Timber scaffold

In the Regency, there was no tubular metal scaffolding of the type we now commonly see used on building sites. Instead, the bricklayers' scaffold was constructed of various seasoned and unseasoned wooden poles of mixed lengths, each of which was lashed together with rope made of hemp or jute fibre. The differently sized poles used in the construction of scaffold were referred to as ‘standards', ‘ledgers' and ‘putlogs', names that have passed down into common usage to describe the different lengths of metal tube used in the construction of scaffold today.

Standards were upright poles of 30 to 50 feet in length, to which the shorter ledgers were lashed, horizontally, to span the length of the building. These types of pole were cut from timber such as Baltic pine and yellow fir, the bark of which was frequently removed before use.

Regency Scaffold

Above: Diagram of Regency scaffold.

Putlogs, which were often made from pieces of birch split into three or four inch square sections, and cut to lengths of five or six feet, were then laid across the ledgers to support the scaffold boards. These boards were made of yellow deal or spruce, cut to lengths of eight to twelve feet.

This potentially unstable assembly could be made more secure by driving wooden wedges between the timbers and their lashings. As an extra precaution, it was common practice for one end of the crosswise timbers, known as putlogs, to be bonded into the wall itself, as the wall was being built up. The evidence of this can still be seen today; when older buildings have their render stripped off for repairs, the housing for the putlogs, or ‘putlog holes’, are often still visible in the underlying masonry and serve as a reminder of these early scaffolding techniques.

Practically the only tool used by the scaffolder was his hatchet. This had a hammer head for driving in the wooden wedges to tighten the frame, and a wooden handle which was used as a lever to tighten knots and lashings in the rope.

The same basic materials used in the construction of scaffold were also employed to make cranes, and other lifting apparatus such as the ‘windlass’ that were extensively used on the Regency building site. The carpenter’s apprentice would make ladders for the scaffold, as well as hods, wheelbarrows, dogs, benches and other basic items of plant, mostly from rough timber planks and poles.