
for drainage and for tombs.
Actually, it took the ingenuity of the Romans
to really master the vault and start using it above ground.
That's because it's actually a lot harder to build a vault
then you might at first think.
The thing about a vault
is it's just a whole series of arches next to each other
and I'm going to try and make an arch out of some bricks
and show you the principles.
To start off with, you have to build your side walls.
It's very simple when you're building straight - sided walls
because gravity does a lot of the work for you,
it holds them in place as long as you don't get too tall.
Now, we want to start bringing an arch.
This is where we'll spring it from.
We're need to use either lots of different bits of stone
with wedges in between them, or we'll be using a brick.
We need to use cut brick.
Then, you can imagine, if you start stacking these up,
gravity is going to want to start pulling them in.
You need a former, something like this.
This is really the secret to all arch and vault buildings.
This is part of the reason why it's so much work,
because not only do you have to build a vault,
you have to build a former before you can build a vault or arch.
This former is going to take all of the load
until you finish the arch.
The former has to be incredibly strong and take tonnes
and tonnes of masonry on a full-size vault.
You've also got to make sure that they're going to meet.
Right, in a way, this is the most important brick,
because this is basically the keystone and in principle,
it should lock our arch.
The bit you've got to do now is the do or die bit.
You have to drop the former
and then transfer the load off the former into the arch.
In principle, it should stand up but I have a sneaking suspicion...
well, who knows. Let's give it a go.
OK, right, that's positive.
Don't say anything too soon.
Woo hoo! Hey hey!
That is how you build an arch.
You get a sense of how hard it is to make an arch
and that's just a little section of a vault.
It reinforces that question.
Why did they go to all the effort of making a miniature version
of a bishop's great hall on the quayside at Haverfordwest?
Vault building was also expensive.
The reason why can be seen back at the museum,
where Ian, the carpenter, is finishing the substantial formwork
they need for the reconstruction.
-Is that the last piece?
Ian has made six sturdy trusses
which have to be strong enough to support the massive weight
of the vault stonework.
The frame needs to be self-supporting,
sitting within the building's walls.
You've only gone halfway.
That's right. We found in medieval times, with vaulted arches,
there's a straight joint in the middle of the vault.
Some say it was an expansion joint, things like that. Total rubbish.
It was because the timber was expensive,
so they only made the formwork in sections.
We've done this halfway.
This is all wedged up in place.
The masons will do the stonework over it,
-when that's set, we'll drop it on the wedges.
-Knock out those wedges?
Knock the folding wedges out so it drops
and we'll move it over and wedge it back into place again.
It's quite amazing to think that 400 or 500 years ago,
they were making it exactly this shape.
-The same size, same shape.
-Slightly different timber.
My research is leading me to believe
that our sturdy vaulted structure
may have been some sort of fortified building.
But its design and location here,
right by the quayside at Haverfordwest,
have led many to think it was in fact a merchant's house.
Over there was Haverfordwest's medieval quay.
Incredible - some warehouses survive but from the 19th century
and indeed the quays and the port remained active
until the railways arrived in 1853 and it all went into decline.
Incredible, here I've got this rather tantalising photograph
taken about 1900 and from roughly where I'm standing now.
I can see a number of the warehouses in this photograph still survive.
This ramp and steps, that survived,
as does this warehouse at the top of the ramp now with green shutters.
Very striking. These large ships tied up to the quay.
Of course in middle ages, many ocean-going craft here
bringing in goods from all over Western Europe.
This is the oldest picture of the port I can find.
There's a 1748 engraving.
Although made 300 years after our building was constructed,
many of the medieval harbour buildings are still standing.
Large seagoing vessels crowd the port
and there are many substantial warehouses.
At high tide,
the river was navigable for ships up to 250 tons,
which arrived from London, Bristol, France and Spain.
With its vaulted ground floor which could be used for storage
and its proximity to the harbour,
our building could well have been a merchant's house.
Here on the coast of Tenby, 20 miles away from Haverfordwest,
is a famous merchant's house that dates from the late 15th century
and has been fully restored by the National Trust.
