Tikembret Holiday Cottages
& Certified Location ♥ In the heart of Cornwall
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Over the course of the last 15 years I have become a regular at our local reclamation yard. Alan has got to know the sort of things that I tend to look for and puts them to one side. I have acquired a number of bits of stone, slate and timber this way.
On one visit, I was drawn to some very scruffy looking bits of uneven timber on a pallet and after a little look I was informed that they were the roof timbers of one of the older Newquay hotels that had come down. Because of the state of it, being full of rot and odd looking holes, I was told that it was only good for firewood – but after it was revealed that it was a hardwood of some description I took it away. I don’t think I paid for it, but if I did, it wasn’t much.
Closer examination revealed it was teak, and the holes, brass nails and other injuries revealed it had lived a previous life as a ships’ timbers, probably from the deck of a sailing ship that started life in the 19th century.
Britain ran out of oak for shipbuilding by the 1850s, just when Burma was colonised and we started to exploit the vast forests of tropical hardwoods. Teak is prized as it is very water-resistant, strong and lasts a very long time. It was perfect for building the Victorian fleets, which took cargoes of British manufactured goods and returned with, among many other goods, timber.
The forests of Burma were never previously logged, so the trees cut were up to 140ft long and clear, the very highest quality of timber. The trunks of these trees were so thick that they often had to be split in the forests to make them light enough for elephants to be able to drag them to the rail head to be transported to the ports. To split trunks of this size, gunpowder was used to blow them apart: the timber had such straight grain that these methods were very successful.
The ship this teak came from was probably shipwrecked off the North Cornish coast, as nearly all Cornish shipping was taking very high value mineral ore from Newquay, St. Agnes and Portreath – all very dangerous ports.
The timbers, once taken from the shore, were cut in half with a circular saw to their present size of 4”x4”. The saw marks are still visible on one face, and a combination of split timber and adze marks from the shipwrights can be seen on the others. Just to make the journey complete, there are some chainsaw scars from where the famously unsentimental demolition gang pondered its fate.
All this information was fascinating. I cleaned the wood and stacked it out of the way with the thought in mind that one day we would find an appropriate use for these pieces of maritime and colonial history.
We have always added to our cottages year on year, and this particular year it was the turn of some more dramatic furniture.
Julian Russell arrived here to put the first roof on just as building began in 2006. He is a carpenter, joiner and artist who can take on a great variety of artistic endeavours. With some discussion of what we wanted, the work is all Julian’s. He saw great potential in this timber while we were all still figuring out what to do with it.
The result was a very large bed, measuring in at 6 feet wide and 6 feet, 6 inches long. The history of the timber is all there to see, full of brass nails and pegs and covered in chainsaw and adze marks.
We have coupled it with a mattress that we think does it justice. We hope you enjoy it!