Today we share our top 5 beautiful heritage oak buildings, examples of historical creativity and ingenuity that continue to inspire us. One of the greatest strengths of oak is its ability to withstand ageing and the elements for hundreds of years.
Due to this, many examples of its use in construction from ages past still stand as testament to their creators’ skill. Historic building and woodworking techniques still in use today can be seen in their structure and design.
Many were built to honour great rulers or political figures and incorporate unique decorative elements and flourishes. Their builders would have known these would remain hundreds of years later to educate and entertain. As such, they form a kind of living history that connects us to the past, its people and events.
1. Little Moreton Hall – Cheshire
Located 4.5 miles outside Congleton, Cheshire, this half timbered manor house stands on its own island surrounded by a 33 foot moat. Its three asymmetrical ranges surrounding a large cobbled courtyard give it a unique irregular shape.
With its three stories of increasing size, it resembles an intricately decorated ship rising from the water. Although a hall has stood on the site since 1271, the current building dates from the early 16th century.
It is a classic example of Cheshire houses of its period, with a heavy oak frame surmounting sandstone footings due to the marshy land it is built on. The Long Gallery running the length of the upper floor is completely timber panelled with exposed 16th century oak trusses.
The weight of the glazing and gritstone roofing slabs has caused the beams of the lower stories to buckle and bow, enhancing its unusual appearance. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/little-moreton-hall
2. The Lord Leycester Hospital – Warwick
Acquired in 1571 by Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, this was founded as a retirement home for aged and disabled soldiers and their wives. The former guild buildings on the site were granted under charter from Elizabeth I, a friend to Robert from childhood.
A Master and twelve Brethren, all former soldiers, were appointed and given homes within the hospital (a place of refuge and support rather than a modern medical hospital).
This was in thanks for their service to the crown and a master and eight Brethren still live within the hospital today. In 1617, King James I was entertained here during his visit to Warwick with a three day feast.
The bill for this event left the town in debt for ten years afterwards. The brethren still conduct tours of the grounds and Guildhall which houses military artefacts from as far back as the 1600s. the courtyard is surrounded on all sides by breathtaking examples of oak architecture from several periods of its long history.
3. Borgund Stave Church – Norway
Originally the parish church of the Laerdal Municipality of Vestland county, Norway, this is the largest and most impressive of the 28 remaining Norwegian stave churches.
Originally constructed around 1200, it is now a museum run by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments. Built entirely from pine and oak on a stone foundation, no nails or metal fittings were used in its construction.
Its walls are formed from interlocking tongue and grooved wooden staves, an amazing example of ancient Scandinavian woodworking. The exterior still bears its original carvings, featuring vines and fruits, runic inscriptions and four dragon heads reminiscent of the prows of Viking longships.
Inside, the roof is supporting by large scissor trusses that unusually incorporate a bottom span and smaller crossed beams in the lower triangle of the scissor. http://www.stavechurch.com/borgund-stave-churc/?lang=en
4. Tudor House Museum – Southampton
Considered to be the most important historic building in Southampton, even today this is one of the most visually impressive buildings in the city. Its oldest section, known as King John’s Palace, dates back to the 1180s, although it is unlikely he ever visited.
It is considered to be one of the finest remaining examples of Norman domestic architecture in the United Kingdom. In the early 1500s, Sir John Dawtrey, MP and sheriff, built the main body of the house, incorporating the existing 15th century banqueting hall.
This can still be seen in the museum, along with many original doors, carved spandrels and stone fireplaces. Between 1570 and 1620, Tudor House was owned by ship owners and was used as lodgings for sailors in their employ.
During renovations in 2007, graffiti depicting ships and exotic animals was discovered dating to this period. The museum is an impressive example of tudor half timbered architecture and still features a 16th century barrel vaulted ceiling and mouldings. https://tudorhouseandgarden.com/
5. The Shambles – York
Said to be one of the most photographed streets in the world, this is the most complete example of a medieval shopping street in Europe. While a collection rather than one building, it would be impossible to highlight one from the organic whole.
While the original shopfronts are long gone, the oak frames and overhanging upper stories typical of the period remain. The name comes from an old term for a meat market, derived from the name for the benches and stalls used by butchers.
While increasing the footprint of the building in a cramped inner city, the overhangs also served a practical purpose. Firstly they offered protection to the tradesmen, who would ply their wares on the open street.
Additionally they provided shade from the sun for the meat hanging outside the shops, preventing rapid spoiling. Originally a runnel ran down the centre of the street and blood and offal would be thrown into this to be flushed away.
Thankfully this is no longer the case and only the picturesque oak framed street remains. https://www.shamblesyork.com/
If these examples have inspired you to attempt your own project, however great or small, contact us. As suppliers of wholesale European Oak and bespoke oak frames we are sure to be able to help. Our friendly staff will be pleased to speak to you and offer any assistance you need.
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