I've come to see if this building has anything in common with ours.
The first obvious difference
is that the ground floor isn't vaulted in masonry.
It's a big timber-beamed joist, a timber structure.
Here, an absolutely huge fireplace. Wonderful.
This presumably would've been a kitchen originally
and perhaps a shop,
because it was separate, here, this level, from the level above.
That staircase has been added quite recently.
Well, very different.
The first-floor living area, a great hall really.
Light, large scale and terrific details.
Look at this, for example.
Very ornamental mullioned window, beautifully carved,
light flooding in from three sides, a sense of space.
But, although different,
I have observed something here which is intriguing.
Look, below the corbel is a blocked doorway.
This would seem to be the door leading to the street.
This house was originally entered at first-floor level
like our humble building, with a staircase through this door
down to the street, the ground level there.
This house, unlike our building, has a third floor
and quite a room it is indeed.
A tremendous roof structure of a sort
that I have only seen in Pembrokeshire.
It creates a lovely interior, very light, very habitable,
it does really feel like the home of a rich, Tudor merchant.
The high status of merchants who lived in houses like this
in the late 15th century,
suggest very strongly that our humble building
was not a merchant's house.
Although, of course,
it could've been the home of a lower status trader
or perhaps it had a different function entirely.
With a supporting formwork now complete,
stonemasons Andrew and Mike have started work on the vault.
You have to lay it on on the flat edge. That would go...
-Just like a sandwich.
That's your facing edge underneath,
so when you come in from under the building,
that's what you'll see, just flat.
After you've got that first arch,
do you then have to backfill to get weight on top before the formwork comes out?
We've taken the arch up.
We get tonnes and tonnes of slate, knock it in, in every joint.
-To pre-stress it?
-Yes, that's right.
It really tightens it up
and with a bit of luck, we can take that formwork down.
-With a bit of luck!
-We need a bit of that now.
You saw it before it came down. Was it really well built?
Was the quality of the masonry on the arch?
-Was it well done?
-It was very, very well built.
We had a bit of trouble knocking it down, to be honest.
We were there for six weeks and every day we worked hard.
It's a huge amount of effort.
First of all, you almost make a timber building.
That's strong enough. You could build another floor on top.
Then, you go to all the effort of building the stonework
and then you take out the wood.
In a way, why didn't they just build a wooden floor?
All this work must have been for some reason.
I think it's done for security reasons.
Now we've begun work on the building,
it's become clear just what a simple structure it is
and this pile of stones tells a very interesting story.
It's called random rubble, it's what the building is built of,
but what's interesting about these stones,
is they've come from different sources.
It's all local to Haverfordwest but this one here, that's a river stone.
They've gone around the local area scavenging materials
wherever they could find them.
What's fascinating, is you've got to remember
this is the medieval period,
when stonemasonry is a really refined art form
and beautiful cathedrals are springing up all over the country.
It makes our building pretty low rent.
The few medieval buildings that survive in Haverfordwest
are all built of stone.
There's the castle, of course, and three churches.
The fact that the town
could afford to build and maintain three churches
reveals how wealthy it was in the Middle Ages.
A wealth that came from trade.
The stonework in St Mary's reveals just how skilful
medieval masons could be.
On this arcade that dates from the early 13th century,
is a wonderful examples of the work, the skill, the genius of masons.
This work is in contrast
to our rather rough and ready rubble masonry in our little building.
The oldest parts of the church are 12th century,
but many of the more elaborate and expensive features
were added around the time our building was constructed.
These include the clerestory windows and the wonderful oak roof.
What's fascinating is at the same time,
the second half of the 15th century,
other churches in the town were being embellished.
Clearly, there was a building boom underway,
and wealth was flooding into the town.
Does this boom offer a clue to the use of our building?
I'm hoping architectural historian Tom Lloyd may have an answer.
Hello. Nice to see you.
This is a wonderful church and I was wondering,
why was it embellished in such a wonderful way
in the late 15th century?
