At Gaze Burvill we admire oak for its natural durability, impermeable qualities and the wonderful steam bending properties it has, allowing our craftsmen to bend it into graceful curves. It has great beauty with its extraordinary grain and is magnificently solid yet soft to touch. Aside from its use to craft furniture from, oak has a special place in the hearts and minds of the British people. We thought it would be fun to share our 10 favourite ‘remarkable British facts about oak’ with you.
There are over 600 species of oak trees in the world, but only two species are native to Britain, the English Oak (Quercus robur) and the Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea). Both species look very similar, the differentiating characteristic being the stalkless acorns of the sessile oak in comparison to the acorns which hang on stalks from the English Oak.
Oak Gall Ink
Oak gall ink (also known as iron gall ink) was the standard ink used in Britain for over a thousand years and the most important historical texts such as the Magna Carta were written using it. The ink was made from tannic acid extracted from large round growths found on the trunks of oak trees, caused by a species of gall wasp and mixed with an iron sulfate. Laws were enacted in Britain and France specifying the content of iron gall ink for all royal and legal records to ensure the ink wouldn’t corrode the paper or fade over time.
Oldest In Britain
Estimated to be over 1,000 years old, it’s thought that the Bowthorpe Oak in Lincolnshire may be the oldest oak tree in Britain. Known for its vast 13.5m girth, it was once used by locals to hold parties inside its hollow trunk.
The British Royal Navy
The Royal Navy has long had a close association with oak. A seaworthy timber due to the closed cell structure and tannin preservatives, many famous ships were constructed with oak. It is estimated that HMS Victory consumed over 6,000 trees, most of them being oaks. The Royal Navy continued to use oak for ship building until the mid 19th Century, when the wooden fleet became known as ‘The Wooden Walls of Old England’. Over the centuries, eight Navy warships have been called ‘Royal Oak’ and the official march of the Royal Navy is ‘Heart of Oak’
Queen Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I made naval strength a priority throughout her reign, but she became concerned at the decline of mature oaks used for shipbuilding and ordered a considered replanting. Many ancient oaks still survive from this period
In Britain the traditional gift for an 80th wedding anniversary is oak. This very rare occasion is marked with a poignant reference to strength, endurance and a deeply rooted relationship. A garden seat, perhaps the Gaze Burvill Meander Love Seat would be the perfect gift for such a special milestone.
King Charles II
The Royal Oak tree at Boscobel House, Shropshire was a famous hiding place of King Charles II after taking defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. It is said that King Charles told Samuel Pepys that while he was hiding in the tree, a Parliamentarian soldier passed directly below it. The story became popular and was retold every year on Royal Oak Day, a national holiday to commemorate the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660.
Common Pub Name
‘The Royal Oak’ is the third most common pub name in Britain. This is related to the celebration of the same story of King Charles II hiding in the oak tree.
“Rather than a symbol of defeat, the Royal Oak became one of defiance, of loyalty to the kingdom and of the stoicism of its subjects” Jerome de Groot, historian at the University of Manchester.
Oak Processionary Moth
A non native species, the oak processionary moth was introduced to Britain around 2005 on plants imported for urban landscaping. It is now widespread in Greater London and can cause serious defoliation of oak trees. The hair from the caterpillars is toxic to humans and animals and can cause irritation or a severe allergic reaction.
Oak trees, acorns and oak leaves, are common in English heraldry and adorn countless English aristocratic coats of arms. Oak trees are often associated with honour, nobility, and wisdom due to their size and longevity. Many organisations use oak as their logos for example the National Trust uses a sprig of oak leaves and the Conservative Party replaced their logo with an oak tree in 2006 to represent ‘strength, endurance, renewal and growth’.