As well as this blog, I also have a website and Instagram page with lots more images of my work as well as a few more stories.
If you like woodcarvings, you might want to have a look.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Brading, a historic town in the Isle of Wight. Carvings done with power tools. Punishment, torture and the secret of hewing timbers.

This town is on the eastern side of the island and is proud of its long history. It has a few surprising things still to be seen...

Much of the town was involved in smuggling at some point and with this background of illegal activities, it seems appropriate that the whipping post and stocks have been preserved in the Old Town Hall next to the twelfth- century church. The stocks are thought to date to the seventeenth or eighteenth century but there are records of stocks being used here in 1555 and the whipping post was last used in 1833. Why have the stocks got five holes? No one really knows, but one suggestion is that they were specially made to accommodate a regular offender who only had one leg!

At the other end of the street is a metal ring set into the ground. It is a bull ring, to which bulls were tied before being attacked by dogs and then slaughtered. This revolting 'sport' was justified by the belief that this made the meat better. It was thankfully stopped here in 1820.

Next to the ring is a sculpture of a bull which was made by Paul Sivell, a carver based on the island who specialises in using power tools:

He has also carved another sculpture to be seen by the car park next to the church.

Next to the old Town hall and the church is a very interesting building: the Rectory mansion, possibly the oldest building on the island. It lies on Roman foundations but was built in 1228 and some think that timbers from a previous Anglo-Saxon building on the spot were reused in its structure.

The building has a rather fine ship's figurehead on its corner, but I haven't been able to find out the story behind it.

Seeing some of the timbers that have been used in the Rectory house reminded me of chatting to my friend Nigel recently about timbers that he had found whilst renovating a seventeenth century building in Bristol.

Nigel said that when restoring an original doorway in the building, he noticed that only the sides that were facing outwards (and were therefore on show) were cut square. The other faces were left waney edged, as they had come from the tree but with the bark removed. They were hidden, facing into the wall.

Which makes a lot of sense. Hewing timber or sawing by hand to make it square are both long, hard and skilled processes, so why do it on the faces of timbers that don't need it? If there are no joints that require a flat surface to work, then don't bother cutting one. Some of the timbers in the Rectory mansion might also show evidence of this way of thinking.

As does this timber from Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire:

Not lazy, just smart thinking!


  1. FYI the ships figure head is a recent(ish) addition. When I lived in Brading as a child through the mid/late 70's and 80's early 90's the figure head was in fact a man, possibly depicting a King (I forget who).
    There's a photo here back in 1969 before I was born showing clearly a different figure.
    You'd have to ask the owners of the Wax Museum the story.

    1. Thanks for the additional information and the link. It's interesting to see the other figure, which looks much more like it was made for a pub than a ship, with his tankard and barrel. A very different looking character to that currently adorning the building!