I presume it's because the town went up in status, something like that?
It did. Something incredibly important happened in 1479.
It received a charter from the Prince of Wales
who was Lord of Haverford.
That charter set this town on a course to prosperity
that carried it through for centuries.
The charter of 1479 established a Mayor, bailiffs, a sheriff,
24 councillors and that really meant,
apart from anything else, that it was free of feudal overlordship.
The place had self-government. The Mayor had his own pew.
You can see the new boss of Haverfordwest,
the feudal overlord had gone, the place had self determination
and of course, the Common Council, the bailiffs,
were the merchants of the town.
They were the heads of the trade guilds and it prospered.
By 1577, it was described as the best built
and most civil town in south Wales.
These people were free, they were rich
they'd got their independence and they were going to show it.
-New elite, new men for the new age.
It seems possible that the construction of our building
was connected to this enrichment of Haverfordwest's merchant elite
in the 15th century.
But, the medieval layout of the town again indicated
it wasn't one of their homes.
In front of us, the high street,
this was the heart of the merchant's town.
It got richer as you came up the hill, I suspect, to the high town.
The bottom would've been smelly and busy
and that's where the port was happening.
You wanted to get away from that.
Down there, Quay Street, that was the rough end, wasn't it?
Like all ports, rough and prosperous.
That seals it for me.
Our sturdy tower wasn't a merchant's house
but I still suspect it's somehow connected to their trade.
It's now five months into the build and stonemasons Mike and Andrew
have completed work on their vault.
I'm back visiting site on what promises to be a momentous day,
because today, the art of the stonemason
is really going to be put to the test.
We're going to remove the formwork,
the wooden support upon which the vault of the undercroft
has been built.
As of course, the big question is, will be vault stay standing
when the supports are removed?
-Hello guys. Look at this. It's a bit like a hedgehog, isn't it?
-Which side did you do, Mike?
-The best side. The good side.
The thing about it, neither side is going to work without the other,
so I hope they both work.
Have you stress tested it at all?
You've just done it for us.
It's actually a pretty thin structure.
I was very confident but I'm realising it's more delicate.
Are you confident? That's pretty thin.
You build the arch and you stand underneath it
when you take out the formwork.
That's right, it's called having faith in a fellow tradesmen.
Right, what's the plan then?
You take that side, I'll take this side.
-What are you two doing?
-We'll just watch in case it goes wrong.
-Right, just tap that back? Like that?
-Just tap it.
We'll get the boys in now and undo the props
and hopefully, it'll just drop.
Don't use the word "drop". Not the word "drop".
Are you ready then, gents?
Mine is a bit tight.
Mine is out.
Do you want to come out so it doesn't drop on your head?
Good idea, Charlie.
-That's still... right, now what do we do?
-Is it loose?
No, it's all the way down though.
When it comes out, what do I do when it comes out?
Don't do a thing.
-A good few inches there.
-That's a vault.
The foreman has done his job. Masons have done their job.
I don't think the mediaeval owner
would have gone to all the trouble of building a vault like that,
unless it was for protection.
Although I don't now believe
our building was connected to the castle,
it does remind me of fortified farms called bastles.
There's an example I'm looking at here,
it's remarkably similar.
Barrel-vaulted ground floor.
One room above.
Entrance only via a first-floor door.
In its scale and its status, humble, modest.
So, it's sort of uncanny, really, the similarity,
and a very good pointer
to what our building could have been.
as far as I know, these bastles,
these fortified farms, exist only in one place -
on the border of England and Scotland,
and not in Pembrokeshire.
500 years ago, in the lawless Scottish Borders,
marauding bands of raiders, known as reivers,
terrorised the countryside.
They stole and often murdered on a massive scale.
In response, wealthier families built bastles -
Their livestock could be secured in the vaulted chamber
while the family retreated to the first floor,
pulling the ladder up behind them.
I'm looking at the area of the English-Scottish border
and it shows a whole range of bastles.
They're shown as red triangles.
