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An entomologist at New College, Oxford ("New" because its only a few centuries old), discovered beetles infesting the oak beams supporting the roof of the Great Hall. It was fairly urgent that these be replaced before the roof collapsed--but anyone who has looked at the price of oak lately can tell you that this was not something the college budget was prepared for.

Since oak from a commercial supplier was out of the question, someone suggested that the college Forester be sent for. His job was to administer the various scattered tracts of land that had been deeded to the college when it was founded. The trustees hoped he might know of suitable trees on college land.

It turned out that there was indeed a suitable stand of mighty oaks. They had been planted when the college was founded, and down the centuries each Forester had told his successor: "You don't cut those oaks; those are for when the beetles get into the beams in the Main Hall."

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Kathy B
Angels Wii Have Heard on High

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New College itself looked into this one. College Oaks
This story regards the replacement of the oak beams in the college dining hall, and is occasionally given as an example of admirable forward planning. In its mythical form the story is often attributed to the anthropologist Gregory Bateson and may be found in a number of places:

* Brand, Stewart How Buildings Learn Viking, 1994
* McDonough, William A Centennial Sermon: Design Ecology Ethics and The Making of Things
When the college archivist was asked about this story she came back with the following information.

In 1859, the JCR [Junior Common Room--basically, the students] told the SCR [Senior Common Room--sort of like faculty] that the roof in Hall needed repairing, which was true. (As an aside, at this time, there were few enough people that Hall contained a grand piano; this can be seen in the Joseph Nash watercolour of the hall illustrating the Introduction to the Treasures pages.)

In 1862, the senior fellow was visiting College estates on `progress', i.e., an annual review of College property, which goes on to this day (performed by the Warden [the head of the College]). Visiting forests in Akeley and Great Horwood, Buckinghamshire (forests which the College had owned since 1441), he had the largest oaks cut down and used to make new beams for the ceiling.

It is not the case that these oaks were kept for the express purpose of replacing the Hall ceiling. It is standard woodland management to grow stands of mixed broadleaf trees e.g., oaks, interplanted with hazel and ash. The hazel and ash are coppiced approximately every 20-25 years to yield poles. The oaks, however, are left to grow on and eventally, after 150 years or more, they yield large pieces for major construction work such as beams, knees etc.

New College, BTW, was founded in 1379, about 200 years after Oxford University came into existence.

Kathy "oaky doaky" B.

The plural of "anecdote" is not "data."

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