Stage 2, Day 15

The end of the third week.

IMG_1770Around the corner I spotted the new pavers for the front path.



Ceilings are starting to go up in the toilet and utility.

IMG_1781It’s all taking shape.



The new window was installed in the servant’s bedroom/future guest room. Here is the window making its arrival.


The old window. It’s always sad to say goodbye to an origninal window but it was rotten, thinly glazed and could not be opened. The servant’s room also had cheaper materials than the rest of the house. This is a traditional sash window, whereas the windows in the family’s part of the house were the more fashionable Edwardian casements. We managed to save the architrave though.




IMG_1758Our neighbour maintains a nice lawn.



IMG_1775Very nice. It’s not fashionable to like UPVC windows but these are very solid and practical. If the house were a few streets over we would be in a conservation area and all of the old windows would have had to remain. The house has thirty-six windows, so I can live with a few UPVC ones, plus the double glazing will help keep the place warm. This was an especially cold room as it has three external walls.

IMG_1778Both sections open, the lower part being very handy for evacuation if ever it were necessary. We should probably review our fire drill.


Outside before.

IMG_1769 (1)

Outside after. You can see that I had the new window made to the same proportions as the old one.


Old window on the way out.


Tiles for the utility room were delivered.


Tiles for the hearth in the dining room were delivered. Lights were delivered but I haven’t taken a photo.

IMG_1761Oliver being as brave as he could considering all of today’s disruptions.



Stage 2, Day 14

IMG_1721The pavers on our new back step have been mortared in.

IMG_1727Now we just need to work on the garden to make it worth stepping outside!

img_4791How it used to look a year ago.

IMG_1712The coal store is definitely looking like a room now.

IMG_1713Further lining, cladding and such-like occurred. Site of the future basin in the toilet.

IMG_1717We are going to get a cupboard door installed in the triangular ‘loft’ space; a great place to store the Christmas decorations.

IMG_1714Pipework for the new toilet. The red brickwork is less than a year old as that was once the doorway through to the old servant’s toilet. It will be a shame to cover it really.

img_4826How it used to look a year ago. We’re installing a high-level cistern toilet in the new space as a nod to the house’s past. It will be nicer than this though, trust me.

img_1971This is now the breakfast room! Seeing pictures like this makes you realise how much has been accomplished in the last year.

IMG_1728The brickwork is now complete on the new wall; it makes the old part of the wall on the left look rather shabby. Everything else here will be black-and-white timber and render. I blamed P the plumber for all of yesterday’s grit in the kitchen but I realised this morning that some of it was from the cutting of these grey bricks. All the doors were closed today as more bricks were cut, which made a big difference.

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 11.45.51 amHere is the collection of colours for the utility room and toilet. The walls will be Farrow and Ball’s Cinder Rose (pink) and the wainscoting Vert de Terre (green). The units for the utility will be cream and the floor black and white tile.




Stage 2, Day 13

IMG_1692The new routines are setting in; the entire trio now get wound up around 8am. IMG_1696The reality of building work has also hit as boundaries between ‘home’ and ‘building site’ become blurred once more. Building materials have inevitably made their way into living spaces. IMG_1710Ruby doesn’t mind though as it gives her a platform to access to never-before-seen locations. IMG_1708P the plumber had to do a lot of brick grinding as he first-fixed the plumbing and heating in the coal store conversion. As a consequence, every surface in the kitchen and breakfast room was coated in a dark grey grit after clouds of dust billowed out of the back door. IMG_1701It’s very nice work though. Pipes for the washing machine and sink. IMG_1703Heating and pipework in the toilet. IMG_1704Connections through to the existing services. The heating has also been drained and the boiler turned off, so we are hoping for warm weather over the next couple of weeks. IMG_1695 The wall crept further up; the conversion is now fully enclosed.

Stage 2, Day 12

A great deal has been happening today.

IMG_1635Rosie started the morning with some stretches. It’s important to be limber.

IMG_1639Ruby and Oliver were on the lookout.


B the electrician came and completed the first fix of the utility room and toilet.








Lights. I have decided to go with wall lights in both rooms as the ceilings are so high.


This is the “fisherman’s” light fitting I am using in the utility room. It matches the pendant in the breakfast room.


In the toilet I am having this Tiffany style light above the basin and mirror.


A and R continued work on the wall.