There's lots of them.
And then, as one goes south, they fall away.
Virtually no bastles.
But, here's Wales,
and, as you would imagine,
lots of fortifications of different types.
But seemingly no bastles,
except, much to my amazement,
one comes right to the south,
south-west into Pembrokeshire,
there are bastles,
and they're shown here as dark-blue inverted triangles,
around the region of Haverfordwest.
Indeed, could our building be one of these bastles?
Two of those South Pembrokeshire buildings described as bastles
are tucked away down this bumpy track at Carswell Farm,
and I'm fascinated to see
if they bear any resemblance to our building.
This is it, and, to be honest with you, it's quite extraordinary,
I mean, it's the same sort of size,
it's built with similar stone,
it's got a very similar pitch to the roof,
and first-floor access.
I mean, it's pretty uncanny, actually.
Yeah. There's a vault.
Look at that. I mean, almost identical to ours.
This is the first floor above the vault
and this is the original entrance here.
One entrance. Defendable.
There are windows, but they're sort of arrow-slit windows.
You know, they're defendable.
And, it seems to me,
given the fact that our building was only 15 miles from here,
that it must have been some kind of defendable structure,
some kind of bastle.
'I'm meeting Richard Suggett
'from the Royal Commission
'On The Ancient And Historical Monuments Of Wales,
'to discover what he knows about this ruin.'
-Hello, Richard, how are you?
-Thanks for coming down.
-Good to see you.
It's a wonderful little building, this, isn't it?
-Now, it's a defensible structure, isn't it?
-I'm right in thinking that.
-I think that's fair enough to say, yes.
And it's a bastle, right?
It's similar to a bastle.
A bastle is a kind of vertical longhouse,
with the cattle underneath and the people on top.
This is formally similar, but it's got a fireplace down below.
I think we have to think of it as a refuge
more than a permanent dwelling.
A place where you could take refuge in an emergency.
So it's a mediaeval panic room.
That's a really good way of looking at it.
What kind of emergency?
I mean, what is out there,
roaming these hills back in those days that you want to hide from?
-We are in the Englishry, so...
Which is the English-speaking part of Pembrokeshire.
Are we talking about tribes, or bands?
Groups of men coming from Mid and North Wales
to kind of see what they could get out of the Englishry?
We're talking about people only a few miles away to the North.
By the 16th century, it's pretty clear there wasn't aggression,
there was avoidance.
So, I think we have to think of another sort of threat.
All these little vaulted structures are located near the sea.
I think it's at least plausible
that the people who had these houses as refuges,
were anxious about pirates.
And there are some late-medieval references to piracy
in the Bristol Channel.
Now, we have a little building that came from Haverfordwest.
-You do, indeed.
-That's on a river. So, do you think -
because I'm beginning to wonder -
is our Haverfordwest building a defensible building?
Is a little bastle kind of structure?
Well, it certainly has defensive features.
It's formally, structurally similar, to this sort of building.
I don't like the sound of your tone of voice.
What is it, then?
Well, we do have a clue
in this drawing of Edward VI's Coronation procession.
-Where is this?
-This is the commercial heart of London
and you can see various shops and things here.
But moving along here you can see some buildings,
which are not unlike...
So, vaulted ground floor with half timbering, more decorative,
with a half-timbered building above.
-Sort of similar layout.
-A bit grander.
So, what do we think these buildings are?
Well, it's pretty certain that they were warehouses.
You have shops here,
So, your theory
would be that it's a secure lock-up.
Exactly. A secure lock-up.
Maybe it's not a romantic theory,
but it in fact explains the evidence there.
With its quayside location, it does make sense that our building
was some sort of mediaeval strongroom.
To discover if any of the goods
that were imported into Haverfordwest
could warrant such high security,
I've come to the town's record office.
Now, on the screen in front of me
is a copy of a document held in the National Archives in Kew.
It's a petition, dated 1327,
directed towards the King from a body of merchants in Haverfordwest.
