Thursday, 12 November 2015

Piecing together the historical jigsaw

A few theories about the origins of The Lodge and its development over the years have been hanging around for a little while now and the recent olivine blasting has prompted one or two more, so I'm going to pour my undeveloped thoughts out here.

Much of this is going to be guesswork, of course, but you never know - one or two people who read this in the future might be able to shed new light. Also, many of these cogitations aren't fully-formed so if I trail off in the middle of a...

Living Room

Main room

This is the easy one.
Sitting in the Living Room with Terminator Trevor last week, as we munched ham and pickle sarnies, I spotted something.
Dawn says she mentioned this to me way back when but with so many things to think about it must have slipped my mind.

There used to be a floor-to-ceiling cupboard to the left of the chimney breast on the west wall.
I discovered the gyspum line where it met the ceiling when I was removing the Artex, but from my camping chair vantage point I could see where this continued down the wall, with about six shelves branching off from it, filling the alcove.

Excuse my lack of Photoshop skills. And I can't be bothered to draw all of the shelves in either.

A similar cupboard still exists in the storage area Dining Room to the left of the chimney breast, but this has about three shelves behind two large doors with two further cupboard doors below these. It's impossible to know if this slightly-larger Living Room version was enclosed behind doors or left open.


1. On the inside of the fireplace itself, on the right-hand side and previously covered in thick soot and a century of filth, a vertical channel cut in to the brickwork has been filled in with lime. It runs from the top of the firebox straight down towards the hearth, terminating in a further line at right angles to the first, like an inverted T. A second line runs parallel to this just a couple of inches lower.

We're almost certain that what would have been a roaring open fire in Georgian and Victorian times (when The Lodge was still a single-storey building) was used for cooking and that the Living Room was the central hub of the house - possibly the only room to really be occupied during the day.

How do we know this? A suggestion from Trevor backed-up by Mr Google has revealed that the channel in the bricks used to house what was known as a chimney crane, or fireplace crane or pot crane. Why they can't just pick one name and get it over with, I'll never know.

This heavy iron contraption would have been attached to the wall on a pivot, on the end of which would hang a cooking pot. The crane, which in our case was likely to be have been supported laterally by metalwork in at least one of the horizontal lines below, was a development that allowed the apparatus to be swung over the flames or out in to the room where the lady of the house could muck about with the food without scalding herself or, no doubt, being consumed by a giant screaming fireball.

It's possible that this was accompanied by a fireplace hangar, a bit like a giant inverted jigsaw blade, on which more pots were hung from the teeth. This would have allowed the housewife to choose how much heat her pots could get from the fire itself. I'm yet to find evidence of this but I'll keep looking.

Ours probably wasn't as fancy as this
but you get the idea
I'm less certain about the second parallel line, which runs one brick course below the first. It's possible that this was part of the chimney crane ensemble for yet more added strength and support but none of the designs I can find on the web have two such bars. A third horizontal line has been revealed on the opposite side - the left wall of the firebox - but as it is directly opposite the upper horizontal line on the right, this is where the confusion comes in.

One theory I'm working on is that the vertical channel for the crane and the lowest of the two horizontal lines below it are related. The upper horizontal channel, which corresponds to the one on the left, may have been a later addition when a fire basket was installed and the crane was removed to accommodate it. The basket was then chased in to the wall for support. Maybe.

As the open fires of the day began life on bare earth inside the fireplace, and because our work to strip back the whole thing has revealed a deep sandy base, I'm going to dig down before we go much further on the off-chance that I'll find something interesting. I might be more likely to find Australia, but we'll see.

