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Helmsley Sawmill makes timber buildings for the Bard

Duncombe Sawmill commissioned to make ‘rustic’ larch-framed building for Europe’s first pop up Shakespearean Theatre

A Helmsley business that specialises in traditional woodworking techniques has been chosen to help create the timber structures for Europe’s first pop up Shakespearean theatre, opening in York later this month.

Duncombe Sawmill has been appointed to make the refreshments and merchandise buildings for Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, which will entertain audiences between 25th June and 2nd September beside the iconic 13th century Clifford’s Tower in the heart of York.

To add to the immersive Elizabethan experience, the organisers of the event, Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, are creating a free-to-enter Shakespearean Village outside the theatre, and asked Duncombe Sawmill to create rustic timber framed buildings, to be in keeping with the 16th century feel of the event.  The traditional reed-thatched buildings will house a fully licensed bar, and some of Yorkshire’s finest street food vendors, who have been specially selected by Brian Turner, the Yorkshire-born celebrity chef and food ambassador for the Village.  In addition there will be an oak-framed merchandise shop, offering a variety of souvenir items and books.

Shakespeare’s Village will also feature an Elizabethan garden and a variety of free entertainment performed on a vintage wagon, as it would have been in the days of the Bard.

James Cundall, Chief Executive of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, said “For me a major aspect of this project was to showcase the best Yorkshire has to offer, both in terms of the construction of the event as well as food and beverage offerings, and Duncombe Sawmill immediately came to mind when I was planning the village.  We are fortunate to have a company of such expertise and quality literally on our doorstep!”

Both of the buildings being produced by Duncombe Sawmill are made out of locally grown larch, sourced from the Castle Howard Estate, and supplied in kit form so they can be installed and removed quickly, and used in other locations.

Duncombe Sawmill has been based in Helmsley for over 100 years, using local FSC timber to create gates, fencing, outdoor furniture and timber framed buildings with traditional woodworking techniques. Clients include the North York Moors National Park Authority, the Forestry Commission and London Fashion Week.

Three of the Sawmill’s talented joiners are working on bringing the project to life – Steve Shepherd, Eddie Garbutt and Kieran Windross.

Joiner Steve Shepherd, who has worked at Duncombe Sawmill for 3 years, said: “This is a project we were really excited to be asked to be part of, and the finished theatre should be an amazing sight to behold. It’s certainly come with challenges – but we’re not afraid to take those on! Normally when we are asked to make a timber framed building, it’s built on a permanent site that has been prepared and it’s built to last. Because the two buildings need to be installed and then removed, both quickly and without damaging them, we’ve had to employ different techniques – the typical mortise and tenon joints are not an option! The size of the food and bar building has also been an interesting challenge for us – physically making panels that are over 16-foot wide and working with large pieces of timber that are over 24-foot long.”

Emma Woods, who has been the owner of Duncombe Sawmill for the last 15 years and received an MBE in 2016 for services to rural business and skills in North Yorkshire, added: “We are lucky that we can work to a very exact specification because we have our own mill and can cut timber to odd sizes. We love the challenge of being asked to make something different and bespoke and to find and use the best technique for the job. We are thrilled that Lunchbox Theatrical Productions have asked us to be part of this amazing event.”


For more details of the theatre go to www.shakespearesrosetheatre.com. For more information about Duncombe Sawmill and other businesses in Helmsley log on to www.visithelmsley.co.uk or follow the town on social media www.facebook.com/visithelmsley or @visithelmsley on Twitter.