Burning timber is a magical process in our workshop. The controlled process, based on the ancient Japanese technique called yakisugi, alters the cell structure of the wood. Rather than destroying the timber, it increases its strength, resilience and durability. Burning is more commonly associated with death and destruction. In the case of those accused of witchcraft, burning at the stake was one of the gruesome punishments for their perceived involvement in magic.

Blackened Timbers for a Witchcraft & Magic Exhibition

Our Shou Sugi Ban® timbers are specified for many internal and external construction projects. One of the latest ones is for an exhibition at Colchester Museum. Our timbers will be used for display cabinets that tell the history of witchcraft, magic and witch trials, particularly in Essex.

In 1563, a law was passed in England, making enchantments and witchcraft illegal. The Scottish Witchcraft Act was passed in the same year. At this time, Queen Elizabeth I wanted to protect against the declining influence of the church and many feared the power of unorthodox powers.

East Anglia was a puritan region and preachers incited fear of what were described as ungodly behaviours. Colchester Castle was the site of many Essex witch trials and this latest exhibition, Wicked Spirits? Witchcraft and Magic at Colchester Castle, tells the story.

Across the world, thousands of innocent people were accused, tortured and killed for their involvement in witchcraft. Hanging, burning at the stake and drowning were common methods of execution. According to surviving documents, including the Essex Assize Records, over 90% of those brought to trial and found guilty were women. Many were spinsters or widows, typically poor and older. If they owned a cat, it almost certainly counted against them.

In 1712, Jane Wenham was sentenced to hang for witchcraft, however, she was pardoned by Queen Anne. This marked a new era of enlightenment in terms of the perceived powers of magic.

Charred Timber Display Cabinets

Organised in partnership with the Museum of British Folklore and the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, Boscastle, the exhibition gives insight into this sinister period. It illustrates the role of books, protective amulets and items used to extract a confession in the history of witchcraft and magic. The exhibition also considers superstitions, then and now, and how attitudes towards natural remedies and supernatural powers have been shaped over time.

We are delighted that our charred timber has been selected for the display cabinets and will help to bring this story to a modern audience. The exhibition opens to the public on Saturday 16 July and remains open until January 2023. Entry is included in the Colchester Castle ticket price.

Charred Timbers for Heritage Buildings

Our Shou Sugi Ban® charred timbers have a timeless quality that makes them the material of choice for many historic renovation and replication projects and displays. In recent years, the development of Nottingham Castle and the new Holocaust Gallery at the Imperial War Museum, have both specified our charred timbers as a building material of choice.

When Coaldrops Yard, near Kings Cross in London, was transformed from historic coal sheds to a contemporary retail area, Shou Sugi Ban® perfectly complemented the heritage brickwork. The blackened wood gave a nod to the black coal and the detailing adds authenticity to the renovation.

Low Maintenance Timber Cladding

Throughout Japan, charring timbers (yakisugi) is used as a long-term preservative. It is weather-resistant and doesn’t require regular maintenance with varnishes, oils or chemical treatments to keep it from fading, rotting or being attacked by burrowing insects. As blackening wood in this way is integral, it doesn’t peel off over time. The lack of chemical applications also means that the timbers are safe to reuse or recycle.

Our workshop team work with a range of tried and tested timbers including Douglas Fir, Larch and premium Oak, Accoya® and Kebony. Blackened larch is the most popular of our charred timber range as it offers a resilient solution for interior and exterior solutions, but is lower cost than charred hardwoods. We do apply a finishing oil to prevent the char from rubbing off, but this does not affect timber reuse or recycling.

Across Japan, there are many examples of charred timber clad buildings which are still standing after many decades, some over a century old. They have become historic buildings of interest in their own right. We hope that some of the projects featuring Shou Sugi Ban® will become a legacy in the distant future.

To discuss the suitability of Shou Sugi Ban® charred timbers for your heritage renovation or historic replication, please get in touch on 01494 711800. We are happy to advise on the best options for your specification.