Our visit to Knole in England

Fiona (Project Conservator) and I had the privilege of heading across to England on 14 September to see the renovation/conservation project taking place at Knole in the great county of Kent.

We had a fantastic time, the weather being very kind to us and the staff of Knole being very kind and welcoming.

Knole is an enormous house dating from the 1400’s. Naturally enough with a building of this age there are massive structural issues, and with the materials the house was built with getting the wrong side of the hill.

I, from a joinery point of view, was blown away by the sheer size and the complexity of such a property!

The roof was being striped from its tile covering, exposing the roof structure. I was very interested to see the way in which it was constructed and what made it still stay together after 600 years!

The answer to that question is oak! Beautiful wonderful English oak!

I have included a few photos of the roof structure and the front façade of the property.

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If you get a chance (after having visited Mount Stewart), I recommend you make the journey from wherever you are and see this wonderful property and support the team there as they take on this almighty task!

Also make sure and keep reading this blog, the reason being I have a blog battle with the main blogger at Knole!

David

Hague bedroom floor strengthening

One of the many interesting things to be found in the house is that all the rooms (especially the bedrooms) have all got a name. A few examples of the names given are Hague, Rome, Paris, and Amsterdam. The names are all European cities which the family visited.

The room called Hague has been a room of special interest to us for the past few months. The reason being that it has been a test case for the floor strengthening method which, if successful, will be rolled out through the rest of the house. We, the joinery team, have been under the instruction and guidance of the structural engineers (Mann Williams) who have been carrying out these tests, as the floors throughout the house are displaying problems with the distance they have been asked to span for the past 172 years.

It is a critical time for us now as a structure to put tension into the floor has been put in place and tension put into the floor. This adds stiffness to the floor and enables the floor to move as one single structure, helping its load baring capacity.

We have used what looks like a monstrous structure to lift the floor but the principles used are very simple.

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The pictures show us, the joinery team, tightening the lifting rods. The rods are threaded bars dropped downwards and attached to two bars which we discovered have been in the floor since the 1840s. These already existing bars in the floor are the remnants of a floor tightening method employed by the original joiners. Incidentally this tells us the joiners in the 1840s new that the joists specified would have difficulties spanning the distance required! And here we are 172 years later having to do the exactly the same thing, only with better knowledge (put that in to keep the engineers happy) and of course incredibly talented and highly skilled joiners to carry out the engineers wishes!

Joking aside, as I have said before when lifting floor boards we just don’t know what we are going to find! This time, (and about time too!), this find has worked to our and the engineers benefit!

Keep on watching this space as the chapel will soon be finished, and we will show you the finished product soon. We have more exciting projects coming up and I can’t wait to get stuck into them! It’s an exciting and very busy time.

David

An introduction to our Visitor Services Manager – Susan

I am looking forward to the challenges ahead regarding the Mount Stewart Conservation Project.

I am currently working as Visitor Services Manager and a large proportion of my job has been taken up managing the property events programme. My new role within the Conservation project will take on a different type of event management when I will be tasked daily with ensuring that Mount Stewart is open for business as usual, but, with the opportunity to reveal various new and old discoveries and provide a great experience for all our visitors.

I will be assisting the conservation team with the creation of new opportunities and identifying unique and interesting aspects which will be uncovered through this rediscovering process. I will be reviewing and developing communication channels to help you plan your visits to this fabulous house during the forthcoming years and I hope to be able to encourage everyone to become engaged in some way with this exciting restoration programme. It’s a whole new adventure for me, and I am embarking on this new journey with both excitement and trepidation. I hope that you will be able to enjoy this with me.

Susan Roberts
Visitor Services Manager