Monday, 11 May 2020

moulding and stucco restoration part 2

Moulding and Stucco Restoration Stockwell part 2

Roof Dormers

Once the lovely scaffolder Terry had put up the scaffold (you don’t often hear the word lovely about scaffolders but I think most of them are deeply sensitive human beings who are trying to protect themselves. Do read my other post “When scaffolders cry ’ Anyway It was the best I have ever been on exactly the right height plenty of room to get to the working areas, brilliant .We started on the dormers
The dormers had been re- built in brick when the roof was renewed some years ago. A raking section running up to  form the dormer roof We had to re-render it first using sand and lime before we ran the moulding round the window
There was no existing moulding from the original dormers so I copied it from the house next door a bit of a long way away so I could only guess at the actual shape .In truth most of the mouldings are the based on Greek and Roman geometric shapes so you can pretty much work it out from a distance and nobody can check it at that height so that's a bonus

brick formed dormers

We floated the background flat and made the running mould set it out in preparation to run the arch and architrave mould
running mould horsed up

setting out to run arch 

A note on materials: Roman cement

In other parts of this blog I have mentioned that this type of work was at this time almost invariably carried out using Parkers or Roman cement what we now describe as a natural cement. A very fast setting clay/lime based dry powder you can recognise it by its red/brown colour and in this case some yellowy /buff colour elements Its quite an interesting material so widely used its production was limited for a while because of the coastal erosion caused by the over quarrying of the marlstone It was superseded by Portland cement in the later part of the 19th century but a very similar material is available and the more you use it the more you realise why they loved it Although in truth I am not sure it is exactly the same stuff but good enough. Where we can we use similar materials to the original and I know it’s a minefield of opinions but It works well and I cant be bothered to get involved as long as the owner was happy and got what she wanted

Arch head run

arch and archivolt run and joints made good

Render top coat finished

raking section mould at the top of the dormer

note the fish scale slates on the roof 

A long distance shot of one of the finished dormers some say that my work always looks better from a distance
Incidentally, I don’t know why but it always pisses down when we do this type of work So if your garden needs a bit of rain give me a call

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Roman cement Stucco repairs Stockwell London part 1


Guildford Road Stockwell london part 1

The House in the 1990s

This is a house in South West London built between 1845 and 1850 by John Snell ltd. Described as  an Italianiate style Villa. It was part of an estate built at the same time  As you can see below the house has gone through considerable change so much so that by the 1980s the house lay almost derelict

Its maybe a little difficult for those new to London to imagine that much of the super expensive  housing stock that is so much a part of the Capital today was in-fact in many cases in a pretty poor condition not so long ago. Many of the properties were too large ,damaged by war and neglect too expensive to maintain and maybe associated by many Londoners with wartime destruction and poverty

However where some saw as the dilapidated past ,others had the vision and energy to restore as beautiful homes. Judging by the state of it in this photo it had to be some kind of love (Although I have got to say I quite like the place as it reminds me of a different London but probably not if you don’t want to bring your kids up in an acid house crack den )

The salvation of this particular house is the work of a brave couple who took his place on in the 90s  I understand that many of their friends thought they were mad when they took it on and you can see there point, its a massive undertaking. Unlike Grand Designs where Kevin try building up the cliff edge tension ‘But you have overspent there guys’ magically half a million quid appears Oh no they did it bit by bit bringing up two lovely kids no roof .no stairs no plaster on the walls  I am amazed at some peoples' sheer determination

 Over the years the owners had restored the inside, roof ,woodwork, lime plaster etc leaving only the outside to be repaired 

While working on the inside of another house in this road we had walked past this house many times wondering who owned it and why they had’nt finished it. but we never saw anyone there. I half expected to see a mad cat lady slamming the window up and telling us to clear off

We finally spoke to the owner who turned out to be completely wonderful knowledgeable energetic and totally committed to the work of what to most people would have been a lifetime The owner explained that although she had had several companies round  to look at the work most had said it was better to copy the existing mouldings and redo them in modern materials ,Its understandable most people like clean lines and uniformity. In this situation however the client wanted to repair the existing work keeping as much as was practically possible keeping the patinated surface of the original bare stucco with the repairs visible   We explained that we tried to ,where possible specialise in authentic restoration using appropriate 'like for like' materials and we would like to give her a price to do the restoration  as it would be great to work on Infact I would have probably done it for nothing if my  kids didnt keep wanting to eat but I didnt tell the owner that  or perhaps I did I cant remember 
 probably not great business practice that telling someone you would do it for a nothing
       Anyway this is what we were up against

Entrance Portico

Window surround with head missing
Cill in need of major repair
Pilaster missing with no base or capitol
Windows missing head and cill
Missing brackets and lions heads at cornice
Arched window surround repair
Cill in need of repair
Decorative brackets to cills  in advanced state of decay
Scroll bracket damaged

Portico with missing pilaster and capitol base of columns in need of  repair

Friday, 10 October 2014

The other nail shop

          Nails Bite Back

hand made nails Garrick,s Villa Hampton

While I working at Garrick's Villa (1770/80s) in Hampton recently I came across these hand made nails under the floor.I have often taken out the old "Rose heads" used to fix lathwork but these large nails got me thinking.Each one hammered out individually it must have been so difficult to make them ,transport them and I am sure they would not have been dropped all over the floor like we do today, you could not waste these.

