32 Friarn Street Bridgwater Somerset TA6 3LH
An Ancient House
A Conservation and Restoration Project
This property dates from at least 1570 and may be older. The Project is being managed by Cattermoles for eventual use again as an elegant private residence.
This page gives the latest news for the cognoscenti. There are also links at the top of the page.
It is hoped to achieve a limewash finish on the gable walls and selected other surfaces, with a complementary chalky finish elsewhere.
This work will enable the fixing of the remaining two radiators, and for the electrical services to be completed on first and second floors.
Further information has come to light concerning York & Son.
20 January 2002
In order to gain access for services and to make a structural examination of joist ends in the first floor north room, it has been necessary to remove the overlying cross-placed floor (or plating), as has been completed elsewhere on the first floor. From the nature of the boarding, it was clear that the plating had taken place in late Victorian times or later. However, in this room, the boarding was very worn in parts, and scarfed repairs had been made. This wear had not been found elsewhere. Upon removal, the underlying boards were found in generally good order, though the floor was heavily bowed by up to 3" in the centre from the edge. All joist ends were solid. Work is progressing on running in the service duct. A radiator has been mounted.
Below the top layer of boards in a concentrated area was found much paper debris, without rodent marks. This was carefully examined and found to consist of black cut strips, printed material, and little Trade Mark triangles bearing the letter Y round which was wound a serpent. A page of The Builder dated Nov. 14, 1891 was also placed in a scrumpled ball under this plated floor. Nearby was a small penknife. A George IV penny of 1826 lay elsewhere. The page from The Builder seems to fit with the conjecture that the overlying floor had been laid near the end of the 19th century (an earlier discovery in the same room suggested a date no later than 1928 from a dated catalogue used as a joint filler on a stud over the floor).
The printed slips of paper were readily identified as attributable to York & Son. Further research has discovered several interesting aspects of the work of this firm in 32 Friarn Street, and a separate section on them is now available.
8 January 2002
Refurbishment of the first floor north room has been undertaken. This room has seen many previous changes, including the introduction of a 19th century sash window. The floor has a pronounced sag, desite having been levelled with narrow boards laid cross-ways over the earlier floor of 8" x 1¼". The decision was taken to treat the room in an early Victorian style. In the week before Christmas, Mr O'Reilly ornamental plasterer of Washford became available to work on the house. In a short time he had fabricated a new cornice, following an early 19th French leaf design picture and in no time it was expertly installed on the undulating ceiling.
1 December 2001
Work on installing the remaining services has been proceeding well. A conventional pumped open hot water and central heating system from a fan-flued gas boiler is nearing completion. Zone controls have been installed in order to provide sophisticated monitoring consistent with comfort and the needs of the fabric to retain the thermal characteristics that have enabled it to survive successfully for so long.
Except where direct connections are made to appliances, all pipework has been concealed in order to preserve wall and room features. The radiators have been sited with care so as to avoid unsightliness. Whilst the carrying out of the work in this careful manner necessarily takes longer than might result from a package deal from a contractor, it does ensure that a high-quality finish can be achieved without destruction of the features of the building. Substantial cost-savings over contract prices have been achieved. As the stages in the installation of services have been completed, wall preparation and decoration has followed.
6 September 2001
All remedial work to the wall structures in the former kitchen has been completed. A sink has been installed in the blocked-up doorway. The lime-plastered ceiling was in too poor a condition to leave exposed, but has been preserved under plasterboard. Selective replastering in modern gysum-based materials has been completed, using special techniques to provide an aged surface. Lias limestone walling below 1 m height has been left exposed permanently in order to allow the damp wall to breath . Work to the rear door and oak frame is nearly complete. Leaded lights have been ordered to complete the glazing above the door. A possible incomplete ritual circular mark has been found on one jamb of the door frame.
1 June 2001
Further structural investigations of the lintel spanning the old doorway in the former kitchen revealed significant weaknesses, necessitating remedial action. In conjuction with our building consultants temporary structural supports were introduced whilst the timber lintel was removed. Two reinforced concrete lintels were trimmed to size and inserted. Further work continues to strengthen the triangular flanking wall by pinning the masonry with reinforced concrete. pictures
22 May 2001
The former kitchen floor has been reinstated with flagstones, laid on sand above a dpm. The smaller stones have been recovered from the back garden. Some retain a mason's mark on the underside. Larger stones forming the main walkway are reproductions from Castle Flagstones. The whole room is now significantly drier.
