OAK FRAME MANUFACTURE
With a final design agreed, Oakwrights went to work, manufactured the frame and from delivery on site to fully erect, the team took just three short weeks to complete. From that point on, Mr Wilkie continued with the project management of the remaining construction of the house, but a high point that he still holds close is the day on which the Oak frame was finally in place, himself and the Oakwrights team enjoying a ‘topping out ceremony’ verging on pagan ritual. When the youngest member of the Oakwrights team climbed to the highest point of the structure and tied a branch from an oak tree to symbolise completion.
OAK FRAME SHRINKAGE
Of course for Mr Wilkie, even when the frame was up and the other construction workers had started into their tasks – he was not quite done with Oakwrights. All oak shrinks as it dries and there was one particular beam that had moved to such an extent that it was cause for concern. Tim Crump, Oakwrights’ Managing Director arranged for an independent survey by an Oak Frame expert, to visit and assess the situation, and although the report was positive, Mr Wilkie was still worried: “Tim decided that as I was still concerned, he would refit the beam to overcome my perceived problem”
Being on site everyday of the build, Mr Wilkie enjoyed the camaraderie of the building site; the Friday pint after a week’s work finished, but never felt that he had time to fully appreciate the development of the property. However since completion, he basks in a sense of fulfillment as he views the building from different perspectives throughout each day and again differently as the seasons change. Proclaiming his quiet area on the gallery “where I can sit and see the construct of the Vaulted Hall and also get a view of the magnificent Kentish Weald!”
Stubblefield, as Mr Wilkie named his home after the previous dwelling, now stands as a wonderful monument to his vision and the innovative design and construction skills of the Oakwrights team and as with all things oak, continues to grow in strength. Indeed the personal relationship that Stuart now has with this magnificent form is best summed up in one of his final comments:
“As the building settles the oak creaks, cracks and groans on occasions, but my wife and I like to think that this is an ongoing conversation that the building is having with us as it matures.” As I finish talking to Mr Wilkie about his escapades in the construction of his home, I am returned to literary connections, but further afield and nearer to the borderland of Oakwrights and to a favoured poet of the home owner’s - Dylan Thomas. In the poem ‘I see the boys of summer’ a line reads "Seasons must be challenged or they totter” and I get the feeling that Mr. Wilkie will not be sat long in his gallery before he takes on another season, another challenge, another project.