2. When I first stripped back the plaster it was obvious that two courses of bricks directly above the fireplace opening were a later addition, but this came further into focus after they were cleaned up.
The far right-hand edge of the upper course features a short - and very deliberate - angled cut in the end brick, heading in the direction of the upper right-hand corner of the opening. For simplicity I've marked it in red in the below pic.
Given that the fireplaces in Bedroom 1 and Bedroom 3 are topped by 'flat' arches which angle down in the same way, I think it's fair to assume that the Living Room fireplace once sported the same feature. 
Also, because the original single-storey cottage didn't get an upper floor until the early 1850s, it's also fair to assume that the upstairs fireplaces were built to match the design of the Living Room's (irritatingly we still can't get to the fireplace in the Dining Room to strip it back because it's hidden behind piles of junk important belongings). This, in turn, suggests that the flat arch in the Living Room fireplace was still there at the time of the extension.

Now, as I can't see any reason why anyone would remove an arch only to replace it with a couple of flat brick courses, there had to have been something in the interim.
The dimensions of these two stuffed-in courses suggests, pretty obviously, that a deep standalone mantle shelf - probably oak, given that it was the material of the day - was inserted in to the wall above the fire, leaving just the tiniest bit of angled brick on the right as an inadvertent reminder of what it replaced.

Because we already have a couple of uncovered flat arches upstairs, Dawn and I plan to restore this part of the fireplace with a reclaimed oak beam. As most of the west side of the house relies on the strength of this chimney, however, we need to look at the logistics of doing it ourselves. It's pointless having a lovely bit of oak to gaze at when you're surrounded by rubble and floorboards...

3. Immediately obvious after I stripped the fireplace out, there used to be a chunky fire surround around the opening. Again, possibly oak. This came chronologically later than the mantle shelf which replaced the flat arch.
The whole section of the chimney breast had at some point been painted black and when the surround was put in place it went directly over the black and the remaining visible parts of the wall to either side of the jambs were then painted cream. So when it was all removed the black outline was still there like a shadow.

Above this outline and to the left of centre, was a missing horizontal chunk of mortar between the bricks that we figured was just wear and tear. What we hadn't realised until the blasting was that there's a corresponding area on the right - same length and on the same mortar line - that is still holding on to its cement bodge-job where the hole has been filled. As well as that there are more cement-pointed vertical lines further to the right and left, spread over three brick courses and each just one brick deep. There are three on the right and only two on the left because those anomalies are off-centre, given that the brick arrangement didn't allow for the holes to be cut dead-centre.

Again, after speaking to Trevor, we think that this is possibly (probably?) where a large and heavy overmantel (overmantle?) has been installed and fixed to the wall above the fire surround. This was possibly mirrored, given the fashions of the time.

It's impossible to tell how this all looked together but with The Lodge probably starting its utilitarian life as Georgian, when folks were poor and struggling, an extravagance like that is unlikely to have been of the era and, besides, the layers of paint suggest a decent passage of time until we reached the fire surround stage.

More likely, the overmantel became a feature here during Victorian times or even during the Arts and Crafts period of 1860-1910. Both movements relied heavily on floral designs, though, so we're going with that although as a working building I doubt there was anything ostentatious about it.

The picture to the left is of a fancy cast iron Victorian fireplace, but again, you get the idea.

The Nook

I've mentioned this in the blog before, but the nook area of the Living Room (which I often refer to as the 'dog-leg') was once separated from the main room by a solid brick wall and a doorway. It was a room in its own right. The puzzler was what it was used for.

A strip of slate three brick courses deep ran along one wall at just below waist height, turning towards the window and terminating just below the first edge of it, and corresponding marks on the floor suggested that something rectangular and heavy sat against that wall, filling that whole side of the room. This is why the pendant light in the nook is off-centre - it was central to the useable floor space rather than the whole room.
Four evenly-spaced square holes in the same wall, above what I assume was the slate-backed work area or slate slab which was later cut back to the brick, quite possibly held shelving or some kind of storage, and there's a cut-back copper pipe in the opposite wall, leading through from Toilet 1, although it's impossible to tell when it was added.

The Pantry. To the left of the pic(s) you can see where the wall used to separate it from the main Living Room

All the signs, for me at least, point towards this area being a former pantry or larder - but the clincher was discovering that the main fireplace was used for cooking.