IMG_1690The time capsule is down in behind this brickwork now.

IMG_1681The space is quickly being enclosed.

IMG_1682Toilet taking shape.

IMG_1679The tiles for the top floor bathroom were delivered; a nice travertine-effect ceramic tile.


The tree stumps in the front garden were ground down. Before.



The grinder exposed a line of red bricks that had been enveloped by the tree trunk. It wasn’t good for his cutting blades, apparently.


And after. We can now walk straight to the front door from the footpath! The stump of the yew tree that was next to the front door was also ground out.



I continued preparations in the guest bedroom clearing things out and tackling the fireplace.


There was still a certain amount of debris falling into this fireplace that I revealed last year so I donned my mask and gloves and set about trying to sweep the chimney out. It was an extremely dusty job. I ended up just having the vacuum cleaner running a metre or so away just to try to suck up some of the airborne dust. As I swept more and more of the debris out I was reaching my arm further and further up into the chimney. Given my past experiences I expected to come accross a bird skelton or two. On the ledge I felt a large piece of loose metal and pulled it out, bringing a load of debris with it. It was the bars for the front of the fireplace! As I continued there was more.


The ash pan cover.


And finally the baffle – the thing you use to close off the chimney (I know these words because I just looked them up). Whoever had boarded up this fireplace was thoughful enough to leave all the fireplace parts up the chimney. Thank you person-from-the-past!


It certainly saves me a few trips to reclamation yards to find replacements.

IMG_1677I still need to strip it the and have it repainted but I am so happy that I found the original fireplace parts.


I looked up the chimney, which now seems fairly clear (this photo was taken before I did a final sweep – you can see more debris on the ledge). I replaced the baffle, effectively blocking the room from draughts and future debris.

IMG_1678My bucket was full – this is in addition to the foot of debris that I cleared out the last time! It’s a mixture of soot, masonry and a lot of old bird droppings – the pigeons still love to hang out on top of the chimney pot, Rosie watches them every morning from my study window. The content of the bucket was probably 50% phosphate – I could give Nauru a run for their money.



Guest Bedroom Wallpaper


Just over a year ago I discovered an old wallpaper behind the cast iron radiator in the entrance hall.


It had to date to the 1920s or 1930s as I estimate the radiator was installed by Martha Baxter when she modernised in 1935. The colours were pale grey and yellow, which may have originally been blue and green.IMG_2285

It featured birds in cages and in woodland.

088523fullAs a nod to the history of the house I have chosen this birdcage wallpaper for the guest bedroom. It was 20% off in the Bank Holiday sale. I like the way that it has the same line-drawn quality, similar colours, and even the curling tendrils in the background echo the flourishes in the original paper.

IMG_1628Over the last few days I have been clearing out a lot of junk from the future guest room, which was originally the servant’s quarters. Most of the issues in this room are purely cosmetic but we are getting a new window installed. Then it will just be a matter of decorating. Frogdancer will be coming to the UK in 5 and a half weeks, so that’s my deadline for getting it finished.

Stage 2, Day 11

IMG_1604 It was a Saturday but I’m counting it in the build as some important work was undertaken. IMG_1602P the damp proofer came by in the afternoon and set up his equipment. IMG_1600He drilled holes into the wall and injected the damp proofing fluid under high pressure. IMG_1606The machine looked like a strange set of mechanical bagpipes. The active ingredient of the injected fluid reacts with the atmosphere to form a water repellent barrier. This halts the capillary rise of moisture (you can see the ‘tide mark’ of salts above the injection course – a classic case of rising damp, albeit a small one). He suspects that the cause of the rising damp is not the bricks but the mortar in between them, which sucks up moisture like a sponge, bridges the blue engineering brick damp course (that line of darker bricks) and then soaks the brickwork above. Modern repointing uses cement rather than the traditional lime, which would have allowed the wall to breathe and dry out more easily. He was still stumped as to why the rising damp is so localised to this one pillar. He was impressed though, as he said that a true case of rising damp is rare, as a lot of damp is caused by leaks of some sort. My theory is that the massive silver birch was helping to keep the ground dry as it would have drunk hundreds of litres of water a day, so the ground has resaturated over the last eighteen months since the tree was felled. In addition the tree sheltered the front of the house from prevailing winds and rain, so rain once again hits the front of the house directly and soaks the front garden. It will also help to remove the crazy paving from the garden as this will improve evaporation. IMG_1615He did the same injection treatment on the internal side of the wall. The whole process took a couple of hours. IMG_1611 After this, P treated the roof joist that had signs of past woodworm infestation. If there are any of the critters still eating away at the beam, they won’t be for long. The joist is still stucturally sound, which is good.

