“As a young girl I would sit on the back step with a piece of wood and a knife, whittling away like it was the most important thing in the world, following the shape of the wood, stumped by knots and learning about grain. Now these tools and wood feel natural in my hands and I am the same little girl looking for that smooth surface and appealing shape in much larger timbers.” ANNA LEY

For 10 days a group of skilled woodworkers worked in concert within the Lincoln Cathedral Chapter House to process wood, from the round felled form into regular sections of timber. The work of the four hewers composes a process-led installation celebrating the technique and skill required to work with the material of the forest in it’s raw form. Set beneath the extraordinary timber structure hidden above the vaulted masonry ceiling that forms the Cathedral’s Chapter House roof, the project exposes the vernacular architecture of the place, drawing out the beauty of the structure concealed within the building.

This exploration of the acoustic, dramatic and material qualities of processing the trunks considers the value of labour and our relationship to the world around us. During the 10 day installation at Lincoln, over 16,000 visitors of all age groups experienced the event.

“Working in the woods feels fundamentally right. A walk through the woods can be very inspirational, seeing the shapes and the movements of the trees. When creating, the timber dictates the shape and flow of what I make, and I work with the wood rather than against it.” SHAWN FARRELL

Concept and direction: Assemble

Wood workers included: Robert Ley, Anna Ley, James Irvine, Allan Eley, Shawn Farrell and Tom Wood

Lighting design:  Katharine Williams

Theatrical direction: Emily Lin

Photographer: Henrietta Williams


On the last day the hewers return a large piece of freshly hewed timber to the growing stack in the cloisters (left). Alan Eley, Robert Ley and Shawn Farrell on their final logs, surrounded by the huge pile of wood shavings. (right).

Anna Ley, using a hand axe to hew a log of scots pine (left). Alan Eley and Robert Ley work together to hew a log (right).

Robert Ley scoring  the log ready to hew a log of scots pine (left).  Robert Ley making one of the first cuts (right).

The new log ready to be marked up for hewing (left). Robert Ley measuring and marking up the log (right).

The team of hewers bring in a new log ready to hew (left). The workers take a break and the tools rest on the logs (right).

As one log is completed, turned from lumber to timber (left). The completed log is take out into the cloisters to be stacked (right).


The Chapter House at Lincoln Cathedral (left) will be the setting for installing Assemble’s Log Book, a project inspired by the utilisation of woodlands, and the people that work to bring them to life. 

The hidden inner roof of the Chapter House at Lincoln Cathedral (left) was the inspiration for the first phase of Assemble’s Log book, created in the 13th Century, the ceiling would have been made using the same hewing techniques employed by the wood workers, drawing our attention to the labour concealed in the buildings we inhabit and admire

Beautiful giants, full sized scots pine at the Woodland Trust’s Hill Holt Wood (left) Newly felled wood ready to be transported to the Lincoln Cathedral for Logbook phase one (right)

Assembles Fran Edgerly and theatre director Emily Lin, meet with woodworker Alan Eley during their residency in Lincoln.

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