The Oak Beams of Oxford’s New College

The tale of the Oak Beams of Oxford’s New College is a heart-warming anecdote in its own right, but is also a great example of how the art of oak carpentry and wood conservation resounds through the ages.

The idea of an institution’s cultural continuity being so strong that oak beams fitted over 500 years ago can still be sourced and replaced in the present day is an exciting and intriguing one, yet one that continues to have great resonance for today’s generation of craftsmen working with oak beams.. by feeling that they are also part of a longstanding tradition, they can draw upon the experience of the ages to put their own skills into perspective and combine the best of the old and the new – the most innovative practices with the finest skills and practices of the past.

A similar tale involving oak beams can be found surrounding the House of Commons in Westminster. Former MP Tony Benn, a keen amateur Parliamentary historian, recounts the time that the oak beams in Parliament required replacing, and how officials were able to match the exact same kind of wood – because the Parliamentary records had noted from which Lord’s estate the oak beams had been sourced, and because that particular lord’s descendant still sat in the House and owned his ancestor’s ancient oak woodlands.