As partner of a company in the south of England which both sources and supplies traditional oak beams Russell Peskett was used to dealing with vintage properties.
But nothing could have prepared him for the time he was asked to supply the oak to replace the roof beams, flooring and a large Tudor-style banqueting table for a former home of Catherine Howard, one of Henry the 8th wives. The 500-year-old property was being restored by its new owner, a very interesting Portuguese bank owner.
“It was a tremendous, and very exciting commission,” said Russell, who runs the family business Tradoak in Sussex with father Neil. “The project took around three and a half years to complete, and as well as providing around 180 roof beams we also supplied approx 270 square metres of restored oak flooring and built a 10 metre long banqueting table for the Chapel.
“It looked fantastic afterwards. I’m sure Catherine would definitely have approved.”
The ‘new’ medieval banqueting table in the former Chapel
The company were able to complete the commission because the reclaimed oak beams they routinely provide are aged between 300 and 600-years-old. The beams are sourced from old farms and outbuildings such as barns and workers cottages in the North of France, and Normandy in particular – where the Peskett’s own a small lumber yard.
“The French authorities don’t have listed building legislation the same way we do here in Britain as yet,” explained Russell, “so it’s far easier to obtain old oak across there. Most of Medieval Europe used oak for construction whereas in America spruce, pine and fir was the lumber of choice.
“Also, at the moment there isn’t quite the same emphasis on heritage in France that we have in Britain.
“Most of the farmers see their old barns as obsolete, so they are demolished in favour of a new modern building. Not only do they receive money for the old wood from us but we also take it off their hands for them. As a result, everyone is happy.”
There has always been a relatively niche interest in the rustic look in interior design circles, but Russell, 35, has noticed an increase in popularity and demand in recent years, particularly since 2010. Around 25 per cent of the company’s sales, for instance, are for fireplace mantles. Other commissions include doors, window frames, aesthetic oak beam supply and oak framing.
An oak porch for a 16th century English manor
Traditional Oak & Timber Co, also known as Tradoak was started up by Neil back in 1990. Russell joined in 2008, having worked as the manager of a large motor dealership, learning as much as he could about sales and customer relations before taking over the family firm.
It’s not unusual for Russell these days to find himself supplying ancient oak beams for a leading comedian’s private cinema room, a footballer’s kitchen or a film actor’s grand staircase.
But they have enough stock and experience to supply to anyone who wants to come in and see if any of the ancient wood in the yard will make a nice mantle for the alcove where their new wood burner sits.
An oak mantle from reclaimed wood which has been waxed
“We encourage people to come and look through the yard to see what wood they prefer,” said Russell. “It’s one of the main differences between us and a few of the online-only oak beam companies out there. Another is that some companies sell what they claim is old oak but is really new oak scuffed around to look ancient. That’s not on as far as we’re concerned. We’ve always prided ourselves on being an honest company and providing the best quality oak we can.”
Tradoak is a supplier of genuinely old reclaimed oak beams, many ranging from 300 to 600 years and imported from Northern France. In addition to beamed ceilings the ancient wood is also used for fireplace mantels and flooring. The age of the beams have lead to many interesting historical restoration projects for the company – a family-run business which was formed in 1990. Air dried oak beams are also used in many of their projects and they offer oak framing in both new and old oak.
Neil Peskett was the founder and son Russell now does most of the day-to-day work and managerial responsibilities. Customers can personally choose wood for their project from Tradoak’s yard in the south west of England however they do also offer worldwide delivery. Visit www.tradoak.com for more information.