If the Living Room was effectively the kitchen then it would make sense to have the food store right next to it. The brick wall and slate would have kept the food cool and protected from the heat of the fire and the window would have allowed for ventilation, especially with a flyscreen in the summer months. Trevor's discovery of holes in the ceiling that go in to - but not through - the joists above suggest that there were once meat hooks there too, used for hanging deer, pheasants or whatever else was available at the time.

So I hereby formally announce that the nooky-dog-leg-bit of The Living Room shall henceforth be referred to by all as The Pantry.

Bedroom 1

Here we come to the most difficult bit of guess-work, as there's not a lot to go on. I mean, the evidence is probably all there but I can't make head nor tail of most of it yet.

We now know that The Lodge was originally a single-storey building before being extended upwards in the early 1850s.
Our discoveries directly below the bedroom (in the Living Room) make it clear that the chimney stack on the west side of the property has been there from the beginning, which in turn means that it would have risen above the roof of the cottage. This, therefore, means that the chimney breast wall in Bedroom 1 is at least in part original and would have terminated somewhere in the space now occupied by the bedroom or the loft, above.

Bear with me. I'm thinking as I'm typing...

Part of the cottage's roof line is still visible in Bedroom 1.
There's a clear, but short, diagonal line running through the bricks down from the chimney breast to a concrete square in the brickwork (highlighted in red and brown on the pic). This square is also visible on the outside of the building and there's another further back on the wall of Bedroom 2 (which is also a storage room, meaning we can't strip any of that internal wall yet).

The diagonal line in Bedroom 1 bisects this square, meaning that it can only have housed a purlin from the original roof, terminating outside. The same goes for the one in Bedroom 2.
There's no matching purlin on the opposite wall of Bedroom 1, which makes sense because that wall would only have come in to being during the extension phase and didn't exist for the original timber to run through. Am I making sense so far?

It remains to be seen if there's a similar square on the internal east wall of Bedroom 3 on the opposite side of the house (I haven't removed the lime plaster yet but I'll update this post when I get round to it), but there's no square patch on the outside of that wall, which raises a question: was the single-storey cottage entirely separate from the estate's boundary wall and was later incorporated in to it?
Holes in the east wall of Bedroom 3 point to it being at least two courses thick, so maybe that's why...

Anyway, back to Bedroom 1.

The diagonal roof line, running from the purlin to the chimney breast, heads to roughly where the chimney breast has been built-up to square it all off during the extension work.
You might think that the extra bricks were used to widen what had at first been the narrowing top of the chimney stack, but everything above the final course of bricks that formed the 'original' widest section is a different colour brick to the rest (marked in light blue).

So was the middle section between the extended sides (in dark blue) an add-on to the top of the original cottage's stack?
Are the extended sides evidence of a third round of building work?

Another thing to look at is a line of timber that, at the very least, runs across the front of the house from one side to the other and turns along the east wall in Bedroom 2 (I can see it through a hole in the plaster). This is highlighted in yellow in the pic.
At some stage this timber has been cut through to allow for a window in Bedroom 1, which could coincide with the early 1850s building work and the repeal of the Window Tax in 1851.

But... the timber line doesn't in any way marry-up with the diagonal original roof line or the purlin, suggesting it came later, although it's roughly in line with the lower edge of the existing roof outside and follows across to the chimney breast below the extended sides and different-coloured centre bricks..
Why? Why not just use bricks instead of timber? Could this have been another roof line? Are we looking at more clues suggesting three lots of building work?

The answer is that we simply don't know and probably never will.
There's a theory that because the diagonal line ends before before it reaches the chimney stack in Bedroom 1 that it could point to a thatched roof but, again, we might never know.
I'm sure there are plenty of other guesses in the pipeline and no doubt more clues that we can't solve but I'll be sure to unleash that confusion here when the time comes.

Apologies for this being quite a long and rambling post (more-so than normal) but this is how it looks inside my head. It's a confusing place in which to reside.

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