Post Stage 2 Monday

T the decorator finished up today.

IMG_0808Servant stairs before.

IMG_2925Servant stairs after.



11174888_393534494183021_2776386380673182863_nServant’s bedroom before.

IMG_2937Now known as the guest room.

11193233_393534477516356_267877858110156700_nFireplace before.



IMG_2938You get the idea.

IMG_2934Looking out onto the servant stairs landing.

IMG_2935And the window with the new roman blind installed today.

IMG_2929The new blind for Mark’s study was also fitted.

IMG_2930Does a good job. Also I continued planning for Stage 3! More to follow.

Stage 2, Day 35

IMG_2814I spent the entire day sorting out “stuff”. New shed-like space under the stairs for tools (and WD-40) until I get a real shed.

IMG_2806I got everything out of the sitting room and dusted and vacuumed. We still need to restore the fireplace, do a bit of decorating following the damp proofing, and get carpet. And a bookcase.

IMG_2801D the carpenter was here and he secured the worktop in the utility room and fitted the up-stands (that vertical bit of wood is just keeping them in place while the glue dries. T the decorator also did a lot of the gloss woodwork in here too. Unfortunately decorators and carpenters are mortal enemies – it’s the issue of dust. In Stage 1 the decorators downed brushes and left when A the carpenter was in the front garden using the bench saw while the decorators were applying gloss black paint to the front door and woodwork. I did my best to coordinate them today but unfortunately a carpenter and a decorator ended up in the same room at exactly the same time. They managed to work through it though. I then moved a lot of things into the cupboards.

IMG_2817T also repainted the walls in the top floor bathroom to remove  the plumber’s hand prints.

IMG_2813And he applied what must be the fourth undercoat to these stairs. It’s all in the preparation. It’s practically glowing in there.

IMG_2803Gloss white in the toilet too.

IMG_2805P the decorator was also here. He had kindly collected the additional wallpaper I ordered and finished papering the guest room.

IMG_2818In a final push, A and D finished the front garden. Beds ready for planting. The two tonnes of gravel I helped haul from the truck  yesterday were laid.

IMG_2820Stepping stones to the gate.

IMG_2827It makes such a difference!


And peace was restored.

IMG_2837Rosie not sure what to make of the quiet.

IMG_2882Ruby inspecting the work.IMG_2825

Apart from a few odd jobs to complete, this was the end of Stage 2 for my builder. Thanks JB!

IMG_0230How the house looked two years ago in the sale brochure before we bought it.

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 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 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.

House Tour: The Servant’s Bedroom

IMG_1604It may be their bedroom but the servants weren’t allowed to rest – just outside the door is a bell to summon them at any time of day or night.

IMG_4640At least they could lock their door – if they were given a key…

IMG_1562The servant’s bedroom is located at the back of the house on the first floor right above the old scullery. We are currently using it as a utility/laundry room. It’s quite a small room but it does have a fireplace – the first one I revealed last year. The window overlooks the side of the house rather than the garden – there was to be no gazing upon the family for the servant. Unusually for this house the room has a sash window – only the family’s part of the house has the more fashionable Edwardian casement windows.

IMG_1588Miss Rose having a sniff about. We tend to keep the cats out of this part of the house at the moment.

IMG_1567You may remember from earlier posts that the servant’s room has a small landing outside for access to the servant’s stairs. Below lay the kitchen, scullery, pantry, coal store and the outside servant’s toilet. There was to be no using of the family’s staircase for the servants in Edwardian times and the strict division between the family areas and service areas of the house was maintained at all times. Note that the glazing on the window on the stairs is obscured to prevent the servant seeing the family in the garden below.

While I know a lot about the people who owned this house over the years, I know far less about the servants who lived and worked here. There is only one Census I can consult – that of 1911. From that I know two servants lived in this house at the time. Ethel May Deverell was the housekeeper. She was 25 years old and was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Sarah Elizabeth Hudson, 20, from Burton-on-Trent, was the cook and general domestic servant. Luckily for them, even though this is a big house, it was lived in by only one gentleman, who was renting the house at the time: John William Pendleton, 59, the owner of a boot manufactory. But Mr Pendleton’s is another story.