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Five facts you didn't know about oak

by Freddie Armstrong

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We work with oak every day. Whether we’re making oak beams, fireplace beams or rustic floating shelves, we always feel privileged to work with such a beautiful wood.

We’re not alone in our passion for this unique wood. Oak is our national tree and has played a role in many of our key moments throughout history. But let’s start from the beginning.

How long have oak trees been in Britain?

Oak trees, part of the beech family, have actually been here much longer than humans – since just after the last Ice Age. That’s over 300,000 years. And they’re still our most common tree.

As majestic as they are, oak trees aren’t just great to look at – they’ve also played a key part in various historical events. King Charles II, for example, found refuge in an oak tree in 1651 when he was being chased by his enemies at Boscobel Hall, during the Civil War. After weeks of hiding, he was then able to flee to France. Imagine how history could have been different if that oak tree simply wasn’t there.

Oak trees up and down the country, such as the Bennington Law Day Oak, Kent, acted as meeting places for villagers to talk through their village issues.

Why is oak so great for making things?

Oak is a hard wood, which means it’s extremely hard wearing and durable, even when it’s subjected to the elements. In fact, in Latin, oak is known as quercus robur, meaning strength.

Over the centuries, it’s been used for everything from building ships to making charcoal and leather tanning.

After a timber shortage during the First World War, the Forestry Commission was given the task of protecting and expanding our woods.

Where is Britain’s oldest oak tree?

Earlier this year, an oak tree in Blenheim’s High Park was aged at 1,046 years old, potentially earning it the title of Britain’s oldest oak tree. With a circumference of almost 10 metres, this tree was around before the Norman Conquest and the Battle of Hastings.

Where is Britain’s tallest oak tree?

An oak tree in the Stourhead estate, owned by the National Trust, was declared to be the UK’s tallest oak. Measuring 40.4 metres (132.5ft) in height, this oak tree is truly a sight to behold.

Oak today

To this day, oak remains one of the most popular hardwoods and is used to make furniture and interior joinery. Its unique properties and natural beauty make it great to use for everything from oak shelves to oak fireplace beams. An oak mantel can look great in any style of home, whether your home is modern or more traditional.

All of the oak that goes into making our full range of fireplace beams or rustic floating shelves is sourced from sustainable woodland, mainly in France. By using wood from well-managed woodlands, we are contributing to the future success of this fascinating species of tree.

Want to know more about oak? At Traditional Beams we have some passionate, oak-loving people who would love to hear from you.