Art and Design

Carpenters’ Geometry

Carpentry to make buildings was one of the great arts of Wales in the Middle Ages. We don’t know the names of the carpenters but we know they were very skilled. They needed to understand geometry so that they could set out timber to make walls, floors and roofs.

The carpenter who built a house called Old Impton in Powys in 1542 decorated the porch to show his knowledge of his trade. These drawings record what he carved. He showed-off his ability in geometry with stars and curves that all fitted together perfectly. He included his woodworking tools. Near the bottom you can see his equipment for geometry – compasses for drawing arcs and circles and a set-square for making right-angles.