They are complaining about having to pay duty more than once
on their goods,
because they got blown to the wrong port before arriving here.
But, the key thing is,
these chaps proclaim that they have brought wine many times.
Obviously, it's a big business bringing wine here from France,
and wine of very high value.
So, it occurs to me that our vaulted cellar, our little building,
was probably part of this industry,
the importation of wine into Wales through Haverfordwest.
Wine would have been stored in the vaulted ground floor,
would have been kept safe from thieves, from fire.
So, vaulted structure, made out of stone,
very good atmosphere for storing wine.
Some further delving in the town archives
has uncovered another record,
which I believe could be the crucial breakthrough in my investigation.
Now, this really is quite a discovery.
It's a manorial record of the Voyles,
who are very distinguished merchant family of Haverfordwest.
It's dated 1584 with clearly 20th-century reprint.
And, on this page,
you can see that they had a tenement.
It says, in Ship Street, the old name for Quay Street.
And next to this tenement, a property, owned by them,
described as "one cellar and a chamber."
Surely, that's our building.
One cellar, the vaulted ground floor with a chamber above.
What's fantastic, in my view,
is that it says "This building is in my own hands,
"valued at ten shillings yearly."
I take that to mean that they own the building.
It's not let. It's value if it were let is ten shillings a year.
But they have it in their own hands,
because they are letting someone live there.
So, presumably, John Martin is the retainer of the family,
a servant, living in the chamber above the cellar.
It's now spring
and stonemasons Andrew and Mike
have resumed work on the first-floor walls, following a winter hiatus.
They've also built some steps,
which probably weren't a feature of the original building,
but are necessary for public access.
'With the stonework shooting up,
'Ian the carpenter has begun pre-fabricating the roof.'
He is using modern machinery to cut everything to size,
but then a traditional adze to finish.
-So, what's the plan?
-Well, the plan is...
You're going to sit there and strap that to your leg.
And what does this do?
That's a bit of leather that's going to protect your thigh.
I like the, sort of, simple technology.
This is what they would have used, isn't it?
We try and keep things nice and easy.
I mean, this is commitment to the kind of restoration cause, isn't it?
The plan now is to adze this joist.
OK, so what do you do?
All you do...
just skin the top of the timber, nice and easy.
And all you've got to worry about is if the grain changes.
Then you just go from the opposite way.
Is the key to let the weight of the adze do the work?
You have the weight with a little bit of power on it,
and try not to dig it in too much.
-That's digging, isn't it? So, come round.
-Come round a bit.
-That's not as easy as it looks.
-It isn't, is it?
I thought I'd be...
You thought you would have had that finished by now, didn't you?
I thought I'd be, "I can do that!"
Another full day on it and you should be all right.
So, that's much better than that.
But, it is going to look amazing.
Oh, it will. It is a lovely finish, an adze.
It's going to look great.
By May, the walls are complete.
All the wood has been cut and the construction of the roof has began.
'The original roof had been replaced
'long before the building was dismantled.
'So, the reconstruction is based on a local medieval design.'
This is really old technology, isn't it?
Yeah. I mean, mortise and tenons have been around since the Roman times.
-Should we get on and get this up?
-Yep. Bring the collar over now, boys.
-You've got to put the whole thing together at once.
Let's start putting it in.
-Is it going to fit?
-Yeah, it's going to fit.
You've got to literally just tip it into place?
Just tip it into place, really, yeah.
One, two, three.
-How was that, Charlie?
-It's quite heavy, isn't it?
This is a really wonderful simple roof.
A beautiful piece of design
with nice attention to detail as well,
because it's very traditional.
This is a peg joint. There's two things that's brilliant about it.
One is that as the building dries, as these timbers dry,
it gets tighter and stronger.
And what's amazing,
is that the Romans used to use nails to hold their buildings together.
The problem with oak is that it's got this tannin in it,
which is what this black staining is
and it will eat through metal,
everything other, really, than stainless steel.
So, the Roman's buildings used to fall apart in a few decades,
but if you use a timber peg, this will stay up for hundreds of years.
