Charcoal burners camp

Diary of a charcoal burn

Museum woodsman, Jon Roberts, leads traditional earth-clamp charcoal burns each August in the Museum’s woodyard. It’s a labour-intensive job and involves staying up all night, as Jon reveals.

Over the winter months, Jon coordinates a team who have cut our coppice for a number of different uses on the Museum site. This includes cutting, trimming and sorting wood for the charcoal burn from a one-acre cant of a 10-year-old hazel coppice. Approximately 2.5 tons of wood have been barrowed to the hearth at the charcoal camp.

The burn takes place over four days, this year from Friday 26th August until Monday 29th August (Bank Holiday Monday). The clamp will be built and covered on the Friday, lit on the Saturday and tended overnight. It will probably be cooked by Sunday evening, after which it will be allowed to cool before being opened on Monday – hopefully revealing a good yield of charcoal for our forge and roasting chestnuts at Christmas!

About charcoal burns

The charcoal burners’ camp in our woodyard (picture top) was one of the original exhibits when the Museum first opened in 1970, and charcoal burning was the first rural trade to be demonstrated. This was only possible thanks to the assistance of Mr & Mrs Arthur Langridge, who had made charcoal using traditional earth covered clamps until 1948 and advised the Museum on the camp’s reconstruction.

We would like to thank everyone who helps in our charcoal burns, as presenting an earth burn to our visitors requires a large commitment in both time and dirty, heavy labour! Those woodcolliers, like the Langridges, who did this commercially through the centuries, have our greatest respect.