7 facts about oak timber framing you didn’t know

Oak timber framing – many of you are perhaps wondering exactly what it is and why it is still relevant to building and architecture today. Oak framed buildings probably remind you of an older style of architecture, such as Tudor-style farmhouses or cottages, yet this durable and longstanding framing method is being adapted to suit modern tastes. More contemporary timber frame structures, often use the classic oak timber frame as a basis for the structure and create a whole new look by combining this with shiny glass glazing, open plan living and built-in energy efficient technologies. Now you know what this style of architecture looks like, we’ll reveal seven interesting facts about oak framed buildings, we’re pretty sure that you won’t know most of them!

1) Bespoke Production

Oak framed buildings are often designed using traditional hand tools and methods, and are bespoke creations for each person’s individual needs. They are first sketched by architects and then usually turned into an interactive model or 3D plan to allow a virtual walk around the building to see what the interior of the building will be like. Once all of the measurements have been precisely calculated by engineers, the timber oak is ordered and arrives in individual oak beams. The oak is then framed, jointed, and numbered ready to be assembled at the building site. The space between the wooden frame (also called the ‘skeleton’) is then filled with brick, stone, or filler, creating a strong and durable structure.

2) Roman roots

Oak framing has been used in building for centuries; there is evidence of an early style of oak framing dating back to Roman times (AD 50). The Roman style relied upon very straight lines with posts being plumb and plates level, they even pioneered some of the same joints that builders are still using today. As building techniques developed and stronger tools became available, the structures continued to become more popular. The style was incredibly popular in the Middle Ages and this is when some of the most impressive oak framed buildings ever constructed were beginning to appear around Britain.

3) Oak framed building origins

The House of Opus is one of the earliest known uses of timber framing which is still standing today, dating back to Roman times. Its timber frame has been named ‘opus craticium’ after being excavated between 1927 and 1933. The whole building and surrounding town had been buried in ash by a volcanic eruption in AD 79. It was built in an ancient Roman town in Italy called Herculaneum, the town itself is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

4) Timber! (Or why did timber framed structures become less fashionable?)

Oak framed buildings continued to be popular until the 17th century due to Britain’s huge supply of oak. As the Georgian era ended and the Victorian era began, wood was in great demand within the shipbuilding industries and there was not as much oak available for elaborate housing frames. Many of the Victorian roofs continued to use timber framing, but the majority of houses didn’t use timber framing for the main part of the house, opting for other materials in order to reduce the amount of wood used.

5) Fashionable once again?

Timber framing has risen in popularity since the 1970s. The revival of oak framed buildings has largely taken place in the Western World by architects studying these traditional structures, impressed by the lifespan of the framing method. A lot of the medieval timber framed buildings are still standing today, and architects have replicated and adapted the traditional framing methods for more modern uses – think Grand Designs and converted barns. Materials such as glass and stainless steel, combined with energy efficient technology, have transformed the traditional style, creating bright, open and glazed interiors which were not possible before.

6) Hertfordshire Heritage

The oldest known extant jettied timber-framed building in Great Britain is in Hertfordshire. It’s a 13th Century shop on the high street which was discovered by chance by some Victorian builders. The Grade I listed building needed a lot of restoration work in the early 2000s but has since received the expert advice of English Heritage and specialist restoration teams. However, there are also many old oak framed buildings in other counties, such as the building on the end of Cornmarket Street in Oxfordshire. It is estimated to have been built between 1386 and 1396, and was named the ‘New Inn’ by its first owners. This is a rare example of a three storey timber framed building with a shop underneath.

7) Famous oak framed buildings

One really famous example of an oak framed building in Oxfordshire is New College, one of Oxford University’s college buildings, built in 1379. The dining hall, like in some of the other colleges has huge oak beams across the top, some are up to 45 feet long! We hope that you enjoyed these seven facts about oak framed buildings, if you know of any famous examples or see any unusual timber framed structures whilst out and about in Oxfordshire, why not post a comment below?