Drawing room hole filling

It’s just been too cold in the kitchen to continue work so we’ve moved upstairs to the drawing room. The drawing room is the largest space at the Regency Town House.  Our curator, Nick, found original plaster on the walks, complete with ghostly shadow images of where, originally, mirrors and pictures would have hung. Unfortunately the previous owners had repaired the holes in the walls with modern fillers. These fillers, we have learned, are harder than the older plaster.  The older plaster is more resilient to the small movements that occur in older buildings. So, it’s been decided to remove all the modern filling material and replace it with traditional line putty plaster to match the old.

We were told to build up the plaster in layer, just as it was put on originally.  Below are photos of my scratch coat. After this the floating coat goes on and then a very thin finishing coat.

 

 

How it all began
Thousands of people have taken the opportunity to visit the Regency Town House, but few are aware of how the project began and how much hard work and dedication has been needed to get this far.

of restoration work had been completed on the house of a cost of only £300,000. Much of the hard work however, was carried out by Nick and friends under the guidance of the professionals.

‘We had very little buildings know-how at the start of the project and whilst a lot of the work was straightforward common sense, we also needed skilled help. We had to learn how to carry out structural repairs and how to reinstate doors, walls and ceilings to their original condition, whilst every discovery and change had to be documented for future reference’

While this was taking place, Nick became friends with an elderly lady that lived in the basement of No. 10 Brunswick Square and would fetch her groceries. He discovered that her home was a ‘time capsule’ full of original Regency features and virtually untouched by time. Nick says:

‘Her parents had worked as housekeepers in No’s 9 & 10 and after their death, she stayed on in that position at a wage of £2.6s a week. She would gladly allow me to tape record all her memories but would never pose for photograph, saying she didn’t want any fuss. She was always embarrassed at how old fashioned and plainly decorated her home was and found it dif cult to believe she was living in an architectural gem! The basement contained many startling features such as a walk-in meat safe, with wire mesh panels to keep the meat cool and bug free. The wine cellar door even had remains of the wax used by the butler to seal over the lock to prevent light ffingered servants from tampering with it while he was away.’

Later, when the old lady was in her 80’s and in poor health, she was moved into sheltered accommodation and the whole building was sold to developers. It was then that Nick decided to try to preserve her wonderful home. The development company gave the Regency Town House three months to raise the money needed – the race was on! A bid to the newly created National Lottery was made but additional monies were essential and so a huge fund raising campaign was put into action. People were invited to visit the basement and see for themselves how valuable it was. Nick recalls:

‘The interest in No. 10 was phenomenal. People were so impressed with what they saw that many visitors made contributions on the spot and even sent in second donations. They were determined not to sit back and let an historical gem end up in a builders skip. The general public gave nearly £15,000 and the developers kindly agreed to wait a few more months. It was announced in June 1995 that the Regency Town House was the recipient of the first ever Heritage Lottery Fund grant in the South East and with their support the basement was saved.

The acquisition of the basement paved the way for the project seen today but it also greatly increased the physical repair demands faced by Nick and the Town House team. More of that below.

Back in 1984, Nick Tyson our Curator was looking for somewhere to live. Having a keen interest in the heritage of Brighton and Hove, he was appalled at the state of the Regency houses he visited. Most had been badly converted into fflats or had their original features ripped out. When the basement of No.13 Brunswick Square came up for sale, although empty for 26 years and deemed unfit for habitation, it still retained many original features and had lots of potential. It was the renovation of this property that sewed the seed for the Regency Town House heritage centre. Nick recalls:

‘I noticed that the museums in the area didn’t tend to focus on the town’s urban history and tell you much about ordinary life in the Regency period. I hoped there was a way we could do something about this and set about creating a heritage site to help people understand the importance of historic Brighton. In time we planned to renovate the whole house, step by step, to its original state. We believed this would take nearly twenty years but, in actual fact, the other flats became available in a very short space of time and the renovation process became a full time activity between the 1980’s and early 1990’s.’

Once the flats had been purchased, an enormous amount of work and money was required to reinstate the building into a sound condition. Nick freely admits ‘ if I could have foreseen how long it would take and how difficult  the funding would be, I would have thought seriously about the sense of doing it’. Fortunately he continued and thanks to the generous support of builder’s merchants, suppliers and some of the best craftspeople in the area who gave their services for free, or at a reduced rate, by 1992 £1.3 million worth walls and ceilings to their original condition, whilst every discovery and change had to be documented for future reference’

While this was taking place, Nick became friends with an elderly lady that lived in the basement of No. 10 Brunswick Square and would fetch her groceries. He discovered that her home was a ‘time capsule’ full of original Regency features and virtually untouched by time. Nick says:

‘Her parents had worked as housekeepers in No’s 9 & 10 and after their death, she stayed on in that position at a wage of £2.6s a week. She would gladly allow me to tape record

all her memories but would never pose for

a photograph, sayingfuss. She was always embarrassed at how old fashioned and plainly decorated her home was and found it dif cult to believe she was living in an architectural gem! The basement contained many startling features such as a walk-in meat safe, with wire mesh panels to keep the meat cool and bug free. The wine cellar door even had remains of the wax used by the butler to seal over the lock to prevent light ngered servants from tampering with it while he was away.’

