Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory - Virginia


Ware Church

Ware Church, Gloucester , VA (38.043977, -77.347307)

Felling Dates: Winter 1717/18 and Winter 1718/19

Summer beams 1718(C2); Principal rafters (4/5) 1717(C4); Purlins 1717(C3).

Site Master 1501-1718 WRE (t = 5.6 SOTx45; 4.0 PA013; 3.9 EYREHALL; 3.5 VA023).

Standing a few miles east of Gloucester Courthouse, Ware Church is one of the largest parish churches erected in colonial Virginia. Measuring 40 feet in width by 80 feet in length, the plan of this brick building originally consisted of a double aisle with a central entrance on the west gable and chancel doors on both the eastern end of the south and north walls, an unusual arrangement for a Virginia church where there was generally only a single chancel door. The interior was completely gutted in the nineteenth century and reworked again in the twentieth century so that no original fabric except a small west gallery survives from the colonial period. Fortunately a principal rafter roof remains intact. The roof is unusual for the fact that it is not a true king post truss, but instead relies on long angled struts (shorter ones are typical of principal rafter roofs with great spans) and a central post that rises between tie beam and collar to simulate a king-post arrangement. This is the earliest known attempt in Virginia to transition from a conventional principal rafter system to king-post-like framing. The architectural significance of Ware Church is its transitional brickwork. The building has traditionally been assumed to date somewhere between the 1690s and the 1720s; its provisional tree-ring date of 1718/19 makes it one of the earliest surviving examples of the “neat and plain” style of brickwork characteristic of building practices from the 1710s through the end of the colonial period. Laid in Flemish bond with glazed headers above and below a beveled water table, the exterior also features gauged-and-rubbed work around compass-headed windows and pedimented frontispieces at the chancel entrances on both the north and south walls. However, the primary entrance on the west façade is not pedimented and is instead enframed by a compass-headed opening of gauged-and-rubbed bricks that extend out at the spring of the arch to form a slightly projecting hood of molded bricks. This treatment is not found in later Virginia churches, the most elaborate of which have segmental pedimented frontispieces.

Miles, D W H and Worthington, M J, 2006 ‘The Tree-Ring Dating of Ware Church, Gloucester County, Virginia’, unpubl ODL archive report 2006/56

Link to the wedpage for this building here




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Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory

Michael Worthington
Jane Seiter, Ph.D

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Baltimore, MD 21230