Now, beyond that, there's this lovely bracket,
and this wonderful, sort of, curved shape.
Now, this is really unique. I've never seen this before.
And it's unique to Pembrokeshire.
Very beautiful because of the way it makes this curve
and brings the roof down onto the walls of the building.
And references the lovely stone vault below.
As our building at the Museum nears completion,
my investigations into its Haverfordwest origins
are also nearly concluded.
The Voyle family,
the rich merchants who seemed to have owned our building,
are recorded as having lived at number 15 the High Street.
It's thought that inside,
the family's great heraldic fireplace survives.
'But it's not been seen in living memory.
'So, I've met up again with Tom Lloyd
'to see if we can uncover it
'and find more clues about the strange little building
'they may have owned.'
So, shall we go and see if we can have a look. After you, go on.
The door's open.
'The house is now a shop with flats at the rear.
'In the 18th century, it was given a new facade.
'But, behind it, much of the medieval building survives.'
Well, that is quite a surprise.
What clearly appears to be a medieval vast window,
sort of like from a church.
I suppose it would have lit a double-height great hall.
Well, it must have done.
It gives you some indication
of how high the status of this house really was.
And we do have this reference to the Voyle family
who had stained glass in a big window in their house.
This is a reference to George Owen
who described the house in the 1570s.
He described the house as having the stained glass in the window
showing the arms of Morgan Voyle,
who was then the occupant of the house.
The Voyles were big players on a national level.
The Voyles were a very significant Pembrokeshire family.
Morgan Voyle was Sheriff and Mayor of Haverfordwest in the 1580s.
He was a proud and very rich man
and this window is astonishing evidence of it,
and we believe as well,
that he had some chimney pieces carved with heraldry on them too.
'The building's changed so much
'that no-one is quite sure where the fireplace is,
'or if it has survived at all.
'But Tom has his suspicions.'
Ian's the agent for the owner of the property,
whose very kindly let us come in here to do our worst.
Now, here's the wall.
Now, is behind this wall that we think,
this hollow wall, we think the chimneypiece is.
And were basing that on this plan we have here
from the Royal Commission Of Ancient Monuments
done some while ago,
which shows the chimney piece here.
We're in this room now.
OK, so it's in the centre of this wall. That's good to know.
And we know from old photographs what we're looking for.
This large chimneypiece with this heraldic mantle,
which I would think is about five-foot high.
You have to find the middle. So, four and a half feet.
One, two, three, four and a half there.
That's about the middle as I can work out.
You should have your finger on the Royal Arms Of England, there.
And no-one in living memory has seen it.
It's a bit like Tutankhamen's tomb, isn't it? One of the great...
But more exciting!
Treasures of Haverfordwest is perhaps a few inches away
and yet no-one has ever seen it.
We will see wonderful things.
'We decide to first cut a peephole
'to see if the fireplace really is behind this wall.'
By God, it is. By God, it is.
And it is the Royal Coat Of Arms, just where we thought it was.
Exact height. You've got it perfectly.
Isn't this fantastic?
-Something of astonishing architectural and artistic importance.
Absolutely amazing. And it is just bizarre, look at it.
It's so unexpected in this very simple room.
But the thing now, of course, is if we can reveal more,
then we can start decoding the heraldry.
And get the connections back to the Voyles, if possible,
and to our little building if possible.
And confirm this really is created by the people
who made our little structure.
-It's front-page news.
Now the position of the fireplace is known,
the builders can use power tools
to quickly cut away the remainder of the wall.
Well, Tom, here it is.
It's quite as good, or better, than we expected, in a way.
I love the fact that it has lime wash.
Amazing. I'm astonished to see paintwork, still.
I think I can see a bit of red there.
I mean, it's absolutely extraordinary.
What does the heraldry tell us, in terms of dates and meaning?
This appears to be a religious symbolic coat.
I think we have knots - knotted ropes and initials.
Now, that was going to suggest the flail, which Jesus was beaten with.