Later, when the old lady was in her 80’s and

in poor health, she was moved into sheltered accommodation and the whole building was sold to developers. It was then that Nick decided to try to preserve her wonderful

home. The development company gave the Regency Town House three months to raise

the money needed – the race was on! A bid to the newly created National Lottery was made but additional monies were essential and so a huge fund raising campaign was put into action. People were invited to visit the basement and see for themselves how valuable it was. Nick recalls:

‘The interest in No. 10 was phenomenal. People were so impressed with what they saw that many visitors made contributions on the spot and even sent in second donations. They were determined not to sit back and let an historical gem end up in a builders skip. The general public gave nearly £15,000 and the developers kindly agreed to wait a few more months. It was announced in June 1995 that the Regency Town House was the recipient of the rst ever Heritage Lottery

Back in 1984, Nick Tyson our Curator was looking for somewhere to live. Having a keen interest in the heritage of Brighton and Hove, he was appalled at the state of the Regency houses he visited. Most had been badly converted into ats or had their original features ripped out. When the basement of No.13 Brunswick Square came up for sale, although empty for 26 years and deemed un t for habitation, it still retained many original features and had lots of potential. It was the renovation of this property that sewed the seed for the Regency Town House heritage centre. Nick recalls:

‘I noticed that the museums in the area did not tend to focus on the town’s urban history and tell you much about ordinary life in the Regency period. I hoped there was a way we could do something about this and set about creating

a heritage site to help people understand the importance of historic Brighton. In time we planned to renovate the whole house, step by step, to its original state. We believed this would take nearly twenty years but, in actual fact, the other ats became available in a very short space of time and the renovation process became a full time activity between the 1980’s and early 1990’s.’

Once the ats had been purchased, an enormous amount of work and money was required to reinstate the building into a sound condition. Nick freely admits ‘ if I could have foreseen how long it would take and how dif cult the funding would be, I would have thought seriously about the sense of doing

it’. Fortunately he continued and thanks to the generous support of builder’s merchants, suppliers and some of the nest craftspeople in the area who gave their services for free, or at a reduced rate, by 1992 £1.3 million worth

Opening up your historic property!

We are starting to assemble our Heritage Open Days (HODs) listings for 2016. The event runs between 8 and 11 September. 
If you live in a local historic property and would consider opening it for a public tour as a part of the HODs celebrations, we might visit you this spring, research your house and write you a free tour guide. 
Want to know more about this offer? Contact, nick@rth.org.uk with ‘HODs House’ in the subject field. 

    
 

Window installation

The plastering of our regency kitchen was almost complete.  Just one more wall was left to do.  The original plan was to put large double height glass doors into the gap in our wall but this would have been too expensive.  Our curator, Nick, decided on a cheaper solution and a window made for elsewhere in the building would be used.

First we had to fill in the lower section of the wall which meant me, Cireena and Claude getting a lesson in bricklaying from Paul our master plasterer.  The results were OK for first timers and, luckily, were soon covered up!

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8th October, 2015

The hole in the wall was too big for our window. We had to make it smaller using bricks. This was tricky as the sashbox had to be fitted behind brickwork. The sashbox is the part of the window which contains the sash weights. This part of the window needed to be hidden behind brickwork on the outside of the window. More tricky brickwork but the team did it.

When the brickwork was done the window was installed.  It was secured in place using wooden wedges.  A good moment for all the team who were there.

Next we began to plaster the wall around the window.

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Cireena plastering (4th December, 2015)
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(8th January, 2016)

How we made a beam

Our original wooden beams were replaced by rolled steel joists. Our curator, Nick, wanted to restore the rest of the ceiling using traditional lath and plaster. This left us with the problem of what to do with those steel joists.  Nick decided to fireproof them with plasterboard and then cover them with plaster.  Later they would be painted to look like wooden beams.

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Laths and rolled steel joist before plastering. (22nd January, 2015)

 

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Lath being plastered with lime putty.Floating coat screeds being applied on scratch backing coat.  (5th March, 2015)
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Chamfered edge in wood

The next stage is complicated to explain but I’ll have a go.  Our curator wanted a chamfered edge to the beam when it was finished.

To the left is an example of a chamfered edge in wood. This is what our curator wanted us to create in plaster.

We would create a chamfered edge on the plasterboard covered beam first.  Then we would plaster up to it.

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The plasterboard covered beam waiting for its chamfered edge (8th June 2015)

The four pictures below show how the chamfered edge was created by installing two long pieces of wood set at angles to each other, leaving a gap between them.  The gap was filled with plaster to form the chamfered edge.  The wood was removed leaving the plaster chamfer.

 

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The finished plastered beam with its chamfered edge. (14th July, 2015)

The beam was completed in July. The illusion of a wooden beam will be completed when the beam is painted. The colour choice for paint has yet to be decided.  Maybe this is lucky because a leak has started to threaten our beam.

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Water damaged beam (14th January, 2016)

 

To win an award…

imageThis meant a lot to me.  The Regency Town House project has really helped me develop and it was just great to know that my input was appreciated too!

I felt quite emotional when Nick Tyson, our curator, presented it to me at the house’s Christmas social event. I mumbled something about thank you to everyone; Paul Robinson, Cireena and Owen but couldn’t say much more cos I was so overwhelmed.

Thank you everyone!