The Fenland Table at Rochester Cathedral
Every so often you discover something jaw dropping which you’d never heard of before. The Fenland Table at Rochester Cathedral was just such a discovery for me. It is a table that has taken ten years to make using a log that was 5,000 years old.
It is a table for the nation, a national table.
I’d never heard of the project but was instantly captivated by it when I discovered it by chance in Rochester Cathedral.
The table can even be hired; it is an object that is both historic and has been made to be used.
A Potted History of the Fenland Table
Around 3,500BC, as the Sahara Desert was forming and before the Pyramids had been built, an acorn fell to the ground. The acorn was a seed from a towering Black Oak. It germinated, took root and grew into a mighty oak.
Having stood for 200 years, the tree toppled over and completed its life cycle. As the tree crashed into the ground, it hit with such force it completely buried itself in the surrounding peat bog. The unique environment of the peat bog preserved the wood in perfect condition.
5,000 years later in 2012, the perfectly preserved tree trunk was discovered in Norfolk’s Wissington Fens. As 2012 was the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee, the discovered log was named “The Jubilee Oak”.
The Table’s Size
When lifted out of the peat bog by two telehandlers, the log was 13.2 metres long. That measurement shows the original Black Oak tree the log came from was over 50m tall. For comparison, English Oaks today are around 20m high.
With the decission made to construct a table from the Jubilee Log, a key project requirement was to make the wooden planks the same length as the log they came from.
Planks of this length needed an unusually large saw mill to cut them from the log. To avoid a difficult and risky transport move, the project team constructed a saw mill on site. To gently dry the cut planks, the project team also had to construct a drying kiln.
From the log’s discovery, a decade of work was required to prepare, design and construct the Fenland Table ready to be displayed. There is far more detail on the Fenland Black Oak Project website.
At either end of the table there are inscriptions on the vertical face of the central plank.
The inscription reads:
The 3000 BC Black Oak tree was unearthed in Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee 2012
Rochester Cathedral is the second oldest in the United Kingdom having been a place of worship since 604AD.
The art installation “Peace Doves” by Peter Walker is on display in the Nave until 18th April 2023.