Table made from 2,000 year old wood

SOME people might think this table looks heavenly - and they would have plenty of reason for thinking so.For the oak from which it is built was growing near the Thames when Jesus walked the Earth.

SOME people might think this table looks heavenly - and they would have plenty of reason for thinking so.

For the oak from which it is built was growing near the Thames when Jesus walked the Earth.

Made from Roman oak more than 2,000 years old, this table is believed to be one of the country's most prized pieces of furniture.

In a cabinet-makers workshop in Back Hamlet, Ipswich, master craftsmen have spent weeks toiling over one of the town's best-kept secrets.

Using oak which the owner claims was cut from a tree which seeded in 150BC, and was felled in 63AD, the cabinet makers are creating a dining table which most people could only dream of.

Dendrochronologists (specialists in dating wood), suggest that the tree was felled in London.

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For 2000 years silt and gravel from the River Thames washed over the oak timbers of London's first Roman port facilities, sealing and preserving them.

The wood's certificate states it was unearthed by the Museum of London's archaeological service and dated by University College London.

Now a secret buyer from the north of England has commissioned leading cabinet makers Titchmarsh and Goodwin to turn the ancient wood into a masterpiece of craftsmanship.

The paperwork states that the wood was recovered from the River Thames, during a dig at Regis House, London - but no museum staff attended the dig, so they have been unable to authenticate the timber.

Francis Grew, curator of Archaeology, Early Department at Museum of London, said: "Archaeologists commonly uncover Roman timber in central London, preserved in waterlogged conditions.

"We believe that some timber was later taken away for disposal by the site developer. It is possible that this is the timber referred to, but we could not know this for certain."

But the job is still a treat for Titchmarsh and Goodwin.

The company was first approached last year by a London pub-owner with links to the wood owner who is a Roman history enthusiast.

The tabletop, which will be 22.9ft long and will eventually sit upon a base consisting of bronze columns, will be capable of seating more than 20 people and is intended for the 50-room mansion the owner lives in.

Master cabinetmaker Bert Nice, who has plied his trade with the company for four decades, has spent the past three weeks piecing together carefully cut sections of oak to form the top.

In total he will devote 200 hours to it, before the company's expert polishers begin their work.

Chief designer Michael Atkins said: " (The client) came to us and he wanted to know if we could make a top in Roman oak.

"We made a little sample coffee table about a metre long. Once (the client) approved that we got the go-ahead for the big table."

Seventy-five per cent of the wood collected has proved unusable, but every piece is considered so valuable that even the small off-cuts will be returned to the owner.

The value of the wood has not been disclosed, but for the work Titchmarsh and Goodwin is carrying out Mr Goodwin said the client wouldn't get much change out of £25,000.

He estimated the value of the wood could be as much as, and possibly more than, £10,000.

That £35,000 price tag does not take into account the cost of the bronze columns for the base or the more than 20 chairs Titchmarsh and Goodwin hope to make to accompany it.

The tabletop is not the most expensive piece of furniture ever created by the company but it is by far one of the most interesting.

The finished product is expected to be delivered to the client's home in the north of England in November when it will be placed in the dining room of his house.

Even once it has left the workshop of Titchmarsh and Goodwin it is unlikely the firm's 50 employees will stop talking about it.

"I'd love to see it in situ," Mr Goodwin said.

Do you own something historically important? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail