Breaking New Ground

Reconnecting People with The Brecks

In the Frame


More than fifty enthusiasts braved the cold but bright weather at West Stow on 13th December for the third Brecks Building Skills day.
They heard Rick Lewis from Traditional Oak Carpentry speak on new-build construction using green oak timber-framing and repair strategies for existing historic buildings. Rick (right) also brought along some sample timbers he’d removed from buildings he’d repaired. To the untrained eye these might appear rotted through and unusable. However he showed that in many cases they largely kept their core strength and could be retained within the structure. In this way property owners could preserve far more of the historic fabric of a building than they might think.
Volunteers from Orchard Barn, who co-ordinated the day, also led participants through the process of selecting suitable trees, converting them for timberframing use - by hewing in the time-honoured way (left) - and making pegs to secure the timbers together. They were lucky enough to be able to use a number of oaks that were encroaching on the SSSI at the Anglo Saxon site and earmarked for removal. These trees thus started a second life, as part of the construction of the new noticeboard for West Stow. Fittingly the finale to the day was the raising of its timber-frame into position.
Overall, the emphasis was on spreading awareness of the techniques available to help preserve the building heritage of the Brecks (and beyond). The approach was as applicable to the repair of modest dwellings as to the more celebrated historic buildings. Indeed 22 of the participants said they intended to use such techniques in a project of their own – one commented that the day had “given us inspiration & workable ideas to do repairs at home” Further one-day events at the site (in January, March and April) will focus on coppicing and cleaving timber for wattle frames and shingle tiles, the use of traditional renders, and the role of earth and clay lump as building materials.