Restoration And Conservation Progress

In the earlier years of my ownership we only did holding works to remove hazards be they structural, fire hazards or water penetration. Also a major clear up was undertaken.

The building work started in earnest February 2004 and by the end of 2005 we have created a wind and weather proof shell which is structurally sound.

The roof consists of 8 bays and had suffered terrible neglect. We removed a newer softwood structure which had been built over the top of the subsided oak structure. After several months work this was conserved with 7 out of 8 of the bays being reinstated out of original timber. We had originally allowed for 50% replacement of the rafters. A very pleasing result.

The exterior walls were completely re pointed and several altered areas of later openings rebuilt. There was a driveway through the building at the west end which has now been reinstated as a cross passage with windows and stairs being returned to original positions. The existing large stone chimneystack was overhauled as the south face had come adrift and leant out with large cracking present. The central chimney stack was entirely rebuilt as the Victorians had demolished it. 95% of the window lintels have been replaced with new oak too.


The stone windows and other dressed stone in the fabric of the walls was either conserved, repaired or replaced by the stonemasons and then new iron casements fitted with leaded light glazing.

The roof has been clad with a fire board which was painted white first. This shows off the rafters which are all pit sawn and tapered in both dimensions from top to bottom. A space age multi layer polyester space blanket acts as insulation with only a minimal build up of thickness. The roof is then counter battened, breather membrane installed battened and tiled. We replaced the original tiles as only 30% were serviceable and probably near the end of their life so new clay handmade plain tiles were fitted.

Cast iron guttering has been fitted throughout.

The vaulted cellar in the south wing has been repaired and rebuilt where necessary. It was a major event requiring the input of an expert engineer who could prove that the vault would work although to some it looked like it shouldn't. It had failed due to the inclusion of timber lintels/spreader beams in damp conditions which rotted and compressed causing collapse.

The ground floor was fitted with the drainage and service conduits and leveled with concrete. Then the under floor heating circuit insulation installed then the pipes clipped in and pressure tested. The floor screed was then laid on top. A flagstone floor has been laid throughout the downstairs of the building comprising of metre wide slabs with a semi polished finish cut to our specification.

All the beams and floor joists were repaired with splice joints and in some cases steelwork hidden inside the timber. Where no repair was possible we have replaced the joists with new oak and deliberately left this looking new as an honest repair should be.

The oak stair cases have been reinstated. Two originals have been repaired and three new spiral staircases restored to the original positions and form. The master staircase was missing and a new one designed by the architect and then manufactured and fitted.

The stone fireplaces have all been repaired. This has been a matter of having new mantle shelves carved and fitted to match the profiles of sections found in the building which had probably been removed from the building many years ago as fashions changed. Mortar repairs have been undertaken to replace missing sections of moulding and chunks which were missing caused by later work conflicting with the original fabric which was not valued at that time. We have also found some substantial remnants of painted fireplace schemes on three fireplaces which have been conserved. Four other fireplaces have lesser remnants of early decoration too.

The cellars were originally constructed by excavating a hole out of the bedrock which is as little as 100mm below external ground level in places. The excavation was then lined with rubble stonework. Sadly every time it rained we had serious amounts of water seeping through the bedrock seams then running through the cellar. We have dug a 2.7 metre deep trench almost entirely all the way around the building. This has been capped off with concrete beams and blocks some 700mm below ground level and then back filled over the top. Concrete has been laid over the top of this to keep the damp out prior to natural paving being laid. A french drain has then been installed on the outside edge of the concrete to stop water tracking across the back fill underneath the concrete. A vast amount of this work has been done by hand as it was to close to the building and access for a machine capable of undertaking this job was not present. This vastly limits any dampness present in the beautiful cellars and also prevent the building from suffering from rising dampness by reducing ground pressure. All in all this job has been exceptionally expensive and when finished the culvert formed will be buried for ever and not seen again unless you access it from a doorway inside the cellar.

The Ground source heat pumps are installed and work well allowing the total energy consumption of the building to be calculated at 40kg of carbon per metre square which is good for a building of this type.

The garden is now established and quite beautiful.

We have 313 metres of borehole at the property now. The south wing has two 80 metre holes with looped pipework for heat extraction. The north wing has a single 100m hole with looped pipework installed. We also have a 53 metre borehole with a major aquifer at 36 metres down which has 12 metres of head on it. This well has been test pumped at 18 gallons a minute with no effect on its characteristics. You can now extract up to 20 cubic metres of water a day without the need of a licence for residential use. See my water engineers details on the contacts page.

The wiring and plumbing has been completed. We have installed a full cctv system as we have had occasional problems with vandals and cars outside. Also a fully intelligent lighting system has been installed which brings the building fully into the 21st century and helps reduce power consumption. Gigabit internet has been installed throughout the house thus enabling its use as a modern home or office if needs be. Full L1 commercial grade fire and burglar alarm systems have also been installed.

All of the plastering has been completed with lime putty plaster to all of the masonry walls which has then been decorated with distemper. All of the stud walls have been constructed out of modern materials but to look traditional which will therefore not confuse the identity of the building.

All of the floors have been laid in wide oak boards over underfloor heating , one room has re-used the original pit sawn boards salvaged from the building. The rest have been new oak.

Four bathrooms have been installed with 4 toilets, 3 showers, 3 baths, 4 washstands and 4 towel rails heated on the fully pumped hot water system loop which is set on a timer or triggered when the light switch comes on. This enables hot water to be rapidly at the tap instead of drawing off a long leg of cold water and simply pouring it down the drain thus conserving resources.

The kitchen is installed constructed out of handmade brick, oak and granite.

Six wood burning stoves have been installed to help heat the building along with two open fireplaces which work. One is an Esse Lionheart which is a cooker too  and works very well.

Black fictive skirting boards have been painted everywhere too which look stunning.

All of the doors have been hung using oak planked doors and ironwork handmade copied from existing historic remnants within the building. Many have been constructed as fire doors as a requirement of building regs complete with intumescent strip. This is a little visually noticeable but doe not seriously detract. Local craftsman Les Oxborough constructed the internal doors.

All of the staircases have been finished complete with 58 splat balusters each taking around 4 hours to cut out, sand and install. The newel tops were turned by a member of the Somerset Woodturning club and look fabulous too.

The light fittings are a mixture of modern and handmade blacksmith commissioned iron gothic style.

Curtain rails have been installed again using hand made iron components to our design.

The iron railings at the front of the building and the cobbled areas have been finished and look very good indeed comprising of reclaimed wrought iron pailings re worked by the blacksmith on site and new top and bottom rails cut by laser so a real mix of technology old and new.

All in all the building is now  complete  and a beautiful house to live in. It has been conserved and restored.  We have not only achieved this but also regenerated the street as we bought the building next door to live in whilst undertaking the more complicated job to The Merchants House and fully renovated that to a good standard from dereliction too.

Progress has moved towards creating a learning establishment on site with the potential for a hands on crafts skill centre attached with accomodation very close. Plans have temporarily been put on hold since a tragic accident occurred within the family this year, however this situation should be resolved by early 2010 and we should be able to press ahead with plans then.