It has to be, presumably, before 1530s.
-So this is Catholic imagery?
-It would appear so.
Oh, Lord above! Well, this is so incredibly moving.
Also we've captured the moment just before the Protestant reformation.
This is still a Catholic family with Catholic imagery.
And then we have the Royal Arms, of course, here.
As always, at this date
with the French quartering before the English quartering.
So the owner of this chimneypiece
is proclaiming his allegiance to the Royal Family, the King,
and the Catholic Church.
Very important to the status of this chimneypiece.
OK, and that's Henry VIII just before the Reformation,
when he's still a Catholic monarch.
Then we have this coat, which is very distinctive Pembrokeshire coat,
which belonged to the Owens of Henllys,
but very important here in this town.
It seems that what the owner of this house is doing
is using the arms, putting up the arms of important people,
both nationally and locally, to claim allegiance
or respect towards them.
It is amazing. These stones really do speak, don't they?
They absolutely do.
You know, we are witnesses to the most exciting discovery.
Who would have thought that such a modest, modern looking room
could contain this early Tudor wonder.
This is a beautiful thing.
It's a window into a forgotten world.
It tells us so much about Haverfordwest and about our family,
the Voyles, that built, we think, our humble structure.
And a family who created a lavish fireplace like this
are certainly one who would require a secure vault
to protect their goods.
It's been over a year since the start of this build,
and part of the reason that it's taken that long
is because of the incredible attention to detail
and authenticity that the team have gone through
to build it in the right way for the period.
But at last they are on the home stretch,
so I've come up to give them a hand
with some of those finishing touches.
Hello, mate. How are you? Are you all right?
-Oh, these are lovely slates.
-Yeah, tidy slate. They're very good.
-Where are they from, then?
They're from Pembrokeshire.
-So, they didn't come off the building?
When we took the building down it hardly had any,
so we've got some tiles from a farm in Pembrokeshire.
'The hundreds of slates need to be sorted by size,
'but first, most of them need to be reshaped.'
-There you go.
-That's your ten-inch tile.
-So, could I have a go?
-Make sure you've got it firmly on there.
I don't want to break it. You told me I'm going to be charged.
There we go. Look at that.
-So you get this lovely sort of riven edge.
So, this is what we're trying to do, is it?
-Yeah. That's the finish. One side finished.
That's absolutely wonderful. I love it with this diminishing coursing.
Started off with 16s, finishing off with sevens at the top.
-So, what are we doing?
-We're going to hang some tiles now.
So this is literally just hung?
Yes. Pegged and hung.
But I thought they were supposed to be done with wooden pegs.
Well, they were, years ago,
but we're using aluminium
because the wooden ones would just rot, split,
and after 10, 15 years,
they'd all start slipping and falling off the roof.
-And so just pop that through?
-Peg it and hang it.
The further up the roof you go,
the tighter they actually become, you know?
-So it's the weight.
-Yeah, the weight of tiles on top of them.
That's not going anywhere, is it?
And it's amazing how much coverage you're getting, isn't it?
You end up with almost three layers of slate, don't you?
-It must be very heavy.
And I suppose that's exactly why they're such big trusses
in a little roof like this.
The building is also being painted with traditional lime wash,
just as it would have been 500 years ago.
Five weeks later, all major construction work is complete.
The house can now be furnished
and the fire can be lit.
'Dan and I have returned to see it in all its glory.'
Well, it's very sculptural, isn't it? Abstract, simple.
It's very sculptural, it's also in the most beautiful setting
with this wonderful mature woodland around it.
Originally it stood on the town quay in the bad part of town.
It's rather odd, now, for me to see it, you know,
uprooted and planted in the countryside.
From the armpit of Haverfordwest to here.
What a wonderful... Well, I say barrel vault,
it's actually slightly pointed, isn't it?
-It's a very nicely-shaped arch, this.
-Of the period.
Of the 16th century. So, incredibly strong, wonderfully well built.
Security for one's goods, one's wine or brandy, whatever it might be.
