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!”


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.

End of October?

Where has the time gone?

The decorators have finished for now as we have officially run out of money! There is carpet ordered for the master bedroom and roman blinds for the lounge but that’s it. The rest will have to wait for a little while.

IMG_4514 - 2014-10-21 at 10-14-41The exterminator came and dealt with the wasps nest in the roof of the bay window. We were willing to live and let live until a few of the wasps decided to join us in the bathroom for a shower one dark morning! They must have been attracted to the light. Plus it turns out that, although wasps never reuse the same nest, it was likely that a juvenile queen or two would have hibernated in the ceiling and set up shop next door to the old nest next year!

IMG_4528 - 2014-10-22 at 08-37-32We have also had a more welcome guest in the back garden. A hedgehog has been busy building a hibernacula under a large pile of garden refuse. Ruby on the lookout.

IMG_4530 - 2014-10-22 at 12-59-33Hedgehogs are endangered so we want to do everything to make sure they are happy in our garden. While there are plenty of slugs and insects for them to eat, as the weather gets colder there will be less and less so we have bought some food to make sure they are nice and fat before they hibernate. Rosie is checking out the new food.

IMG_4587 - 2014-10-28 at 09-41-52We have bought this hedgehog feeding station for them.

IMG_4590 - 2014-10-28 at 09-43-47

Oliver has donated a spare water bowl.

IMG_4589 - 2014-10-28 at 09-42-13The hedgehog lives in the big pile behind the feeding station.

IMG_4547 - 2014-10-26 at 11-14-36Oliver has his own special source of water. You can also see that the new Silestone quartz counter tops have been fitted in the en suite.

IMG_4541 - 2014-10-26 at 11-13-19Oliver approves.

IMG_4525 - 2014-10-21 at 15-36-01The lounge has been painted.

IMG_4524 - 2014-10-21 at 15-35-28The blinds will be fitted next week and then we will have to wait for carpet.

IMG_4518 - 2014-10-21 at 15-32-05The master bedroom has been painted and the feature wall papered. Carpet will be coming next week but we will have to wait for blinds…





Build Days #24-27

IMG_2421Last week was a four day week because of the Bank Holiday weekend. The plumbers were here laying new pipework.

IMG_2420Pipes coming into the en suite.

IMG_2452The old toilet was removed.

IMG_2445Here you can see the pipes and valves for the new shower being cut into the wall.

IMG_2443The removal of old radiators revealed more wallpaper. This is the one that I had only previously caught small glimpses of in the en suite.

IMG_2444This house used to have lots and lots of patterns. 1920s or 30s? It makes me think that this room was a nursery.

IMG_2476On the first floor hallway there is this 1950s pattern. You can also see that at one point much of the house was painted a dark navy blue.

IMG_2477Down in the corner is yet another wallpaper – the graphics look 1960s to me.

IMG_2427The plasterers continued their work too. Here is the kitchen and future kitchen window.

IMG_2430The other side of the kitchen.

IMG_2461In the dining room they plastered the ceiling and did the first layer on the chimney breast and recently exposed fireplace.

IMG_2468Oliver and Ruby inspecting the work in the dining room.

IMG_2474Oliver unsure of the large bucket of plasterer’s water. Not for drinking or splashing.

IMG_2459Preparations for the repair of the large crack at the bottom of the stairs.

IMG_2431It’s all a bit messy though. That carpet will be going and the terrazzo underneath will be restored.

IMG_2423Also the scaffold began to go up. Front.


IMG_2466By Friday it was complete at the front of the house. Can’t wait to get up there and have a look!




Build Day #20

IMG_2280The ceilings that had started to go up in the kitchen were taken back down again as the electricians needed access. Luckily only a few of the boards had been fitted.

IMG_2281Entire rooms were emptied of our stored boxes and furniture and the lounge got its new ceiling boards, which will be plastered over tomorrow.

IMG_2279This left other rooms bulging with our stuff!

IMG_2277In Mark’s future study the collapsing leaky ceiling was brought down and when JB investigated, it appears that we have some wet rot, with a fruiting body. Sounds delightful. If you look carefully through the ceiling into the shadows you can see an irregular line of white fungus. This will be treated when the window on the floor above is removed and the source of the moisture is stopped. At least wet rot isn’t as bad as dry rot, apparently.

IMG_2275The old radiator from the hallway was taken off the wall in preparation for its restoration. Written on the back in chalk are some of the original delivery notes. The name is Mr J Paris but no-one by that name has ever owned this house, so either this was the name of the installer or perhaps a tenant, though I doubt a tenant would be paying for the installation of heating. We think the radiator dates to the 1930s. I want to have it resprayed in a metallic paint called Old Penny Bronze as a feature in the entrance hall.

IMG_2283Behind the radiator was a magnificent wallpaper.

IMG_2284It features birds in foliage.

IMG_2285And birds in gilded cages. It’s a pale blue grey with yellow.

IMG_2286There was also evidence of another wallpaper on the left featuring stylised leaves and flowers. It appears to have been applied after the radiator was in place as it doesn’t reach fully behind it.

IMG_2288Then on the right hand side was this paper featuring stripes and grapevines.

IMG_2290The lining of the breakfast room continued.

IMG_2289Services were piped in for the future Stage 2 build in the coal store – hot and cold water and the heating pipes. We will also have an electric feed put in.




Build Day #15


IMG_2183Today the lintel was bricked and mortared in.

IMG_2190The outer bricking of the servants’ toilet began.

IMG_2174The bathroom was stripped out completely.

IMG_2196The basin in the bedroom was finally removed!

IMG_2172There was also lots of rewiring by the electricians, who continued the electrical ‘first fix’. The removal of old switches and trunking revealed yet more wallpaper samples. Here in the bedroom us a jaunty blue and white stripe.

IMG_2179Back bedroom – a peaches and cream stripe.

IMG_2180Rear landing.

IMG_2173In the toilet was this colourful long-stitch pattern in blue, red, yellow and green.

IMG_2195In the hall a dark teal and white pattern.

IMG_2171A green and red floral pattern in the future en suite. As these papers were immediately under the old wiring, it dates these patterns to those on the wall in 1960, if my calculations are correct.


Wallpaper Day #9

IMG_1941Yesterday I continued stripping the wallpaper in Mark’s future study. Underneath the paper on this section of wall were some large diagrams drawn in pencil.

IMG_1942I can’t recall much of my mathematical education but this looks like trigonometry? My guess is that the builder was working out something to do with the roof. The vertical measurement in 13′ 2″, the length 19′ 5″.

IMG_1943Quite difficult to make out but the first numbers in the equation are those two measurements. Are they trying to work out the length of the other side of the triangle? If so, the builder might be calculating roof measurements. Perhaps someone who understands maths better than me can explain.

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.


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.




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!