The inside of the house and the roof are held up by 14 massive oak beams and a thousand smaller timbers, all of which are being slowly munched away by beetle and fungi. Spectacular intervention with chunky godfathers has kept the place standing, and we alone have repaired some 400 timbers. Thanks to a bit of warmth to keep the oak dry, and Leonard our long-eared bat who likes a juicy death watch beetle or three, the old oak should stand up for another few centuries. Conservation is not only about repair, it's about understanding how things were newly made in days gone by. We trained first by copying the old roof in the new barn, and later in building the summerhouse.



Gypsum, or alabaster, is mined locally. It used to be carved into statues until someone found it could be cooked and laid on reeds to make floors. The house contains 50 tons of it. Today nobody can remember how to cook gypsum for flooring, but after experimental floor repairs at this house, Simon has overseen the laying of a large new floor nearby, using only reed from the canal, lump gypsum ploughed up from restored mining land, four domestic ovens, a hired crusher, and a few bags of casting plaster. Possibly it's the first new plaster floor in England for 140 years.
Pictured here is a testing sample of new floor, sitting on an ancient plaster window-sill.


Swithland Slate

Some 100 tons of this Leicestershire slate, quarried at Swithland, Groby and Newtown Linford until 1887, covers all the roofs of our house, barn and garden wall. The award-winning main roof is all hung on oak pegs, and coated underneath with many layers of lime plaster. We had to find some 60 tons of old slate, sort it all into sizes, trim off the jagged edges, and drill many a new peg-hole. The result seems to be appreciated, as it adorns the front cover to the SPAB guide to Vernacular Slating in the East Midlands, then again that was co-authored by the fellow whose work on the house won the award.


These are just three materials explored. There's ironstone, mud, brick, and hot-lime, to name a few more we have worked with.
I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.