Security from fire.
It's a wonderful little portrait, isn't it, of Tudor Britain?
The new merchant class, the new men.
Their wealth is in goods and trade.
The nobles had their, you know, castles,
their fortified manors, their armies to guard their possessions.
These merchants, what do they have?
They have warehouses like this,
secure warehouses and a storekeep above.
And this is the upstairs. Look at that. Isn't it lovely?
I must say, didn't expect it to be furnished in mid-16th century style.
Obviously, it's been dressed to be evocative of the period.
It's not totally finished.
There's a few little bits to finish, like a bed platform up here.
The toilet, the long-drop,
A bit of privacy. Exactly.
And then the underside of the lovely, beautiful slate,
will be plastered.
It's wonderful being in this space,
cos you know the Voyles, for example,
the family owned a building like this,
perhaps even this one.
We also know from the documents that they didn't let it out,
but they had one of their men living in it
to guard their property.
There was no police force at that time.
It's down to them, isn't it,
to fight off the robbers.
So they put their ladder down,
they'd go downstairs or they'd just look through the window...
-A hue and cry!
-Just shout your head off.
-Human burglar alarm.
That's basically what all of this is for - a human burglar alarm.
'To celebrate the completion of the reconstruction,
'the head of the museum, Bethan Lewis,
'has brought her team together
'to perform an ancient building ceremony.'
I would like to take this opportunity
to thank you all for coming
and also to pay a big tribute
to our historic buildings unit,
who have been instrumental
in recreating the building that we've got behind us.
So, a big round of applause to them.
In order to ensure that there are no evil spirits
going to invade our new house,
we've got an opportunity now to do a topping-out ceremony
and Geraltt Nash, our buildings curator,
will take a piece of yew tree to do the topping-out ceremony.
So, good health. Yeh-chid dah. Thank you.
-Well done, mate. Looking lovely. Are you pleased with it?
Genuinely, I think the building is beautiful.
I think you've done a really fantastic job. Thank you very much.
Thanks for putting up with me and my cack-handed attempts to help you.
Been a pleasure.
Well done. Thank you very much. Cheers, guys. Cheers, boys.
Thanks very much.
Who'd have thought such a humble building
could embody so much history.
These rough stone walls
speak of a remarkable transition in British society,
our emergence from medieval feudalism
and the ascent of the new rich merchant class.
Men of great ambition,
who sailed across the oceans to open the New World
and who laid the foundation of the modern age.
While the men that carefully demolished this building 30 years ago
may have aged somewhat,
it is through their determination and craft
that this building has really been rejuvenated,
eradicating centuries of neglect,
and I think, from the beautiful vault
to that wonderful slate roof,
the result is quite stunning.
And, for me, it teaches a very important lesson,
that it is through the humble and everyday buildings
that you truly get an insight
into the way that the majority of our ancestors would have lived.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Dan Cruickshank and Charlie Luxton uncover the incredible hidden stories behind historic buildings as they are dismantled brick by brick, and meticulously resurrected in new locations.
Every year thousands of ordinary buildings are demolished, smashed down to make way for the new, but some are so special they are snatched from the bulldozers and carefully dismantled. When a new home can be found for them, they are lovingly and painstakingly rebuilt. These are not grand buildings, but everyday buildings that give an extraordinary insight into the lives of the people who lived and worked in them. Deep within their fabric are preserved astonishing stories about how we lived and worked.
Architectural designer Charlie Luxton explores how these vast and hugely complex jigsaw puzzles are pieced back together, trying his hand at the array of ancient crafts required. Meanwhile, architectural historian Dan Cruickshank investigates the building's history, proving that even seemingly humble buildings have incredible stories to tell.
A mysterious medieval building on the quayside at Haverfordwest was dismantled 30 years ago by a team of young apprentices. Charlie helps those same men reconstruct the seemingly fortified vaulted house at the Welsh National History Museum. Dan sets out to discover what the building actually was and uncovers stories of wealthy merchants, pirates and the English invasion of South Wales.