Build Day #7

IMG_1893Today was the first day of electrical work and the focus was getting a new electrical feed to the top floor.

IMG_1895There was much lifting of floorboards, head scratching and drilling – the electrics have not been updated since 1960. We now have no power on the ground or first floor, so bedtime will involve torches or candles. The cats were going well with all the noise and intrusion but Oliver started to get worried when one of the electricians had to do some work in the top floor kitchen/lounge where they were enclosed for the day. I asked the electrician to introduce himself to Oliver so that he wouldn’t get scared (since our burglary in Liverpool, Oliver has been scared of male strangers in the house, particularly when he hears unusual footsteps on the stairs).  It was only afterwards that I realised how mad that would seem to the electrician, who very sweetly complied with my request.

IMG_1902Meanwhile, the door continued to be bricked in. It’s a very nice job using heritage bricks and traditional lime mortar, plus the pattern, English Bond (alternating rows of brick stretchers and headers) must be time consuming. It is taking quite a while though – I’m glad I’m not paying by the hour!

IMG_1896In another part of the house the bathroom was ripped out. It turns out that the tiles in the shower were simply stuck onto the wallpaper underneath!

IMG_1898It’s a bad thing for the bathroom but a good thing for a house historian like me: two wallpaper patterns to add to the archive. A pale blue and pink loose floral pattern.

IMG_1899Blue birds on branches (with black mould).

IMG_1897I need to make sure Oliver, Ruby and Rose don’t come in here – there are now holes big enough for them to fall through.

IMG_1901Very atmospheric below though.


Found Objects #6: From the Ceiling Above the Kitchen

IMG_1766When the kitchen ceiling was brought down the other day, amongst the rubble we found some more objects that had made their way underneath the floorboards above.

IMG_1781There was another empty Park Drive cigarette packet just like the one I found last year. That electrician in 1960 must have been a chain smoker. It was discovered in the same area as the last one.

IMG_1779There was also an empty matchbox. Scottish Bluebell Matches.

IMG_1782An empty electric switch box – the Crabtree “Lincoln” Switch.

IMG_1785It was the 5 amp 3000 White.

IMG_1777An empty tube of Sainsbury’s Toothpaste – not that old, perhaps 1990s. Cleans the teeth; Freshens the mouth.

IMG_1778A pink floral fabric belt.




Build Day #6

IMG_1858One week in and we have filled our first skip! When the new skip arrived I wondered how they orchestrated the changeover.

IMG_1860The skip is covered and lifted onto the truck.

IMG_1864At this point the full skip sits on top of the new skip.

IMG_1865Both skips are then placed back onto the road.

IMG_1869And finally the full skip is lifted back onto the truck leaving the new skip in position. An elegant solution.

IMG_1870The brickwork continued. The electrician visited. The structural engineer returned. Apparently we are going to save a fair bit of money as the chimney breast in the kitchen does not continue all the way up through the rest of the house – though I’ve been saying that for some time now (it’s always good when the experts catch up).

IMG_1890For some reason Miss Rose has managed to claim the top of the cat tree – she looks very proud of herself.



Build Day #5

IMG_1852The tradesman’s entrance door removed and blocked up. The door, with its leaded glass, will be ‘upcycled’ to become the new internal door between the hallway and kitchen.

IMG_1851Very dark inside now. This will become the utility/laundry closet.

IMG_1854Some blockwork has been done around the rear doorway as well.



Wallpaper Day #8 (and more Hidden House History)

IMG_1830I forgot to post this yesterday. On the top of the window pelmet was the date 2001 painted in the pale peppermint green that covered the walls, thus dating the last redecoration of this room, and perhaps much of the house, to the very start of the twenty-first century, when Paddy was 80.

IMG_1834Today I tackled the west wall of Mark’s future study (formerly George Sutherland Fraser’s study). The wallpaper either peeled off dry, sometimes taking the plaster with it, or was extraordinarily stubborn. I had to utilise my Paper Tiger, which I still haven’t shown you yet.

IMG_1836For a short while I had my assistant Ruby on hand but apparently she got bored.

IMG_1839The wall after stripping, exposing the plaster.

IMG_1837By the fireplace I got a brief glimpse of the original paper. Once again it was a textured paper like the one in the lounge so it may well date to 1935 when Martha Baxter had the house redecorated. This one is a sort of organic cross-hatched design.

