Long nails dating
One nail at a time was heated and laboriously pounded out to shape with a hammer on an anvil.
Nails were fairly valuable, and ruined buildings were often burned and nails were scavenged from the ashes to reuse.
As Churchill noted, “To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often.” The ancient Egyptians and Romans used organic glue for wood furniture, especially with decorative veneer techniques, but like much advanced technology, glue for wood became a lost art after the collapse of Rome in 476 until the Renaissance, around 1400, when glue and veneer techniques reappeared.
During the Middle Ages, furniture was held together with pegs, dovetails, mortise and tenon joints and a few nails.
Quiet, peaceful and tranquil – as the Abbey is on so many lovely occasions nowadays – it most certainly was not.
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It is impossible to say exactly when they date from but they were holding together two pieces of oak which are almost certainly Tudor, and date from the time of the construction of Richard Cotton’s grand new house in the 1560s.
The nails could be from later work on the same wood, but it is not unreasonable to assume that they date from then.
The name refers to the price of nails in England in the 1600's: the price of 100 nails for one penny gave the size: 100 4d (4 penny) nails cost 4 English pennies or pence.
Looking at a large timber-framed house one thinks of joiners, of course, but not necessarily of smiths, but during the periods of major construction at the Abbey – in the Twelfth century when the Abbey was first built, during the secular rebuilding in the mid-Sixteenth, and when the house was gothicised in the early Nineteenth – there would have been a broad range of crafts and trades on site.