More than 100 of Britain’s historic estates have offered to donate mature oaks to help restore the roof of Notre Dame cathedral after the Paris landmark was gutted by fire earlier this month.
The timber has been pledged by members of Historic Houses, an association for independently owned houses and gardens in the UK. Some of the donors include Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire, Scone Palace in Perthshire, Doddington Hall in Lincolnshire and Firle Place in East Sussex.
The trees were planted for timber centuries ago. David Manners, the duke of Rutland, suggested the idea to fellow members. He said: “Anyone who lives in an old building knows there’s something special about the way it was built and the materials used.
“We’re able to donate replacements because my great-great-grandfather had the foresight to plant trees that would only be valuable long after he died. And in turn we replant every tree we fell – someone will need them for something in another few hundred years.”
James Birch, the owner of Doddington Hall and president of Historic Houses, said that the fire was a reminder of how great buildings provide a cultural backdrop to everyday life that is often only recognised when they are threatened. “Some of our members have first-hand experience of the damage and destruction of catastrophic fires. It’s fitting that we would offer to help such an important part of the world’s heritage.”
It isn’t the first time that Britain’s historic houses have helped with a major heritage restoration project. After the York Minster fire in 1984, more than 40 Historic Houses members pledged 80 oak trees for the reconstruction efforts.
It is estimated that the original roof of Notre Dame, which was constructed in the twelfth century, required 1,300 mature oaks. The donors said they were aware that they may only be able to provide a fraction of the required timber but hoped the gesture would inspire others.