The weather has continued to be very kind to the restoration of the North Wing at Combermere abbey. Even though the entire Wing is covered in a temporary ‘tent’, bad weather would make conditions on the ground very difficult. As it is there have been no interruptions to the proceedings, and the team has had a very good autumn.
The bare earth on the ground floor is now covered (as you can see in the photo below), and is ready for the installations of high-efficiency underfloor heating. A small section of what may be medieval stone flooring was discovered, and has been chronicled, but that aside there were no exciting discoveries.
The Abbey has nothing in the way of cellars – in fact it hardly has anything in the way of foundations. When the ground floor floorboards come up the earth is only a few inches below. So much so that moles have been known to come up through the floorboards inside the house!
The story throughout the rest of the North Wing is of more new timber going in. As we’ve seen in earlier posts, a lot of rotten, original wood has had to be removed, and the joiners have cut new pieces to replace them. And replicated them beautifully, it must be said. Some of the larger pieces have been bolted into position with very chunky, steel fasteners, but in most areas the new wood is held in place with wooden pegs, just as it would have been hundreds of years ago. It’s a simple and efficient method, and it worked well in Tudor times and it works equally well nowadays.
The photographs below show the new roof structure at the most easterly corner of the Wing, and how the new joinery mates to the Sixteenth century timber-work. As noted before, the very handsome, fluted chimney was taken down as far as was necessary and has now been rebuilt with new, local bricks, exactly in its original profile.
The modern, bright yellow, joiners’ bench saw would have stunned the men who worked in wood at the Abbey five hundred years ago. They did everything ‘the hard way’, as we see it nowadays.