Stage 2, Day 10

IMG_1588We have half a wall and a partial window opening!

IMG_1572The time capsule went into the wall cavity.


IMG_1592The back step – the pavers are just sitting on the brickwork at the moment to get an idea of how they will look.

IMG_1573The roofers came a day early – I guess there’s nothing as motivating as a bank holiday weekend. It saves us having them here on a Saturday too. The before shot.

IMG_1574And after. The new Velux skylight window in the utility room.

IMG_1582It lets in a lot of light and is great for ventilation too as it swings open on a central pivot.


IMG_1594How it looks from the garden. A window on that back wall would have taken away valuable space for cupboards in the utility room, and if we put a window on the wall around the corner to the right it would have overlooked the neighbour’s garden a bit too intrusively.

IMG_1580The view into the future WC.

IMG_1576Preparations have been made for the damp proofing injections in the lounge and at the front of the house. It was a shame that this surfaced now after we had already decorated but on the bright side we hadn’t laid any carpet. I am now thinking of taking the walls a shade lighter when we have this repair redecorated…but it may be that it will look different when we finally get floor coverings in there. I shouldn’t second guess myself prematurely.



Stage 2, Day 9

IMG_1559The back step is taking shape.

IMG_1560Work continues on the coal store. I didn’t want to risk stepping on the new brickwork so I took this picture through the window. Sorry I didn’t even bother to open the window – it needs a bit of a clean.

210515 scott utilityHere is the design for the utility room, including that belfast sink. Perfect for bathing a small dog…

Stage 2, Day 8

IMG_1543The first full skip of Stage 2 was taken away.

IMG_1549Work continues on lining and insulating the coal store.

IMG_1544We broke through the doorway from the breakfast room!

IMG_1546All secured temporarily.

IMG_1553The crazy paving and blue brick edging were removed from around the silver birch trunk ready for the stump grinding. You can see Hughie the tree man chopping down the tree here.

House History

I have been gathering together all of the historical information about the house in order to include a summary of it in the time capsule. This is what I have so far:

Brief history of ‘Mostyn’, an Edwardian house in Leicester

History of the land

The land on which this house sits was formerly part of the farmland owned by the Powys Kecks of the nearby country house Stoughton Grange. The village of Stoughton was originally an Anglo-Saxon settlement overlooking the Roman road called Via Devana (now Gartree Road). Roman, Iron Age and medieval pottery fragments have all been found in the village.

Harry Leycester Powys Keck, the High Sheriff of Leicestershire, was the last in the family line to live at Stoughton Grange, which dates back to the time of Edward the Confessor. Stoughton Grange passed through the hands of the Earls of Leicester and was then given to Leicester Abbey in 1157. In 1538 the estate was seized by King Henry VIII and passed to John Harington, a treasurer for the king. It was then purchased by Thomas Farnham, Queen Elizabeth I’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. Stoughton Grange was inherited by Farnham’s descendants the Beaumonts, the Powyses and the Kecks.

The creation of the D’Oyley Estate

This land was part of a residential subdivision created to meet the demand for middle class housing in the late 19th century. Harry Leycester Powys Keck gradually sold off his land and Stoughton Grange was abandoned in 1913 and demolished in 1936.

On 29th September 1897 there was an indenture made between Jane D’Oyley, James Ingram, Cecil Henry Thomas, H J Thomas, Mary Elizabeth Thomas and Sir Israel Hart (four times Mayor of Leicester) forming a syndicate to purchase the land for subdivision. On the 8th July 1898 there was a conveyance of land between Harry Leycester Powys Keck (vendor) and the Hon Montagu Curzon, Thomas Henry Burroughes and Sir Israel Hart (purchasers) which contained restrictive covenants: within six months of land sale kerbs, sewers and channels must be constructed, fences erected, and so on. There were restrictions on the type of house to be constructed and there was to be no digging or brickmaking on the land.

This plot of land became Lot 82 of the Plan of the Grange and D’Oyley Building Estates.

