British oaks from the Forde Abbey estate could contribute towards the rebuilding of Notre Dame cathedral, following a joint effort from members of Historic Houses, the association for independently owned historic houses and gardens.
So far more than one hundred donor estates, including Forde Abbey, Belvoir Castle, Hutton-in-the-Forest, Scone Palace, Castle Howard, Holkham Hall, Powderham Castle, and Firle Place (named after the Anglo-Saxon word for ‘oak woodland’), have volunteered valuable trees, planted for timber centuries ago, as a gift from the UK to France for the restoration of the iconic landmark’s roof, destroyed by fire earlier this week.
It’s not the first time Britain’s great houses have rallied round to help with a major heritage restoration project. After the devastating York Minster fire in 1984 more than forty Historic Houses member places pledged eighty oak trees for the reconstruction efforts, joining donations from the Queen and the Prince of Wales.
Given that the construction of the original roof in the twelfth century is estimated to have required 1,300 mature oaks, the donors are well aware that their contribution could only provide a fraction of what’s needed, but they hope the gesture will inspire others.
Alice Kennard, owner of Forde Abbey, said, ‘The fire at Notre Dame is a terrible tragedy and it is important that we stand united and help one another in times of need. It’s a reminder of how important it is to both look after and renew our heritage resources, and very much looking towards the future, we will replant every tree we fell.”
The trees, from sustainable forestry and already destined for use as commercial timber, are estimated to have a combined market value of well over £100,000. But the donors are keen to emphasise that the timbers used in buildings like Notre Dame are about something that money alone can’t buy.