The story of Seaforth Pine

Anyone specifying a reclaimed hardwood floor will be aware of the texture, character, patina and age of the timber. What isn’t always clear is the provenance of the wood and the journey that it will have taken before ending up in our showroom.

We recently acquired reclaimed wood from a warehouse in Liverpool Docks at Seaforth Dock. Opened in 1884, Seaforth Dock marked the completion of Liverpool dock system’s period of expansion in the nineteenth century and its warehouses were used by the timber industry to store wood.

During World War 2, Liverpool was the most heavily bombed area of the country, outside of London, due to the city having, along with Birkenhead, the largest port on the west coast. On 1 June 1941 the dock endured a night of heavy bombing which led to damage to the Seaforth Dock sheds. This history was evident when the boards arrived at our storage facility with a few still showing historical fire damage.

The journey of these boards didn’t start in Liverpool though but on the other side of the Atlantic. The Seaforth wood is Longleaf Pine (Pinus Palustris), known as ‘pitch pine’, and unlike our modern ideas of quick-growing, soft wood pine would have been cut from trees that were up to 100 – 130ft high and 2-3ft in diameter . Longleaf pine takes 100 to 150 years to become full size and may live to 500 years old.

This is the most valuable timber of all the 20 or so ‘pitch pine’ species and one of North America’s most important timber trees. It was traditionally used for masts, spars, bridges, viaducts, scaffolding, railroad carriages, railroad sleepers and floorboards.

Pitch pine reached these shores in larger quantities during the second half of the 19th century, when the forests around the port of Pesacola in Alabama were exploited for Longleaf Pine. It became particularly popular for applications requiring strength and durability such a roof trusses and floors in large Victorian warehouses and hospitals.

the journey of our rare find

Given what we know now about the importance of conservation and protecting our natural resources, it makes it more important that reclaimed timber such as the Seaforth wood is valued. Given that this wood has already been around for hundreds of years, we feel privileged to be able to extend its life and provide a hardwood floor of such quality.

Not only does this wood have a unique story – it also has unique qualities. These boards are larger, wider and thicker than anything else we have ever reclaimed – up to 6m long, 300mm wide and 300mm thick – making these boards the ultimate floor. Finally, most of the boards are rift sawn which is very unusual – and gives the floor a refined appeal as the grain of the wood runs at 45° to the face of the board. Whoever built this building really did buy the very best.

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