Since June 2012 the builders have completed considerable restoration work on the stables including the rebuilding of two chimney tops. This work is partly associated with the return to the Trust of one of the garage spaces in the Motor House.
Works in the mansion have included the rebuilding of the stone hearths in the housekeeper’s room (see photo) together with the installation of a plywood floor. When this room is fully restored it will make a very good educational vehicle by demonstrating how the housekeeper operated within the house. The housekeeper was a key member of the household – relating directly to the lady of the house.
Since the installation of the floor to the state hall – two of the doorways in that room have had their destroyed sides rebuilt using original 18th century bricks salvaged from the basements. See below right.
We have also installed one of the east facing windows. This is the first window to be reinstated in the entrance front and, of course, for the first time since the fire in 1917 the eastern park and lake can be seen through a first-floor window .
Also in this room an original 18th century niche in the north wall – which was bricked up and converted to a fireplace in 1895 – has been excavated to reveal its original form. The flue for this 1895 fireplace was “borrowed” at that time from a fireplace in the housekeeper’s room and now will be returned to its original alignment, enabling the housekeeper’s fireplace to be used again.
Two windows have been installed in the large west-facing room on the first floor of the wing (see photo below). This room now has its complement of three west-facing windows and is a rather beautiful room. With its three similar adjacent rooms, it will make a suite of exhibition galleries for exhibitions of historic and even modern material. The original sub-divisions of these rooms will not be reinstated, although historic detailing of the walls and ceiling will be restored.
In John Conyers’ dressing room/private sitting room (in the south part of the house on the first floor) the half-destroyed chimney breast is being restored – again using original bricks. This dressing room and Henrietta Conyers’ dressing room – on the other side of the saloon on this floor – both need windows but, before these can be installed, new stone window sills have to be fitted, as these were all taken away in the 1950s. The appeal in the last newsletter for a window sill was successful and a kind person has given the £1,000 required – see Wish List Report. This sill is on order together with another for John Conyers’ dressing room.
Deep in the basement, the excavating team continue to remove earth and debris from the southeast corner of the mansion, assisted by various archaeologists. This is the last basement to be excavated. These clearances will allow a scaffolding tower to be erected to the underside of the first floor above, to enable the first-floor drawing room hearth to be constructed. This has been funded by a kind donor after being on the Wish List Report in the last newsletter. The now redundant earth and debris ramp to one side of this basement – constructed by us at the beginning of the works – will gradually now be removed as the ground floor structure is installed in this part of the house. Without the ramp, the movement of materials to and from the cellars will be achieved by using an electric hoist.
The basement of the glazed corridor had been full of debris since the 1950s - ever since the elaborate superstructure was sold off. The basement has now been completely cleared out and our steel decking walkway immediately above it has been extended. A large number of mansion volunteers shifted a huge ammount of rubble and soil from the basement to the adjacent car park area where it was removed by our contractor. Photo: Iris Newbury