Scientists discover historic building could be oldest surviving timber building in Wakefield

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An historic building in Wakefield could be the oldest timber building in the city – after clues to its past were uncovered during restoration work.

6-8 Silver Street, off Westgate, is being restored as part of the High Street Heritage Action Zone scheme by Wakefield Council and Historic England.

During the work, cement render was removed, and the original timber frame was revealed, along with carved posts usually associated with a high-status house.

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Scientists are now analysing the timber and building experts from Historic England are looking at the building in detail as it is thought that it may date back far earlier than originally thought - possibly to the 1500s.

Council leader Coun Denise Jeffery in front of 6-8 Silver Street, Wakefield, which scientists think could be the oldest timber framed in the city.Council leader Coun Denise Jeffery in front of 6-8 Silver Street, Wakefield, which scientists think could be the oldest timber framed in the city.
Council leader Coun Denise Jeffery in front of 6-8 Silver Street, Wakefield, which scientists think could be the oldest timber framed in the city.

The discovery could potentially shed new light on the development of early timber framed buildings within the city and regionally.

The project is part of the £3.8m High Street Heritage Action Zone restoration initiative; a collaboration between Wakefield Council and Historic England offering grants to owners of historic buildings along the high street to repair and revitalise their buildings. Works have started at a further 15 properties and the scheme has seen improvements made to four of the historic yards leading off Westgate.

Coun Denise Jeffery, Leader of Wakefield Council, said: “This is such an exciting discovery that has come about thanks to the work that we’re doing to preserve and protect these buildings for future generations.

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"Scientific investigations are under way to date the timbers, and we await the experts’ verdict, but it is possible this fantastic project has revealed the oldest surviving timber building in our city.”

The building in Silver Street, Wakefield, prior to its restoration work. (Image: Dave Dunford)The building in Silver Street, Wakefield, prior to its restoration work. (Image: Dave Dunford)
The building in Silver Street, Wakefield, prior to its restoration work. (Image: Dave Dunford)

Richard Butterfield, of Historic England, added: “It’s fantastic that work to restore the heritage of Westgate High Street has uncovered such an intriguing find. This building is a physical link through time to our past, in an area which is rich in history and significance for local people.

“The aim of the High Streets Heritage Action Zone is to help unlock the potential in Wakefield town centre through repair and improvement work, making it more attractive to residents, businesses, tourists and investors. It is helping to ensure that future generations can continue to benefit from everything that our historic places have to offer.”