Britton Timbers was engaged to replace the existing Tasmanian Oak barn floor during the restoration of a heritage-listed property owned by the Tasmanian Government.

Located in North West Tasmania, Highfield House was the headquarters of Van Diemens Land Company, which went on to develop a giant 250,000-acre land grant, as decreed by King George IV’s Royal Charter of 1825, into the largest and finest wool-growing venture the world had ever seen. Arriving in 1826 with livestock, supplies and equipment, the settlers, represented by the Chief Agent of the VDL Company, Edward Curr, started the construction of Highfield House in 1832 using convict labour.

Given the magnificent home’s historical significance, its restoration required incredible care. The Tasmanian Government, which purchased the property in the early 1980s, has been funding the restoration for the last 20 years.

The brief for replacing the barn floor required Britton Timbers to supply locally sourced Tasmanian Oak timber, finished in a way that would blend in aesthetically with the rest of the heritage-listed site, and be of a quality that would last for more than 100 years as the previous Tasmanian Oak floor had.

Britton’s representatives worked with the heritage officers at the Highfield Historic Site, managed by the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, to come up with a solution that would appropriately emulate a convict-laid barn floor.

Tasmanian Oak was rough-sawn and then dressed on only three sides, leaving the visible face rough. Six samples were then sent to a local timber artisan who brushed and sanded each sample to varying degrees.

According to Britton Timbers Sales Account Manager, Haydn Nicholls, the heritage officers then selected the sample that achieved the desired look. Britton Timbers processed the required amount of timber to that specification, with the boards installed by local building contractor Bishop Constructions and oiled with tung oil.

Site coordinator, Lesa Scott was very pleased with the outcome. Though the initial intent was to simply refurbish the existing floorboards, they were not in a good condition. Besides, the clients also sought a functional solution since the space would be used to host various functions – the floor, therefore, needed to be hardwearing, stable and easy to clean. The material was required to stand up to the test of time and blend in aesthetically with the heritage of the site.

With the rough sawn Tasmanian Oak blending in beautifully with the existing timber on site, Britton Timbers was able to supply a floor that sat sympathetically with its surrounds and would also last another 180 years.

The Highfield Historic Site was recognised for excellence in heritage conservation for the refurbishment in the Tidy Town Awards announced in September.