A TIMBER FRAME BARN HOUSE
The previous owner had gained planning permission to build a single storey link and an oak framed barn house to comprise the main living accommodation.
Entrance onto David's site with thatched dovecote
The 3D model from Julian's frame design
David decided that he was not completely happy with the design of the oak frame, so after looking at a number of companies he chose to work with Oakwrights to enhance his design. Julian Pilkington has worked with David over the last two years to enhance the design and gain the best looking oak frame possible.
One of the interesting things about the plot is that the dovecote has had a Lilliput Lane model made of it. David has managed to gain a number of the models of the dovecote and gave one to me to take pictures of sitting on the oak frame.
When we say that we make a three dimensional model, we mean a three dimensional model!
THE BARN HOUSE
I also sat the model on one of our plans showing where the link connected to the dovecote and then led onto the oak barn house.
We arrived on site on Monday 24th May on what turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year. The site had very little space on the road frontage so we had a bit of a juggling act getting the crane in and then unloading 1,200 ft of oak frame ready for erection. Once all the oak was unloaded, which took until about lunchtime, we were ready to go. Matt Hurton, the team foreman, and Julian, the frame designer, gave us all a detailed briefing of how they wanted the frame erection sequence to go.
Matt and Julian briefing the troops before battle commences
Julian, a happy oak frame designer standing inside his creation
I really love big barn frames and I think they look beautiful standing as a skeleton waiting for all the enclosure system to be applied. An oak frame, when well thought out, is almost a piece of artwork in the grandeur created by a simple yet majestic structure.
As part of David’s business he has a mast photography rig which he kindly used to take pictures of the whole process of erecting his frame. Getting that bird’s eye perspective really brings the frame erection process to life. It is always difficult to get good pictures of the frame with the scaffolding surrounding it that we need to work from.
The principal oak frame standing in all its glory
ERECTING THE OAK STRUCTURE
At the end of day three we had all of the principal oak structure erected and just the link and the rafters to go.
They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and this certainly applies to an oak frame erection team. David and Chloe looked after us in magnificent style. We would arrive on site at 7.30am to be greeted by coffee and tea with biscuits and muffins. At 10am David or Chloe would bring out trays of bacon, sausages, fried eggs and fresh bread rolls. I find with an early start you are not really hungry but by 10am we were ravenous. Then to top it all David would cook us lunch each day with lasagne, baked potatoes, chilli con carne and pasta bakes. We had a fridge freezer in our eating gazebo with chilled drinks and chocolate hobnobs. By the time we finished work at 8pm we didn’t really need much of an evening meal.
10am and breakfast time again. It's a tough life on site
The Oakwrights team from left; Ollie (site carpenter) Joe (trainee designer) Stuart (site carpenter) Paul (Southern Cranes driver) Matt (site foreman)
Erecting a 1200ft3 oak frame in four days is quite a task that relies on good design, accurate production of the oak and a team on site who work well together led by a Foreman who will only accept the best. We tend to work with the same crane driver so often that he now even has his own Oakwrights polo shirt. Paul has become almost as enthusiastic as the Oakwrights team about oak frames, and when not lifting is always happy to hop off the crane and give a hand.
At the end of the third day we had actually got most of the rafters on the principal frame, leaving the Thursday to spend carrying out all of the snagging and the final bit of frame erection. Here I am sitting on the first floor with the sling brace trusses running away from me. Yet again the great sense of satisfaction knowing that we have created a home that will last for at least three or four hundred years and only look better as time goes on.
Tim taking a moments rest at the end of another hard day
David & Chloe nailing the oak branch to the gable of the frame in the topping out ceremony
Once the oak frame is complete there is one other very important duty to carry out. This is the topping out ceremony. This is where we take a branch of an oak tree and nail it to the gable of the house to bring luck to all of those who will live within. This is a traditional ceremony stretching back over a thousand years. So while we like to use cutting-edge technology to design and make our frames we also like to keep the old traditions going as well.
The whole team take a breather at the end of the project to celebrate with David and Chloe
Along with the Lilliput Lane model of the dovecote there came a potted history of the structure which had a mock up of the deeds of the house written on the back. I sat the model on one of the interrupted tie beams and lent the deeds and history leaflet behind on the principal rafter. With the oak frame bringing the old dovecote back to habitable use there is no reason why the building should not survive for another five hundred years.
Lilliput Lane model with it's history behind
The team putting their names down for posterity
Finally, we used an erasable marker pen to write all of the team’s names and the date that the frame was erected on the top of a floor beam that will have the floor covering it. These names will be hidden for posterity. In hundreds of years’ time someone may be carrying out some remodelling and find the names of the team who erected the oak frame.
The last image is taken from the ground floor looking up through the stairwell with the sling trusses above and the sun shining through the frame.