Seeking Henry Russel … and meeting Michael Burrey

Have you seen this man?

It’s Mr Henry Russel, respected timber framer of international fame and wanted in Massachusetts for failure to answer emails.  If you know this man’s snail mail address, or even better know him, Michael Burrey would like to hear from him, Michael can be contacted via me.  I’m sure it will be to Henry’s benefit (ie no paternity suit nor nothing).

I met Michael Burrey on our recent trip to Massachusetts.  He’s a great guy, deeply into historical restoration of timber-framed buildings, of which there seem to be rather a lot in his neck of the woods.  His interest goes deep enough that his back yard has kilns for burning lime for plaster, recovered blue slate – scarily similar to our familiar Welsh slate. There a Shakespearean stage wintering under a tarpaulin (are not we all!).  Bricks for recycling, timber in stick, recovered timber and an amazing timber-framed workshop.

My wife was taken by the vastly tall indigenous American Indian corn growing in the garden (sweet corn, or what I used to know as a young farm hand on a poultry farm “Indy corn”) and thereby hangs a tale of ravaged forest and lost lands, but that really is anwholeother story.

Inside Michael’s house there are treasurers aplenty, slipware, copper-lined flush cisterns with wooden cladding complete with mouldings, and the half bay (I think that was) extension.  I was too busy looking to get my camera going but the ceiling was done in close-beamed medeval style with hefty beams at about 18″ centres (I may be being a bit mean there, maybe they were nearer)  These beams are rebated to take the floor boards and a single board spans the gap and the floor above runs a repeat of floorboard – strip of beam – floor board. I’ve probably got this wrong, but it looked jolly sturdy and the tudor archway entrance with carved spandrels done by Peter Folansbee a real joy. I took a lousy photo, which does not do justice to the carving, there was a green man too on the opposite end, plus two more, doh, waited too long to post this, now I’ve forgotten the other two subjects.



I re-encountered “The Chest” here too, we having met before over the ether, the video is well worth watching.  Just note how unwilling PF is to jump to conclusions – there should be more wisdom like this around.

It was a grand day out in Massachusetts, with an added visit to view The Sagamore House – which restoration continues apace.  Many thanks for your hospitality Michael and Julie, and a tip of the hat to you, o silent one, Jamie Haines.

Dig that workshop in the background!

Eventually had to swap these Cape Cod views:

SAMSUNG CSCFor these (back to Wood Nook and coppice work):


Dig those reef knolls.  Their names are, from left to right, starting with the one I’ve cruelly truncated to the right flank: Elbolton, Stebden and  Butter Haw Hill.

5 thoughts on “Seeking Henry Russel … and meeting Michael Burrey

  1. Looks like another wonderful vacation, Richard. Does the coast of Cape Cod have pretty close counter pars in England? I’ve always wondered how similar the area would feel to someone from your side of the pond.

  2. Hey Tico!

    It is certainly beautiful countryside in New England. The Cape is pretty amazing, and certainly lives up to what I was expecting from having read Henry Beston’s Outermost House. There are far more woods/forest in NE than my neck of the woods and the swamps are rather fewer in the UK, mostly in estuaries (we tend to call them wetlands or marshes). There is a parallel to Cape Cod in Yorkshire, it’s called Spurn Head and, a 3 mile sandy spit and only 50 yards wide in places, stretches out into the Humber Estuary. I guess is it what The Cape may be like in a few thousand years, much smaller and shifting with storm work.

    I was wanting to go up to the Maine coast, but it would have been too much for one trip we decided. I think that coast may be like the Scottish one, but that comparison will have to wait until another visit.

  3. Henry lives in the hamlet of Black Dog, Devon, England. You can get in touch with him via the inn there.

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