St Brannock’s Church, Braunton

Surveying the timber frameSurveying the timber frameOne of Wessex Archaeology’s most unusual projects was to create a 3D model of the earliest timber-framed church spire in Britain.
 
Our archaeologists Bob Davis and David Warburton spent seven weeks surveying the Grade 1 Listed spire at St Brannock’s Church in Braunton near Barnstaple in Devon.
 
St Brannock's ChurchSt Brannock's ChurchParts of the original structure date back to the 13th century, and some of the timber has deteriorated and needs repair. This includes work on the base of the spire, which has become distorted over the centuries.
 
Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by Braunton Parochial Church Council to survey the octagonal spire and create a computer model which would help decide how to carry out repairs.
 
Our team used a special Electronic Distance Measurer, which uses infrared beams to measure distances accurately, and our photographer, Elaine Wakefield, took almost a thousand photographs. From the results, our staff at head office created a computer image in three dimensions which architects can use. Work has now started on repairing the spire and should be completed in early 2003.
 
Our staff also carried out a survey of documents about St Brannock’s church dating from 1554 to 1921, including extensive records of money spent on the spire. Though the present church dates to the 13th century, St Brannock lived around 500AD, so there may have been an earlier building on the site.