Articles: English Oak – Voyages Across the World

Oak has been used throughout the centuries and has been relied upon by many for its quality. As a constructional timber English Oak has been used to frame and clad entire buildings as well as being a boat building necessity. So, what starts as a humble acorn, can travel across the world and that’s where some of history’s best known explorers come in.

During the 1500’s 2,500 English Oak trees were used to build each ship commissioned by Sir Francis Drake as he sailed across the Americas and circumnavigated the globe. In 1557 Elisabeth I sent Drake on an expedition across the South Pacific of America. Drake returned to Plymouth 3 years later and all details of his voyage were made secrets of the realm and Drake and all his crew members were sworn to secrecy.

Drake was (seemingly) constantly at odds with the Spanish and Portuguese throughout his military and privateering career, and he had mixed fortunes against them. After the defeat of the Armada he had a perilous campaign across Spanish America where he was defeated numerous times including in the battle of San Juan and in his attempted conquer of port Las Palmas.

Apart from adventure and construction, what else has the English Oak done for us?

English Oak is also used for barrelling wine and spirits. Its unique properties allow the contents to breathe (without spoiling) and the phenols in the wood often impacts upon the taste. The amount of time that wine and spirits remain barrelled depends on the maker and the colour and taste are affected by the length of time they are exposed.

This marvellous timber is also used to smoke food like cheeses and hams, whilst the bark is used in the process of tanning leather.

So Oak is not only used historically but throughout our daily lives and is something that we should not take for granted and nothing quite sums up that acorn as Sir Francis Drakes Motto - “Sic Parvis Magna” (“Thus Great Things From Small Things (come)”).