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Topping Out at Gardener’s Cottage

Manifesto 22: We are mindful that we need to look from a distance to see the trees that make up the forest.


Today we are marking the placing of the final structural beam at our Gardener’s Cottage project with a ‘Topping Out’ ceremony.


This strange custom was brought to the UK from Scandinavian by the Vikings. The Norsemen believed that people originated from trees and when human souls depart this earth they return to the trees, which is what gives each tree its unique spirit. When a tree is felled for construction the tree gods need to be appeased, by the placing of a tree on the highest part of the building to give their displaced spirit a place to live.


This traditional celebration used to be a widespread construction ritual celebrated for thousands of years but has sadly fallen by the wayside. As an architect with over twenty years’ experience on site, I have only ever participated in this intriguing ceremony twice. The first was almost ten years to this day at our New Forest House. Traditionally the client helps to place the final piece of the structure.


Today we strapped a piece of ‘yew’ (the English addition to the ceremony) to the highest point of our building, our beautiful brick chimney, and toasted the building, the team, our wonderful clients and all the trees that have been sacrificed to make this new home. Symbolically, our clients installed (under the watchful eye of master craftsman, Nigel) the final few bricks in the chimney.


Tree Gods aside, The Topping Out ceremony is a beautiful ritual as it gives the whole team a moment to stand and stare, and to appreciate the journey that we have taken together and marvel and celebrate the ingenuity and talented team that are working so hard to bring this home into being.