Outlook Issue 26 Winter 2018
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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The making of our Church
The making of our Church – Oak This is the third in a series of articles about The fabric of St Mary’s Church There is a great deal of timber to be found in St Mary’s Church – and most of it is oak. Timber is a brilliant building material in many ways: it is light, strong in tension, and easily worked into different shapes. Indeed, Frank Costin (who used it for the chassis of Marcos Cars) described timber as ‘God’s first plastic’. Its disadvantages are its tendency to decay and to move with changes in moisture content. Also, the size of any timber element is limited to the size of the tree from which it comes. Oak has always been widely available in Suffolk and was the wood of choice for the timber-framed domestic houses, such as those around Market Hill. It has one overriding advantage – it is very resistant to decay due to its high tannin content. This is important for any building, and doubly so for a church, which is large and tall, making access difficult for repairs. High-spec roof Oak has been used in a wide variety of ways in St Mary’s, the most important being the roof (pictured here). It is a very high-specification structure with close boarding, rafters and purlins, supported over the nave by alternate tie-beam trusses and hammer-beam trusses. Other uses of oak are for the doors, the altars, the font cover, the panelling and carving behind the high altar, and the timber casing to the vestry at the West End of the church. A variety of oak finishes can be seen, from the dark roof timbers to the light finish of the new altar and choir stalls. Powerful place As well as the physical characteristics of the material, oak has a powerful place in English history and in the national psyche, from the oak walls of England’s wooden ships (some of which were built in Woodbridge) to famous oak trees such as the one Charles II is said to have hidden in after the Battle of Worcester. John Davis Pictured: St Mary’s Church roof, photographed by Janice Poulson