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The continuation of a craft

Words by Rebecca Hawkey

Connecting us to our ancestors, and our lands, through the complex art of carpentry.

It’s hard to fathom that the human race has been constructing timber-framed homes for thousands of years, and whilst this technique is now more popular than ever, it certainly isn’t a new concept.

Ancient Romans, and Ancient Egyptians, began using timber in their roof constructions as far back as 100 BC. That’s over two-thousand years ago, but that isn’t even the earliest recording of such construction techniques, with archaeologists discovering timber-framed structures dating as far back as 10,000 years. Indeed, it should come as no surprise that the use of wood as a pliable material was extremely popular, and it was the obvious choice given the abundance of oak. This allowed those living through the Neolithic era to manufacture their own tools for farming and construction – timber tools to build timber houses.

Over the course of time, from then until now, the use of timber in our homes really hasn’t changed much, and is used for the very same reasons. Oak, when harvested, is much more malleable than when it’s dry, which allows for an easier cut. The timber frame is then erected, and the oak dries over the course of several years, giving the structure remarkable strength as the wood hardens. This durability and longevity is why timber-framed homes are so prevalent not just in Britain, but across the world.

In the UK, oak was the favoured wood for many years, but with its increased use for fuel and building supplies, the demand became too much for our forests to keep up with. Softwoods like pine became ever more popular, with a majority of buildings in the 17th century onwards opting for this cheaper, faster-drying alternative. The demand for oak was further exaggerated through the course of World Wars One and Two, when soldiers were required to fell our oak forests for war supplies, making the reliance on local and imported woods even greater. Over the years, our forests have thankfully recovered, and The Forestry Commission now looks after more than 1,500 forests and woodlands across the country. The majority of oak used in the UK nowadays is sustainably sourced from overseas, and this is the case for the team at Post & Beam.

Tim Simpson and Tom Jubb, founders of Post & Beam, are the brilliant minds behind a growing number of Cornwall’s most beautiful oak-framed buildings. Together, with their expert workshop team, they are putting the natural aesthetic of timber on display, bringing beauty to each project in a way that not only speaks of sustainability, but of the skill and craftsmanship that went into building it from the ground up.

This story began in 2007, when Tom and Tim first crossed paths whilst working on oak frame projects together across Cornwall. In 2020, after six years of said collaboration a vast array of properties, they decided to form the company we now know as Post & Beam Ltd, which is where we find ourselves today. This small but highly experienced team all have a strong connection to the coast on which they live; their workshop even overlooks the shores of north Cornwall, which is a constant inspiration. In fact, when they aren’t expertly crafting another bespoke timber frame, you’ll find them wandering the gold-sand beaches, or surfing those azure waves that are plentiful in this corner of the country.

This draw to the ocean and the land that surrounds it is not just a means of influence, but rather a reminder of what beauty there is out there. The question arises of how they can design and build abodes that complement it, rather than contrast it. Examples of such successful builds should include Rick Stein’s The Cornish Arms in St Merryn, The Tremenheere Art Gallery near Penzance, and The Seven Stones Inn on the stunning island of St Martin’s, Isles of Scilly. Their work varies, ranging from residential houses, extensions and cabins, to galleries, community buildings and commercial spaces, affording the team a real plethora of properties with which to design and create.

Speaking of the design process, each project is undertaken in-house by Tom, who has over 20 years of experience working alongside private and commercial clients. He takes each collaboration to heart, working closely with clients and architects to truly understand each element of the design process, enabling himself and the wider team to create a custom timber-frame design unique to each project’s specifications. Once this has been agreed upon, Tom then passes the baton to the workshop team, led by Tim, Fred, Dave and Ludo. The techniques required to build such remarkable timber structures is a craft that, as we know, has been around for thousands of years. Honed, refined, and perfected over generations of carpenter and wood worker, it is not an art that can simply be picked up overnight, but rather over years of hard work and dedication. At Post & Beam, such passion for the process is paramount for every team member, and this clearly translates through the quality of the work that leaves the workshop, which is nothing short of outstanding. Even the handmade tools used here have been passed down, and the team refused to give those up for computer programmed saws.

The expert skills required by the team at Post & Beam are essential, especially given the challenging and complex projects that make up their portfolio. These range from traditionally jointed structural carpentry and contemporary timber-steel hybrid frames, to insulated panel systems, timber cladding, as well as incorporating applied glazing and subframe joinery. Throughout the entire process, the team are more than happy to welcome clients to the workshop, so they can see first hand how their beloved timber frame comes together, from mere pieces of wood, to the structure that will become their home, a place of creativity to be shared, or a place where ideas come to life. Whilst your project is in safe hands with the team at Post & Beam, Tim and Tom understand that having eyes on such large-scale endeavours can calm the mind, especially when such care and attention is being taken.

From the very beginning, man has relied on nature’s resources to aid in the construction of hearth and home. Whilst this need has remained constant, the approach to sourcing these resources has altered dramatically, through need and necessity, to keep such valuable materials alive. Tim and Tom’s aim is to create inspiring spaces that are designed and built to last, for generations to come, and it goes without saying that the longevity of the buildings stems from the longevity of the resources they’re built from.

Integral to their approach is the care and consideration for all that they do, the people they work with, both employees and clients, and also the environment in which they live. That is why for every oak tree they use, Tom, Tim and the team replant two more in a managed woodland scheme right here in the Duchy. This exciting project, partnered with Plant One Cornwall, is aiming to restore the Celtic oak forests that once thrived on our western shores, ensuring this landscape, our beloved Cornwall, is sustained for the next generation to enjoy.


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