I was aware that the Midlands or Black Country was a major  centre of nail making in Britain and I knew that it was a tough way of life but I found an article which described the lives of the nail makers.They treated people like shit and go on about the Empire. I for one wont be throwing these around after knowing what went in to making them. 

Little pieces of people's history

A typical nail shop was usually about ten or twelve feet square with one door and one or two unglazed windows. The nail shop had a central hearth or fire ( this differed from a chain shop which had the hearths around the walls ) so that all the family could work independently of each other but using just one fire thus saving on fuel. There could be as many as six working round one fire. Nailers usually either rented or owned their own shop but a nailer who for some reason had no shop of his own, could rent a "standing" from a fellow nailer and share the fire to carry on making nails. Nailers provided their own tools, These were not numerous or expensive. The bellows, a small block or anvil, sharpening tools and for nailers making large nails, "the Oliver". The Midland Mining Commission report of 1843 includes this description:- "The best forges are little brick shops of about 15 feet by 12 feet in which seven or eight individuals constantly work together with no ventilation except the door and two slits, a loop-hole in the wall. The majority of these workplaces are very much smaller and filthy dirty and on looking in upon one of them when the fire is not lighted presents the appearance of a dilapidated coal-hole. In the dirty den there are commonly at work, a man and his wife and daughter, with a boy or girl hired by the year. Sometimes the wife carries on the forge with the aid of the children. The filthiness of the ground, the half-ragged, half-naked, unwashed persons at work, and the hot smoke, ashes, water and clouds of dust are really dreadful".

Rose head nails for fixing lathwork

The nailer placed three or four rods into the fire, when a rod was sufficiently heated the nailer began forging the end into a point on the small nailer's block. The pointed end was then cut off to the required length ( measured by a gauge ) by being placed upon a fixed chisel called a hardy. It was then inserted into the bore, point down. The bore was made to fit the thicker part of the nail and was countersunk to form a mould for the nail head. A few blows with the hammer formed the head and a spring called a "whimsey" was touched with the hammer to release the finished nail. A girl could make over four nails a minute or over 250 an hour. Time also had to be allowed for fetching and carrying the iron and taking the finished nails to the warehouse.

"The Black Country Nail Trade" by Arthur Willets.

laths fixed with Rose Heads

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Garrick's Villa

Garrick's Villa

Over the last few weeks we have been working at the Grade 1 Listed building in Hampton South West London.The plasterwork in at least one of the rooms is likely to have been designed by Robert Adam and carried out by the Joseph Rose Plastering company in the 1770s. After investigating the plaster moldings in the imaginatively named Adams room it looks like a mixture of hand modelled stucco and cast elements .I am not at the moment down to repair the moulding but I did some cleaning and casting out of interest in case too much is lost.

We are however doing all the flat work lath work lime plastering and finishing and you can see the results so far below  

Typical Rose Company Stucco and plaster casts

Earth aggregate found in pricking up coat of original Limework

Samples of existing Lime plaster and proposed mix

On investigation and consulting a real expert this is likely hand modelled

sample of lime plaster prepared

New lathwork

applying pricking up coat

New lathwork to "Adams" room ceiling

Float coat applied to lathwork

Pricking up coat to ceiling

Adding hair

Pricking up coat scratched

Collapse of existing ceiling  

Original lath work Circa 1770

Original sample of Lime plaster 

Float coat applied to Adams ceiling

Finish coat Lime plaster

Finished lime plaster

Small ceiling finished lime plaster

Adams ceiling floated and left to carbonate 

Plaques in Adams Room I think they are hand modelled stucco but others think they are cast  I cant tell at this stage but I bet I am right

Dont Know Whats occurring here

Update on Adams Room

We re-plastered the ceiling and I am not sure what they had in mind for the cornice .stucco roundels and the walls ,as you can see they were in a right state.i think at one point it looked like it would be lost. We suggested we clean and repair the mouldings make good the walls apply a breathable lime based primer and re-skim the walls with lime plaster.Thankfully the client agreed and you can see the results below.I am not sure how involved Adams was in the plasterwork He certainly designed the portico on the outside. He also applied a secret mastic stucco on the wall outside part of the secret apparently was how it worked since it  failed and had to be replaced using fake bricks or mathematical tiles supplied by Adams big rival.Well we all make mistakes.

As far as the plaster work in side is concerned I am convinced it is the work of the Joseph Rose Company since the cast work is exactly the same as the fragments found at the workshop of Joseph Rose at Audley End The fragments were found swept under the floor boards after a renovation there , some things never change.

I am not sure what the roundels depict they are really beautifully modeled such fine detail all the facial expressions and drapery.possibly Italian modelers who were influential on British plaster work of this period. I think they are scenes from the classics it is clear that they had been on the grand tour. Now its done I think I am going on the grand tour of the pub

Fragments from Audley End Joseph Rose Plastering Co

Fragment From Garrick's Villa 


Audley End

Garrick's Villa

Thin Gypsum cast work

Finished work 

Roundel cleaned

Repairing Plaster work

Add caption

Cleaning under way

Note the detail

Cleaned up roundel