Christmas in the Edwardian House

img_6689Well hello! Is it December already?

img_7781We are just about prepared for Christmas here at the Edwardian House.

img_6722It is always reassuring when Christmas has been delivered. Ruby inspects.

img_6900I planned to make a few sausage rolls for Christmas functions and ended up with eighty!

img_6901They look good though.


Oliver won’t be the only member of the household to need a diet when next year comes around…

img_6800Ruby being companionable at breakfast – secretly she tries to dip her paw in the milk jug when she thinks I am not looking.

There is not a lot to report on the house front as most of the work is complete. I am still waiting to get curtains for the dining room, and there is more work to be done in the garden, but that’s about it!

img_6808Rosie wishes you a Merry Christmas! As do the rest of us!


Lounge Fireplace, Day 2


IMG_7035J and S the fireplace guys were here again today to complete the installation. Yesterday the old fireplace was demolished, the brickwork chopped out, lintel fitted, gas line set up, and slate hearth laid.


Today’s job was the fitting of the insert and replacing the original timber mantel.

IMG_7049And here it is!

IMG_7013Remember how it looked yesterday.

IMG_7050We still need to patch and redecorate the wall and sand and varnish the timber mantelpiece but you get the idea.

IMG_7054Detail of the gorgeous tube-lined tiles. The pattern is English Rose.


The Art Nouveau style hood.

IMG_7064Oliver inspecting. I turned the fire off and let it cool down before I introduced the cats to it.

IMG_7058Ruby. Rose wasn’t really interested.


I turned it on in the early evening and Oliver soon took possession of this vantage point.

IMG_7099He is quite taken with the flickering flames, so I will have to watch them for a while. I still remember the day dear departed Orlando shoved his face right into the gas fire the day he arrived in the UK from Australia and singed his whiskers.


Oliver may never move.

Lounge Fireplace, Day 1

IMG_7015This morning J and S the fireplace guys started in the lounge. The before shot.


First the original 1905 timber mantelpiece had to be removed and the 1930s fireplace demolished. You can see that the original opening was much larger but had been bricked in for the later fireplace. The mottled purple tiles suggest the 1930s and my research indicates a major renovation of the house in 1935 by Martha Baxter, so it all fits together.

IMG_7024Further demolition.


Behind the 1930s brickwork were traces of the original hearth tiles – dark green rectangular Mintons tiles.


That makes the recently-laid tiles for the dining room hearth an inspired choice!


They then hammered out some more of the brickwork and installed a new lintel.


Then lots of things occurred with the gas line under the floor and various connections. The final job for the day was the laying of the new slate hearth, which will be oiled and polished at the end of the installation. The new insert will be fitted tomorrow – I took pictures of it, but to publish them now would spoil the big reveal!

More tomorrow.




Here we go again…

Over the last couple of weekends Mark and I have been assembling Ikea bookshelves for his study. Photos to follow once they are all complete.

IMG_7013This afternoon I ‘decanted’ the lounge room ready for tomorrow.


I have lost count of how many times I have done this.


Everything is crammed into the dining room.


Tomorrow this fireplace is coming out. It will be replaced with a gas, coal-effect fire. I love a fireplace but there is no way I have the discipline for a wood fire – all that chopping of wood, sweeping of ashes, the soot, dust and chimney maintenance. My fire will have a remote control and will look a darn sight better than the current fireplace. It has the most depressing looking 1930s mottled tiles.

IMG_7018We will keep the original mantelpiece though. It’s made of boxwood, or perhaps teak, with these beautiful carvings of pomegranate trees.

IMG_7017The pillars have leaves at the top.

IMG_7019I am not sure if the servants bell will survive the removal of the old fireplace but I hope it does.

IMG_7009Once the fireplace is finished there will need to be a bit of repair work and decorating. Also you can see that in the far corner we have yet to redecorate where the damproofing was done.

Then it will be time for some carpet!


