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 INNOVATION AND TRADITION COMBINED WITH QUALITY OF WORKMANSHIP MADE OAKWRIGHTS THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR HIS OAK HOME BUILD

OAK FRAME EXCELLENCE AT STUBBLE FIELD

WHY OAKWRIGHTS WERE RIGHT CHOICE FOR CREATING THIS OAK FRAME HOME BUILD

 

For those who don’t know it, the Kentish Weald is that area of South East England, from the North Downs dropping away onto Romney marsh and through to the Coast. This is the English scenery that inspired Chaucer and Dickens and it is from the high viewpoint of Crockham Hill in the North of the Kent countryside that Stuart Wilkie set his sights on constructing himself a new home. But to steal a quote from the most celebrated of all English writers “the course of true love never did run smooth.”

 

The building that occupied the site that Stuart purchased in the hillsides just above Edenbridge, was a run down early 20th Century house in a very poor state of repair. “My mind was made up to demolish the existing house on the site rather than refurbish when I fell through the first floor due to the woodworm infested joists” reflected Mr. Wilkie. And so to the project of designing and constructing a new oak frame home and the effects that can have on the rural neighbourhood you are a relative newcomer to. An oak frame came up in research as not only one of the most naturally durable building materials, but brought with it a history of English buildings and aesthetic appeal that lent itself to the existing surrounds. Mr Wilkie shopped around and shortlisted three “design and erect” framing companies, visiting the workshops of each competitor and weighing up their attributes.

 

CHOOSING AN OAK FRAME DESIGN COMPANY

 

Mr Wilkie shopped around and shortlisted three “design and erect” framing companies, visiting the workshops of each competitor and weighing up their attributes. The innovative Herefordshire based company Oakwrights won the contract with the high standard of their design work, their combination of innovation and tradition and the quality of their workmanship on show; the decision concreted according to Mr Wilkie with their “can do attitude, openness and excellent team spirit”. With the upheaval that he was going to be bringing to his new neighbourhood; with the re-profiling of the hill to accommodate the house, drive and gardens. Mr Wilkie decided early on that he would produce a weekly newsletter that would explain to his neighbours: progress, problems, activity and deliveries planned for the upcoming seven days. None of this prepared him or the neighbours though for the site of the 40 ton crane that would help with the erection of the frame, navigating its way up the single track country lane, negotiating bends in a road that was almost non-negotiable.

OAK HOME COSTS

 

Area:

Kent

House Type:

Wealden Style Oak Frame

House Size:

592.34 sq

Construction:

Traditional Oak Frame with infill
panels. Tile hanging, brick
chimneys, hand made clay roof
tiles, oak windows.

Finance:

Private 

Plot:

Existing 20th century (1905)
house demolished

Professional Fees:

£5,000

Oak Frame:

£140,000

General Build Inc Basement:

£415,000

Kitchen:

£37,000

	 Traditional Oak Frame with infill  panels. Tile hanging, brick  chimneys, hand made clay roof  tiles, oak windows.

elevations

floor plans

frame drawings

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.

The front doorway leads quickly into the large vaulted hall centre piece of the house
the enormity of the dining room and the sliding balcony doors that lead out onto the spacious gardens and the sweeping views of the Kentish Weald take your breath away
The planning and design skills brought to the table by Oakwrights are at their most apparent as you stroll along the top gallery and back toward the main bathroom

THE OAK HOME


What Stuart and his wife have carved into the Kent hillside is nothing short of magnificent. It is hard to imagine now, the dilapidated early 20th Century building that stood here before the new Stubblefield. The front doorway leads quickly into the large vaulted hall centre piece of the house that immediately feels like it is the connector for the whole structure, that there is a door from this space to everywhere else in the building. On stepping through a small coat room, the enormity of the dining room and the sliding balcony doors that lead out onto the spacious gardens and the sweeping views of the Kentish Weald take your breath away. Off the dining room, which has its own wonderful chimney breast centre piece, to the right sits a modern kitchen that hosts its own views of the stunning Kent countryside to compliment the aromas of fine cuisine shared. To the left of the dining room, there is an almost open plan feel to the enormous entrance space that leads you to the lounge with its open fire and cosy sitting room beyond and to the far side.

 

As you move back on your footsteps and return to the dining room, you are hit once more by the enormity of the vaulted hall as it rises up above the gallery space and into the upper rooms. But those rooms can wait. Down the polished oak staircase lays a state of the art media room sharing space, quite conveniently, with a beer and wine cellar that are arranged in such a way as to invite the pursuit of leisure time. 

 

Back to the front door and upwards this time with the straight lines of the staircase, toward that enticing gallery space that Mr Wilkie promised such vaunted views from. It does not disappoint, with the sprawling fields and sheer openness of the views south across the weald, a joy to behold. To either end of the gallery lays the various bedrooms and bathrooms. The Master bedroom in particular, is impressive, with its en-suite bathroom feeding from one door and a south-west facing balcony from another.


The planning and design skills brought to the table by Oakwrights are at their most apparent as you stroll along the top gallery and back toward the main bathroom. The space that is opened up to the rest of the house by the construction of the vaulted hall simply opens the oak home up to the light and allows the residents to bask in the surroundings of the house. And there, not by any stroke of good fortune, right in the middle of the gallery sits a large reclining chair and foot-stool to rest a while and take it all in.

 

The main bathroom itself again confirms the designers’ and craftsmen’s skills in their use of the oak frame to form the skeleton of the house; whilst at the same time revealing the aesthetic beauty of the wood. Here in these smaller spaces, the strength of the oak seems more discernable somehow. Almost by accident, as I am leaving the house by the front door to take in the grounds, I spot a study area; hidden away from the grandeur of the dining hall. A place for quiet contemplation and for the only time in any room, you feel that you are away from the rest of the house, unable to cast your eye on its colossal structure or the stately panorama of the views beyond. Only by walking around the grounds is it possible to get a sense of just how much re-profiling of the hillside Stuart had to get done in order to accommodate the new Stubblefield. The garage structure to the rear, that serves the immediate driveway, has a lower level that faces the front garden and serves as further storage space. The lawns are sumptuous and the relatively new seedlings will take a few years to grow before they can truly reflect the strength of the material which underpins the home in whose shadow they currently stand.

view the stubble field gallery

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