A tradition dating back to the Pharaohs was followed during the topping out of a Great Somerford show home.
The occasion at the Somerbrook development was marked by the raising of a tree branch to the roof, watched by dozens of construction and office staff from builder Stonewood Partnerships.
The 38-home neighbourhood is being built on four acres of ancient farmland which was once home to a dairy herd at Brook Farm on the edge of the village, and will include 10 affordable homes.
Stonewood Partnerships managing director Sam Smart said the ceremony was a good way to celebrate the milestone at the Castle Combe and Tormarton-based firm's first housing development.
He added: “For us this was a significant moment, our first house ‘in the dry’, which means we have a roof covering on, so we wanted to thank everyone for all their efforts to get to that point.
"I’m sure moving forward we’ll have less time to reflect but it just seemed like a good thing to do so we got everyone down to celebrate what for us is a little bit of a milestone.”
The tradition is said to date back to work on the pyramids but became popular in Scandinavia, when builders cleared a space in the forest to build a home and then placed a fir tree on top of the building as an offering to the forest gods to appease them for disturbing their habitat.
The custom also involved providing drinks or ‘tile beer’ for workers. The practice was brought to Britain after the Vikings invaded and became widespread.
One Victorian builder who was a teetotaller refused to give his workers beer, handing them Bibles instead. The workforce promptly took them to a pawn shop and bought beer with the proceeds.
Mr Smart said: “A whole tree on top of the building wasn’t practical for us so we offered a branch instead. It was really good to mark the moment and see the sense of scale and shape of the development.
"There’s a real sense of excitement now as we can see it coming together.”
He revealed that since work recommenced after a six-week shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Cotswold-style neighbourhood was coming together at a good pace.
“We are eating up the time we lost during the shutdown period for covid,” he said. “There is a real buzz on the site with teams of sub-contractors making huge progress.
"You get a little tingle of excitement every time you step on site and see it emerging from the ground.
“It’s now looking like a housing development rather than a building site. There’s work under way on every plot and we are in full swing now.”
The four-bedroom detached show home is due to be completed and opened by late September. A brochure for the development of two, three, four and five-bedroomed homes is available.
Stonewood is in talks with a housing association to oversee the allocation of the affordable homes.
Stonewood Partnerships is an arm of Stonewood Group, a 45-year-old family firm which employs more than 200 staff and works with more than 300 sub-contractors.
More details about the site and the brochure are available at stonewoodpartnerships.co.uk