Weekend activities – and a final fireplace reveal

IMG_4601 Yesterday we turned our attention to Bedroom 5, on the top floor. We shifted (or decanted) all the furniture into Mark’s study. IMG_4600 The floor is going to be sanded and polished so we ripped up the very last of the old carpet in the house. IMG_4605Surpisingly the boards were in very good condition underneath. We briefly considered leaving them as they were but decided they would look much better with a re-sanding. There’s Oliver considering jumping on the window sill. IMG_4608I then spent an hour or so removing all the old carpet gripper strips around the edges of the room. IMG_4607I was doing all the boring jobs before my fun for the day – this fireplace. I knew what to expect so it was on with the gloves and face mask, several buckets and plastic bags to hand, a dustpan and brush, and the vacuum cleaner. IMG_4609It was a bit on an anti-climax really. I think this chimney has been sealed so there was only about a bucketful of masonry and dust. No dead birds, which was a releif. No screwed up newspapers or other historical artefacts though. IMG_4638I swept out the mess and, like several of the other fireplaces, the pieces of the fireplace were placed inside the cavity – the fire grate, the baffle and the hood. The only think missing was the ashpan but I have one from the matching fireplace in Mark’s study so I might be able to find one at a reclamation yard. IMG_4641How it looked by the end of the afternoon. D, the floor guy, will be here on Tuesday and then T, the decorator, can start on this room.

Stage 2, Day 34


IMG_2720Yesterday, in the guest bedroom, I painted the insert in the fireplace black, and this morning I cleaned the hearth tiles.


I also prepared the floor for the new carpet. There were a few loose boards that I screwed down and I adjusted one that had a very loud creak. I also vacuumed thoroughly, especially around the skirting boards to prevent dust eventually staining the edges of the carpet.

IMG_2726The carpet fitters began by laying dust-paper and followed with the underlay.

IMG_2734An hour or so later – done!

IMG_2738Looking good.

IMG_1628How it looked just a few weeks ago.

IMG_2741The hearth tiles clash with the wallpaper but I wanted to have them on show anyway.


Do you remember when I revealed this fireplace about eighteen months ago?

IMG_1664And how I found the fire pieces up in the chimney a few weeks back?

IMG_2751Wallpaper close-up.

IMG_2779Oliver, Ruby and Rose inspecting at the end of the day.

IMG_2773Ruby was first over the threshold.

And Rose was the first to christen the carpet with her claws.

IMG_2743Carpet on the landing leading to the back stairs.

IMG_2753T the decorator continued undercoating them today.

IMG_2754The neat carpet edge at the top.

IMG_2728T also gloss-painted the doors on the top floor. Cupboard.

IMG_2731Bathroom. He also started to fill the woodwork in the utility and toilet.

IMG_2770P the plumber was here too. All the fixtures are now connected.

The new downstairs toilet possesses the most forceful flush I have ever witnessed.


IMG_2771Utility room tap.

IMG_2729Top floor toilet and shower.


IMG_2732The room is looking huge!

IMG_2760Externally, work continued on the new planters.

IMG_2761A slight adjustment is being made to the alignment.

IMG_2758The fence has been repaired.

IMG_2756Our neighbour will be very happy with that. I am too – I love the castellated top of the old fence palings and that’s an extremely sturdy new post.


At the side of the house, the site of the old servant courtyard will become the fern garden.


All cleared and ready for topsoil.

IMG_2767I had noticed for a few days that this drain around the side appeared blocked. The last time the builders were here I had to unblock it as it became filled with sand and rubble which obstructed the P-trap. This time it was much more difficult to clear.

IMG_2768I had to break it up with the trowel to get it out – it’s mortar that has been poured or washed into the drain and had set solid. I hope for my builders’ sake I got it all! Luckily I had a CCTV scan of all the drains just before work began so we can always make a comparison if necessary.

IMG_2765Finally, at the end of the day, after everyone had gone home, the gravel arrived. It was delivered by a lone man with a pallet trolley – no crane. Each of these bags literally weighs a tonne – 1000kgs. The poor man struggled so I had to help him push the load up the very slight incline to their final position. It was hard going even with the two us. I can’t believe they allow one person to deliver such a heavy load. He was a strapping Eastern European but as he said to me in halting English “I am not horse!”


Stage 2, Day 24

IMG_2233First, I know that some of you have been missing the cats. Oliver and Ruby in their dungeon ie. the master bedroom, during today’s work. Look at them suffering on the mink throw and looking daggers at me.

