A black oak table unveiled in honor of the Queen’s Jubilee

Published:
06:30 19 May 2022



He was found buried deep in the mud of a Norfolk farmer’s field ten years ago.

But after ten years of careful craftsmanship, a 5,000-year-old oak tree has been transformed into a stunning 13m table, unveiled this week to honor the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

The table is made from a fossilized black oak trunk from Fenland, or bog oak, unearthed at Wissington Fen, near Downham Market, in 2012 – the year of the Diamond Jubilee – after the local farmer encountered an obstacle while planting potatoes.

Conservation experts then launched a project to remove the tree – which fell before the construction of Stonehenge and the Pyramids – before cutting it into planks and, possibly, turning it into a table.

A special sawmill was flown in from Canada and assembled in the field to grind the lumber into ten boards. The temporary site has become the largest sawmill in the UK.

The boards were then dried for nine months in a kiln, which also had to be specially constructed. Nearly 400 gallons of water were extracted from the wood.

The table was made from four full-length planks in an east London workshop. At one point a nearby road had to be closed to allow the boards to be moved into the correct position.

The table was officially unveiled in Ely Cathedral this week by the Princess Royal, on the occasion of the Jubilee.


HRH The Princess Royal, Princess Anne visited Ely Cathedral to unveil the 13m long table from the Fenland Black Oak Project. Photo: Keith Hepell
– Credit: Keith Hepell

The original vision was for the table to sit in the chapel of Ely Cathedral, but its size limited other activities going on and meant it was best placed in one of the side aisles.

It will now be exhibited there until March 2023.

The Dean of Ely, the Very Reverend Mark Bonney, said: ‘Ely Cathedral figures prominently in the landscape of Fen, a landscape which five thousand years ago was not dominated by a cathedral , but by the most magnificent oaks.


The Fenland Black Oak had been buried under farmland in Norfolk for 5,000 years Photo: Fenland Bl

The Fenland Black Oak had been buried under farmland in Norfolk for 5,000 years Photo: Fenland Black Oak Project
– Credit: provided


A 5,000 year old fossilized black oak tree that has been transformed into a large carved table i

A 13-metre table made from a 5,000-year-old fossilized black oak tree arrived at Ely Cathedral on May 9.
– Credit: Terry Harris


A 5,000 year old fossilized black oak tree that has been transformed into a large carved table i

A 13-metre table made from a 5,000-year-old fossilized black oak tree arrived at Ely Cathedral on May 9.
– Credit: Terry Harris


A 5,000 year old fossilized black oak tree that has been transformed into a large carved table i

A 13-metre table made from a 5,000-year-old fossilized black oak tree arrived at Ely Cathedral on May 9.
– Credit: Terry Harris


A 5,000 year old fossilized black oak tree that has been transformed into a large carved table i

A 13-metre table made from a 5,000-year-old fossilized black oak tree arrived at Ely Cathedral on May 9.
– Credit: Terry Harris

“All that remains of these trees are pieces of black oak which Fen farmers regularly find, though a piece as long as the black oak table, discovered ten years ago, is truly remarkable, and its transformation into a magnificent table a magnificent work of craftsman.”


A 5,000 year old fossilized black oak tree that has been transformed into a large carved table i

A 13-metre table made from a 5,000-year-old fossilized black oak tree arrived at Ely Cathedral on May 9.
– Credit: Terry Harris

Furniture specialist Hamish Low led the project, with support from funders and the Building Crafts College in Stratford, London. He said the table was a “national treasure”.

Information panels will detail the history of the Black Oak and highlight elements of the 10-year project.


HRH The Princess Royal, Princess Anne visited Ely Cathedral to unveil the Fenland Black Oak Pro

HRH The Princess Royal, Princess Anne visited Ely Cathedral to unveil the 13m long table from the Fenland Black Oak Project. Photo: Keith Hepell
– Credit: Keith Hepell

For more information on the project visit www.elycathedral.org or thefenlandblackoakproject.co.uk

FENLAND BLACK OAK

Thousands of years ago, the Fens were densely wooded with tall oak trees which, due to rising seas, fell into the silt of the flooded forest floor and were preserved in peat.

One of the rarest forms of wood in England, Pin Oak is comparable to some of the most expensive tropical hardwoods in the world.

Experts believe the Norfolk bog oak may be just a section – perhaps as small as a quarter – of the original tree.