The date of construction of the former Red Lion hotel (now the Relais Henley) has been confirmed as 1462, the year after the Chantry House, making it one of the oldest buildings in the town.
During the renovation of the hotel, new Relais Henley owner, Grace Leo commissioned a survey to date the building using dendrochronological dating (an assessment of the wood used in the building). The survey was undertaken by Daniel Miles of the Oxford Dendrochronology Lab, with the support of Nicholas de Klerk of Translation Architecture, Drew Vince of Pillar Consulting and heritage consultant Dr Kathryn Davies.
All the timbers sampled were of oak. Those timbers which looked most suitable for dendrochronological purposes with complete sapwood or reasonably long ring sequences were selected.
The dry samples were sanded and were cleaned with compressed air to allow the ring boundaries to be clearly distinguished. They were then measured under a microscope using a travelling stage electronically displaying displacement to a precision of 0.01mm. Thus, each ring or year is represented by its measurement which is arranged as a series of ring-width indices within a data set. The principle behind tree-ring dating is a simple one: the seasonal variations in climate-induced growth as reflected in the varying width of a series of measured annual rings is compared with other, previously dated ring sequences to allow precise dates to be ascribed to each ring.
Ten timbers from the west wing first floor and roof area were cross-matched with one of the timbers consistently cross-matching with the Chantry House data which backs on to the hotel and is dated 1461. The photo above is of room 101 – the bedroom nearest to St Mary’s Church where the sample of the timber that matched the closest to the Chantry House was taken from.
Grace commented, “I was thrilled by the outcome of this forensic verification of the timber, confirming that the Hotel was built at the same time as the Chantry House to accommodate the workers who were building St. Mary’s Church.”