T the decorator finished up today.
D 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.
And peace was restored.
Apart from a few odd jobs to complete, this was the end of Stage 2 for my builder. Thanks JB!
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.
Do you remember when I revealed this fireplace about eighteen months ago?
And Rose was the first to christen the carpet with her claws.
The new downstairs toilet possesses the most forceful flush I have ever witnessed.
At the side of the house, the site of the old servant courtyard will become the fern garden.
All cleared and ready for topsoil.
I 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.
I 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.
Finally, 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!”
First, 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.
And 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.
While we are talking about the dining room, you can see some before and after shots here.
New 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.
It’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.
The 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!
I 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.
Looking out onto the back stairs landing and through to the main part of the house.
I 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.
I cut around the edges of the panel and pulled it away.
The 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.
This 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.
Someone 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.
It was a very gay time in the 60s. Takes me back to my Newnes Home Management days.
The end of the third week.
Ceilings are starting to go up in the toilet and utility.
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.
Very 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.
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.
A great deal has been happening today.
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.
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.
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.
My 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.
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.
It featured birds in cages and in woodland.
As 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.
Over 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.
The 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.
You 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.