Services are now being installed in this area, which will house utilities. However, the timber lintel above a doorway cut in below a former window appears on close investigation to be an important but defective building element, so remedial work may be required. picture
The oak rear door has been hung on existing pintles. The 4.5" square heavily-beaded oak doorframe is being repaired in situ, the base having rotted away.
3 April 2001
Work has continued on the former kitchen. Careful replacement of the rotted bearing timber by dampcourse and brick, at three bricks per time, in the defective wall has been successful. One of the three sections of the wall was too defective to repair and so has been carefully photographed and taken down. The horizontal dividing timbers had been reused from elsewhere, as shown by holes, approximately 1.5" in diameter bored at an angle within them. A new post, in reclaimed oak, has been fitted, using the existing mortice. Below this section of wall, a green thick-glass bottle head was found. This may be early eighteenth century, which is consistent with other evidence which suggests a similar date for the dividing-up of a larger room.
The room suffers from damp, and so a decision was taken to take up the concrete floor, and to strip the cement rendering to a height of approximately 1m. picture
Repairs to the drains have also been undertaken, utilising a box culvert opening below the window.
5 March 2001
The first floor bookcase has been constructed and installed by Stuart Interiors of Barrington Court, Ilminster. picture
In preparation for the hanging of the oak rear door, investigations of an adjacent wall have been taking place. The lime-based plaster had very poor adhesion, and has been removed, revealing the structure of the wall. All principal supports for the wall are rotted from damp. pictures It is surprising that the wall has remained standing. Remedial work is underway. Advice has been sought from Somerset County Council Historic Buildings Department.
Further decorating has been taking place in the first floor principal room and is now nearly complete. The decision was taken to use a chemical stripper to remove paintwork from the principal wood surfaces (though small sections have been left for reference). During the stripping of the two-panelled door (believed to be early Georgian), a delicate internal moulding appears to have been applied. It seems to be of hard plaster and shows sections of silver plate. Advice is being sought.
1 December 2000
During October and November, the pace of work has slowed as a consequence of other projects (particularly in Museum Publishing for the SDRT) being given priority. Refurbishment of the first floor living room is nearing completion. Contracts have been let for a further oak bookcase. A new oak rear door is being fabricated by a local craftsman. A sophisticated intruder alarm and observation system has been installed. Services are in place in the front of the ground floor. The brick floor under the stairs has been carefully taken up and relayed on a damp-proof membrane. Broken bottles, coal and some animal bones lay beneath the bricks. The opportunity was taken to remove the 16-hole brick wall beneath the stairs and renew the base of a king post, in elm recovered from the first floor.
Dr Cattermole's work in Winchester ceased on 30 November, and so progress with the conservation and restoration of 32 Friarn Street will become more rapid again shortly.
24 September 2000
Work during August and September has been to prepare routes for electrical and plumbing services. As the services have been fitted, decorations have followed. The work has concentrated on the ground and first-floor front (south) rooms.
A vertical duct has been constructed in the SE corner, linking ground floor to second floor. Into this has been run a 22mm cold-water rising main (to feed the tank in the roof-space) and central heating flow and return pipes for radiators. A removable marine-grade stainless-steel cable tray has been installed in front of the insulated pipes to take the cabling for ring, lighting, telephone, CCTV and TV/FM cables. This has enabled the decoration of the small first-floor front room to be completed. It will be used as a study and display area for Dr Cattermole's railway signalling equipment. pictures
Completion of the relaying of the hallway small flagstones over a damp-proof membrane has enabled the installation of a purpose-built services cupboard to receive metering and control gear for gas, water and electricity. Western Power Distribution moved the incoming electrical service on Thursday, 14 September, but the installation of the correct meter has been delayed by the fuel crisis! During excavations of the pavement, it was established that the footings of the S gable wall are approximately 14" below pavement level, and consist merely of medium-sized blocks of lias limestone laid direct on the gravel sub-soil. The nearby new B & Q store is however constructed on at least 40' mass concrete piles. Will it be a survivor of five hundred years like No. 32?
The opportunity has been taken to protect the footings with sheet polythene during the backfilling of the excavated access to the electrical cable.
At the base of the S gable at pavement level it was discovered that a 7" high facing of dressed stone had been fixed. This was found to be much corroded under the painted surface. The stone was a light oolitic limestone, not dissimilar to a Bath stone. It is being replaced by a similar coloured Doulting limestone, which, though more shelly than Bath stone, will match the tabling at the top of the gable.
Discussions are taking place with Sedgemoor District Council and the Town Centre Manager with a view to enhancement of the pavement in Friarn Street by relaying with slabs in a fashion similar to that shown in Victorian photographs of the street. picture