IMG_2236Rose on the damask attending to her toilette. I even had the QVC shopping channel on for her.

IMG_2210This morning A and D turned their attention to the front garden. They began by digging up a lot of the crazy paving.

IMG_2214Then there were massive tree roots to unearth.

IMG_2227That looks like an enormous tree branch but it is, in fact, a root.

IMG_2228All cleared and leveled. Next the hardcore base was laid and compacted but I don’t have a picture of that.

IMG_2272And then the paving stones were laid.

IMG_2267We finally have a front path! We have to wait for the cement to dry before we can use it though. The path and front garden will vastly improve the street-appeal of the house.

IMG_2270J the tiler grouted the utility room. I can’t get enough of those tiles.

IMG_2269Just look at that edge where it meets the quarry tiles.

IMG_2280He also finished grouting the bottom section of the shower walls in the top floor bathroom.

IMG_2271And repaired the section of loose grout in the kitchen’s original quarry floor for me.

IMG_2206Finally he tiled the hearth of the open chimney breast in the dining room. Before.

IMG_2238And after: it really completes the room. J the tiler said they look like they have always been there. Most of the other fireplaces in the house have inset gloss tiles in red or green which is why I was drawn to these.

IMG_0876Here was Oliver a year and a half ago helping to uncover the fireplace tiles in my study. The original tiles as you can see are smaller but it is the same effect.

IMG_4491And the green tiles in the bedroom when I revealed that fireplace.

While we are talking about the dining room, you can see some before and after shots here.

IMG_2208B the electrician was also here today. Switch plate before (sitting too proud of the plaster).

IMG_2211And after. Hardly any damage done.

IMG_2209Wire for the unnecessary extractor fan before.

IMG_2212And now gone.

IMG_2222Old ugly pull cords in the top floor bathroom.


IMG_2279Replaced by a discreet switch for the shower above the bathroom door.

IMG_2282And a new switch for the light just outside, which is a legal requirement if you want to have bathroom light switches.

IMG_2276The new bathroom light was fitted but unfortunately the glass shade was cracked, so I have ordered a replacement.

IMG_2223Utilitarian light and pull cord in the kitchenette in Mark’s study decommissioned. The main light in that room will be enough, plus we will no longer be cooking in this room.

IMG_2224New light fitting for Mark’s study.

IMG_2283With its New York Tiffany shade.

IMG_2275New light fitting for the top floor landing. And new smoke detector.

IMG_2273The trunking on the landing was also neatened-up.

IMG_2217New light fitting for the servant stairs landing. It’s the same fisherman’s light that I have in the breakfast room and I will have a matching wall light in the utility room. It’s my attempt to keep the ‘story’ of the old servant areas of the house consistent by using more austere lights in those areas.

IMG_2218Ready for the new light shade in the guest room. This will be a non-austere room, however.

IMG_2265While B the electrician was on a break, I couldn’t help but utilise his ladder to have a look in the loft. I managed to get my head and shoulders through that hatch.

IMG_2254It’s a huge space up there, at least six feet high from the rafters to the apex with no cross beams. Lots of old insulation piled up everywhere though. I think I’d like to get one of those fold-down ladders to gain access to this space as it would be great for storage. I’m sure we could even do a loft-conversion and turn it into an extra bedroom but we don’t really need a fourth floor or another bedroom. I’m tempted to explore the possibilities one day though.

IMG_2258There’s also a redundant water expansion tank up here for the old heating system. I’m glad it’s a modern plastic one rather than an old asbestos example.

IMG_2240The plaster work around the guest bedroom window was also patched up. I had a couple of windows measured for blinds today, including this one. I also confirmed the carpet order for this room. My nine week guest room challenge is running on schedule. Tomorrow the decorators arrive!

The Weekend

IMG_2017The plaster in the utility is drying nicely.IMG_2014Rose is really into following light patterns on walls at the moment. On Saturday the ply was screwed down, as you can see, ready for Monday’s tiling.

IMG_2018I turned my attention to the servant’s quarters as this needs to be a functioning guest room by the end of this month.

