Dendrochronolgical analysis of single oak timber, a second floor joist, from St Nicholas Church Tower in Anstruther, was recently undertaken on behalf of the Anstruther Improvements Association. The analysis was successful in providing both a date and a provenance for the timber: the date-span of the sample was AD 1397-1507 and a southern Scandinavian source was indicated for the timber, most probably from Southern Norway. The final ring was at the bark edge and had both spring and summer wood present, so the tree was felled somewhere between late summer of AD 1507 and before the spring of AD 1508, and was probably squared at source.
There was a thriving Norwegian timber export trade, especially to the Scottish east coast ports, in the late medieval period. The transportation time need not be long, with the Norwegian coast only a few days sail away, and with the old Anstruther harbour immediately adjacent to the church, as can be seen in the photo. There is no evidence of timber re-use and the result indicates a construction date in or not long after AD1508.
St Nicholas Tower is part of a complex of historic buildings, standing on an even earlier church site, being conserved and put to excellent community use thanks to the hard work of the Anstruther Improvements Assciation. More information about the AIA’s activities and events can be found here