Another notable set of features of the crypt are the enormous wooden beams in its ceiling. They are hand-hewn full tree trunks much larger than are seen in New England today. Not only are they part of both the crypt and bell tower, but each of the sanctuary’s columns contains one inside its decorative exterior. Seeing them up close in the crypt is a reminder of this solid structure that partly supports the rest of the church. The 18th-century builders crafted a sturdy space for us to visit today and a protected place of peace for those at rest here.
The hard and careful work of these men, whose names are now unknown, shows in the exposed wood of the beams. Marks of hand tools, like the adze, move in wave patterns down the beams, recording how the workers straddled the huge trunks, hewing at the wood in reach, stepping backwards along their lengths. Their workmanship is a strong presence in the chapel, especially where it is actually visible.
One of the many effects of European colonization on the New England area was deforestation. It was done not only to clear land for farming and towns, but also from widespread beliefs that forests created harsher weather and ill-health. They were dark zones of wilderness, the opposite of civilization. England also had a long-established wood shortage and was in need of New World tree-cutting on a large scale. Government regulations, to ensure the Royal Navy was supplied with masts, designated certain trees as the “King’s Pines.” The massive trees now part of King’s Chapel are one piece of this history, as are other buildings, ships, and even the paper of old documents.