IMG_2027I cleared all the junk out ready for the decorators. The problem is that at the moment all of our storage spaces have to be empty – the creepy top floor cupboard, the top floor front bedroom, under the stairs etc. so there are great mountains of stuff piled up in all of the ‘finished’ rooms – the dining room, lounge, breakfast room, my study, hallways and other bedrooms. I went up and down the stairs a great deal, trying to at least get things on the actual floor where they will eventually be stored.

IMG_2035The guest bedroom window is about to get boxed in, given a new sill, and the original architrave will be refitted.


Looking out onto the back stairs landing and through to the main part of the house.

IMG_2031The first fireplace I revealed in the house.

IMG_2044I then did some tidying up in the top front bedroom, the one with our Ed Miliband kitchen (the second/spare kitchen where you hold the press call to appear more modest). I carried a lot of junk out of this room too as the floorboards need to be repaired. I also hauled the old carpet down three floors to the skip. This room will be Mark’s study and he will be able to make tea and coffee without having to go all the way down to the kitchen. This is where we lived for the first year in this house – this room was our kitchen, dining room, lounge, my study and the cats’ room.

IMG_2042Having spent most of the day carting things around the house, I thought I’d treat myself to investgating something I have had my eye on since we moved in. That fireplace.


I cut around the edges of the panel and pulled it away.

IMG_2045This is what I found.

IMG_2046The original fittings thankfully left in the fireplace, as well as some scrunched up newspaper. I love this part.

IMG_2057The fireplace was blocked up over fifty years ago just before the winter of 1964/5. That means the Fraser family lived here at the time.

IMG_2050This picture makes it all look very neat and clean but I can assure you that there was a whole lot of mess before this. That black plastic bag is full of soot, debris, masonry and one mummified bird. I held a little memorial service for him at the skip, poor thing.

IMG_2120All cleared out.

IMG_2131Looking up the chimney –¬† I will insert a chimney ballon to stop the draughts.

IMG_2137The fireplace is exquisite.

IMG_2123And complete. The fire bars.

IMG_2124Ash pan cover.



IMG_2133Reassambled. I am so glad the fittings were left inside as they could have just as easily been thrown away, which is what usually happened.


IMG_2135It transforms the room.

IMG_2055Now for a good look through the papers. I loved this Martian-inspired advert for Nystop stockings.

IMG_2085Someone had also tossed a note with directions into the fire grate. Trying to work out who they were and where they were going. At the bottom of the map it says Friends House – so it may have belonged to a member of the Rutherford family, who were Quakers.

IMG_2065There was also a 1964 TV magazine called TVWorld. Shirley Bassey sings Goldfinger at 5:50. These images are full size so you can click on them to have a closer look.

IMG_2077For you, iODyne.

IMG_2078A double page spread.

IMG_2071It was a very gay time in the 60s. Takes me back to my Newnes Home Management days.



IMG_2082The 60s – gaiety and musclemen galore. Anthony “Muscles” Holland and his “twitching to music” act.

IMG_2101The decade of sci-fi schlock.

IMG_2116And the TVWorld Dance Along programme.

IMG_2117What would your first choice be? I’d probably go with Cilla. Or the Gay Gordons.

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.



Fireplace Reveal – Master Bedroom

IMG_4490I had been waiting until the master bedroom was cleared for decorating before I attempted to open up this fireplace as the others had been quite messy and dusty affairs.


The fireplace is the same shape as the one in the study next door (above), though the hearth tiles are green rather than red (I still need to strip and clean these red tiles by the way). I was worried that the hood was going to be missing as I couldn’t see how the fireplace could be boarded up flat as the hood projects outward slightly.

IMG_4491The board came off quite easily and I was glad to see that the decorative hood was still in place. It seems to close flatter than the one in the study.

IMG_4492I removed the wooden frame and the grate and prepared myself for lots of dust, soot, and the odd bird skeleton. There was nothing.

IMG_4493I shone a torch up the flue and discovered that it has been blocked up at some point in the past. There is a flat piece of board, or perhaps linoleum, sitting at the top of the flue. I dare not remove it and am happy that it should remain blocked for now.

IMG_4494Large flakes of paint came off when I removed the cover and it appears that the fireplace is made of metal with a black speckled enamel coating. I am not keep to strip the fireplace at this point so it will be repainted white.