I live in an old house - that, I knew - English Heritage list it as being built in the second half of the 17th century. I had also assumed that the oak beams that make up the frame for the house were salvaged from some other buildings that were dismantled. They are full of auger hols, notches, grooves and other marks that essentially have nothing to do with the house.
I found out today that that assumption is correct and, surprisingly for me at least, some of the beams are much older. I had a visit from a buildings historian who has done a lot of research into buildings in this part of the country and within five minutes of coming in he spotted beams that he could tell pre-dated the accepted construction date for the house.
In the rather poor picture below of a beam in the house you can just about make out diagonal saw marks in the wood. In the top half of the pic the marks go diagonally top left to bottom right and in the lower half of the pic the go diagonally bottom left to top right leaving a flat triangular piece in the centre-left.
This pattern is a classic illustration of the result of wood that was trestle-sawn whereby the carpenter would place the beam on trestles and cut through half of it, then spin the beam round and cut through the other half. This method of sawing timber is very old and ceased in this area before about 1530-40 after when beams were cut using a pit-sawn method.
Where the beams were re-used from is impossible to determine. It's unlikely they came from a dismantled barn or agricultural building as they would generally have been used until they rotted and collapsed. More likely is that they came from another house that was dismantled. The most romantic notion is that they originated in the castle on the hill behind the village that was deliberately slighted in the Civil War which coincidentally fits well with the accepted construction date for the house... who knows? Anyone got a time machine I can borrow?