IMG_1838I also discovered how this fireplace works. The hood above the fire was painted shut but cleverly it opens the flue when you pull it out and closes it again when you push it in. When I pulled it open for the first time in years there was lots (lots) of dust, many broken bricks and a dead bird, the second in my fireplace reveals. I also worked out that the fender at the bottom lifts out (with the help of my trusty mallet). I swept out many cigarette butts and other rubbish that had clearly been there some decades. I then also found a crumpled piece of paper.


It was a torn up letter dated February 14, 1963.



It was signed by George Fraser and was written to another George, whose surname is not mentioned. It discusses poetry and the work of a young poet called Jeannette Osborne, whose poetry George Fraser had sent the other George for critique. In it there is a line which reads “I would admit that I am perhaps less stringently critical than I ought to be about poems by young women, especially when I find them attractive; and I have my own sentimental streak…”  Torn up and thrown into the fireplace, it was never sent.




Wallpaper Day #7

IMG_1804Today is Miss Rose’s third birthday. Now retired from the show circuit, she is a titled Premier Champion. She is very pretty and she knows it. She is also very sweet.

IMG_1827I decided that the final set of bookshelves in Mark’s future study needed to come down. They weren’t of the best quality and were going to get in the way – the radiator needs to be moved and ideally the wallpaper stripped. It made sense to do it now while we have the skip and builders on hand to make any repairs to the walls.

IMG_1829It was a difficult demolition mainly because of the length of the shelves – each shelf was a continuous piece of timber and it was tricky manoeuvring  them out of the room. The room feels a lot bigger now that they are gone.

IMG_1832This wall proved very trying. Once again there was an original paper that had been painted over countless times but instead of it sticking to the wall permanently, it took the top layer of plaster off with it. Joy. This entire wall will probably need to be re-skimmed. Tomorrow I will see if the other walls behave the same way.


Build Day #4

IMG_1763It’s a little unnerving when you can see the room beneath your floorboards.

IMG_1766That’s because the kitchen ceiling came down today in preparation for the structural steels. It made quite a mess. Extremely fine dust even made its way into the top floor. I could taste it before I could see it and it eventually settled on all surfaces. This must be that dust that people complain of during building works…

IMG_1790The rest of the bathroom pieces also arrived today. At some point I will need to select tiles.

IMG_1775It was a little rainy today so the bricklayer couldn’t do everything he planned. He made some progress though on finishing off the new doorway opening. It was such seamless work that at first I didn’t realise that any brickwork had been done.IMG_1776

Here is a picture of an original brick from the house.

IMG_1774And this is one of the new bricks.

Build Day #3

Day three was very busy.

IMG_1771The plumbers were here and they set up the temporary water supply for the top floor. Here you can see it snaking from downstairs, through the future en suite and the up to the next floor. They also plumbed in our washing machine, which is now squished into our already tiny bathroom. The tumble dryer is now on the landing. At least it means we have totally uninterrupted laundry capabilities – much to Mark’s delight.

IMG_1739The plumbers also cut off the gas and the rest of the water, removed the boiler and began to demolish the bathroom and toilet.

IMG_1742Goodbye toilet!

IMG_1743Goodbye bathroom!

IMG_1734Our skip arrived today as well.

IMG_1744It wasn’t long before it was half full. Look, everything including the kitchen sink!

IMG_1741There were deliveries of bathroom supplies. More to come tomorrow.

IMG_1747The rickety wooden screen was demolished.

IMG_1751The structural engineer came to advise on the structural work. We need to work out a way to hold up the chimney at the back of the house once the servant’s toilet wall is removed. The entire chimney is propped up by the wall, these wooden beams and blocks of stone. The more major structural work will be in the kitchen.

IMG_1757The back wall was completely knocked through into the pantry.

IMG_1760It is the first time that the house has a view onto the back garden! It also reinforced how dismal the garden actually is at the moment. I like how the builders have set up an outdoor recreation space with their garden chairs. I forgot to take a close up of the bricks – they are stamped Whitwick Colliery, which was a colliery and brickworks to the northwest of Leicester.

IMG_1735At the same time new bricks were arriving!



Build Day #2, Wallpaper Day #6


IMG_1725 Day 2 of the build was all about preparing for the bricklayers who are coming tomorrow. JB showed me a new tool that allows him to cut bricks out of a wall without breaking them. That’s what has been done here – bricks can be re-used and the blocking up of this window will  be very neat.

IMG_1733They did the same thing with the door.

IMG_1732The servants no longer have a door on their toilet.