The sale of the plot and building of the house

On the 29th September 1898, there was an indenture made between Sir Israel Hart and William Elliot, a butcher. Elliot sold the land on quite quickly. In 1900 there was a conveyance between William Elliot and William Henry Simpson, architect and surveyor (later to become the first District Valuer for Leicestershire). The document is dated the 6th of January 1900. The property is described as a ‘piece of land’ measuring 666 square yards and was sold for £333. The measurements of the land indicate that this plot was still unified with the land of the adjacent house, on which the matching semi-detached residence would be built. It is likely that William Henry Simpson designed and built the houses but there is no further documentary evidence. The 1902 Ordnance Survey Map for the area does not show the house, which means it was built between 1903 and 1905.

Subsequent owners and residents

The property was sold on 21st July 1905 to Robert Lawton (Managing Director of Albion Clay Company, a large brickworks).

In the 1911 Census John William Pendleton lived in this house. As he is not mentioned in any sale deeds, it implies that he rented the property from Robert Lawton. Aged 51, Pendleton was a Boot Manufacturer born in Leicester. In the Census he states that he has been married for 30 years, though his wife and children live at a different address, which suggests the marriage has broken down. Pendleton had two servants: a housekeeper Ethel May Deverell, aged 25, and the 20 year old Sarah Elizabeth Hudson, a Cook/General Servant.

On the 25th March 1919 Robert Lawton sold the house to Thomas Cawdell, a draper residing at London House, High Street, Leicester. The conveyance was for “a piece of land and two houses” indicating that the Mostyn and the neighbouring house were still owned jointly.

Thomas Cawdell only owned the house for six months. On the 26th September 1919 he sold this house to John Harrison Jr, a seed merchant (Harrison and Sons, Royal Midland Seed Warehouse, Welford Road, Leicester) and he took out a mortgage of £1000 (the house being purchased for a total sum of £1440). The 1916 Kelly’s Directory for Leicestershire and Rutland shows John Harrison Jr. living in this house three years before he purchased it, so he must have been renting the property from Lawton and then Cawdell. When Harrison bought the house in 1919 he was 41, his wife Elsie was 42 and their children were Margaret, 12, Rosemary, 10, and Kenneth, 7.

The Harrisons lived in the house throughout the 1920s. On the 16th March 1931 Harrison sold the house to yarn merchant heir Ronald Beresford Weston-Webb Esq. (of Holly Lodge Queniborough,). The house sold for £1450 with a mortgage of £1000. At the time, Weston-Webb was married to Pamela Antonia Hart and they had a two year-old son, Anthony Patrick Weston-Webb. Ronald and Pamela’s marriage came to an end when he petitioned for divorce in 1935.

On the 18th May 1935 the house was bought by Martha Baxter, widow, of “Glen Mona” Swithland Lane, Rothley, for £1000. Her late husband was a Licentiate Dental Surgeon called Campbell Hossack Baxter, who died in 1932, (leaving effects of £13,800).

On the 30th of December 1945 Martha Baxter sold the house to her daughter-in-law Mary Elizabeth Baxter, wife of her son Campbell John Baxter, of the same address for £1500. Mary Elizabeth took out a £1200 mortgage.

By the early 1950s Mary Elizabeth Baxter was widowed. Her husband Campbell John, whose occupation was a hosiery buyer, died of lung cancer in the house at the age of 48. He left effects of £4185.

On the 11th December 1952 the house was purchased by Mark Rutherford, a school master, of Aldborough Grange, Boroughbridge, Yorkshire. The house sold for £2500, with a mortgage of £2000. Mark Rutherford was married to Annie Gwendoline Lyversage and they had two children, Andrew and Richenda, who were 12 and 6 respectively at the time the house was bought.

On the 28th August 1958 the house was purchased by George Sutherland Fraser, a poet and university lecturer and his wife Eileen Lucy (‘Paddy’) Fraser for £2500. They had three children under ten years old: Helen, Katie, and George. This house became an unofficial centre for Leicester’s literary life during the nineteen-sixties and seventies. The famous sociologist Richard Hoggart described this house in his autobiography, A Measured Life, as “the nearest thing in the area to a literary salon”. After G S Fraser’s death in 1980, Paddy continued to live here until her death in 2013.

Following Paddy Fraser’s death, the house was purchased by Scott and Mark, who undertook a full renovation of the house over 2014 and 2015.