IMG_1730It might make a nice shed door so I think I’ll hold on to it. It would be nice to reuse as much as possible from the house.

IMG_1724The pantry has been demolished.

IMG_1727The outline of the french doors has been cut into the outer wall of the pantry.

IMG_1715It was a very noisy and dusty affair that made the entire house vibrate.

IMG_1718It was a clear sunny day. That’s the brick dust you can see wafting over the neighbouring houses. Sorry neighbours! Later I had a disturbing thought. That was the dust created outside when they cut through a doorway – imagine the dust inside when they cut through the new internal kitchen door!

IMG_1719Meanwhile I finished stripping the wallpaper in the future en suite.

IMG_1721Once again, large sections of the moss green were so stubborn I had to leave them. I’m glad I finished this room as tomorrow and Friday all of the bathroom items are being delivered and this is where I am going to store them.

Tomorrow will be busy. There will be several major deliveries, the bricklayers will be arriving, the plumber will be decommissioning the boiler and shutting off much of the water in the house, the structural engineer will be here, the water company will be testing our water quality (lead pipes are going regardless) and I’m having a chat with the producer of a television series about home renovating…


It Begins! (and Wallpaper Day #5)


The build began today! JB and his team arrived at 7:30 and got to work.


Oliver, Ruby and Rose had to spend most of the day in the top floor kitchen/lounge/dining room while the Great Wall was being constructed. See how stressed they look? Actually, later Oliver hid under the couch and Rose behind the TV but only for a little while when things got quite noisy, so we were glad of that.

IMG_1636This is the top floor landing before the Great Wall.

IMG_1657And here it is after the Great Wall was erected. The Great Wall is designed to keep the cats safely inside the top floor flat out of the way of the builders. The wall will also prevent most dust and some of the noise traveling up to this inhabited floor.

IMG_1672When finally released, the trio were quick to inspect the workmanship: it met with their satisfaction.The door has been recycled from downstairs – for 110 years it was the door to the larder/pantry and now here it is three floors up!

IMG_1661The view from the other side of the Great Wall.

IMG_1638For much of the day Ruby observed from her vantage point.

IMG_1640She watched as three truckloads of junk from the breakfast room were removed. All those weekends of lifting carpets, pulling down curtains, demolishing shelves and so on were cleared away in a couple of hours.

IMG_1688Meanwhile, serious work was going on downstairs. Internal doors and architraves were being removed.

IMG_1655External doors and windows were being demolished.

IMG_1689Servants bells were set aside for safe keeping.

IMG_1691Breakfast room (original kitchen) cleared, door and window removed. Much plaster brought down. This is the future kitchen. Can you believe we were once considering replacing this original quarry tile floor? Granted it’s a bit dusty but it will restore beautifully.

IMG_1700The boiler and chimney breast are still be removed. The structural engineer is coming on Thursday to advise.

IMG_1699In the old kitchen, even older scullery, future meals room, the window and door were removed as were most of the cabinets and shelves. Looking at the wall we can see various colour schemes from over the years. The lower rectangle shows a wall of two tones (yellowish browns, though they may have been lighter originally) with a red dividing stripe. I have seen this before in National Trust properties and am fairly confident this was the original colour. At some point the walls were painted that dark navy blue. It is the same colour I have found traces of in the hallways and stairs and I think this was probably a 1950s or 60s scheme. It would have been very dark.

IMG_1709Looking back through towards the future kitchen.

IMG_1706The larder/pantry was stripped of it quarry tiles for re-use. A pair of double doors will go through the end wall through to the garden.

IMG_1683Outside the cavities were boarded up ready for the bricklayers who are coming on Thursday.

IMG_1678New kitchen window to go in here, doorway on left to be bricked up.


More refuse leaving.

IMG_1693On some of the newly exposed bricks were Edwardian builder’s notes written in pencil.

IMG_1641While all of this was going on, I continued to strip wallpaper in the bedroom. Before.



IMG_1675The original moss green on the walls goes quite well with the hearth tiles.

IMG_1642I also made a start on the future en suite. I didn’t need the steamer for what you see here as it just peeled straight off the plaster – the moss green as well! There are about four layers of paper and a few layers of paint as well.

IMG_1648The pale green paint covers a dark green  1960s or 70s pattern featuring squiggles and circles. Under that is a pearlescent coral coloured paper.


Between the two are a few traces of a floral paper.

IMG_1652Some more fragments.

I think that’s all for today!