I know I know it’s been too long! We have been very busy working hard restoring windows and protecting various items throughout the house.
Everything is in full swing with a team of plumbers, electricians, plasterers, H&J Martin’s joiners and the fabulous, totally brilliant, not to be outdone, National Trust Project joinery team! Am I biased?
At the moment we are involved in the restoration of the French doors and their surrounding architraves all along the south facing side of the house. These rooms from a historical point of view came into existence when the house was enlarged quite considerably by the 3rd marquis of Londonderry, to the wonderful house we see today. The rooms in question, being built to serve as the suite of rooms and bedroom used by Theresa the 3rd marquises wife where of high importance and quality. They are also the rooms in which King Edward VII stayed during his visit in 1903. Sometime later around the 1950’s after the estate office in Newtownards was closed the rooms became office space to serve as the new estate office.
We first removed the shutter doors to repair them as per the instructions by the architect. The shutter doors had been reduced in size sometime in the past probably in and around the 1920’s to accommodate an opening sash fitted in the left hand door (when standing in the room) to allow ventilation.
The task was to add new timbers to increase the shutter length bringing them back to the original height they would have been in the 1850’s
We also removed the French doors so we could service them for two reasons:
1. By removing the many layers of paint which had basically fixed them shut since dear knows when.
2. Remove the sash introduced in the 1920’s which also had been fixed shut and return the doors back to their original appearance.
We in the National Trust are not in the business of dumping the old for new, we instead protect and conserve where possible.
The ethos in which the joinery team, in fact the whole the conservation team operate under when restoring anything is best summed up by our project curator Frances Bailey when she said, ‘we do as much as is necessary but as little as possible.’
So when we got the French doors on the bench in our workshop I began surveying them. I noticed the sash we removed looked as if it was original. The reasons being:
- The glass in the sash was cylinder glass, that’s the old distorted wavy glass you see in old windows, while all the glass surrounding it was plate glass. This would indicate the sash was older as plate glass was not used in the 1850’s, the time in which the doors would have been constructed.
- The door construction suggested it had never been altered or taken apart. It matches exactly the same profile as all the other doors on that façade including the saloon doors which we know for definite were made in the 1850’s.
In short I had a pile of unanswered questions.
So was the door originally made with an opening sash meaning we did not need to remove it, rather restore it?
If the sash was not original, why did it have glass that placed it being made in the 1850’s?
What a quandary, it was all very bamboozling. So I put my inspector Clouseau hat on and started to use what little brains I have.
Mars must have come in line with Jupiter as the answers came!
In the fine detail when I removed the paint I could see on the glazing bar (which was original) a timber section was added to beef up its size to facilitate the addition of a sash. Also the species of timber used in the construction of the sash (probably Douglas fir) was different from the door which was pitch pine.
So the door was made in the 1850’s. Later, probably around the King’s visit a lot of the original cylinder and crown glass was removed and a new invention, ‘plate glass‘ replaced morit. At that time the sash was introduced to allow ventilation, as the only way to allow ventilation previously was by opening the door.
Could the family have decided that the king deserved a better view of the gardens rather than look through distorted glass? Or did they remove the original glass just to show off by having plate glass, the new invention which was also very expensive?
We will never know, we can only assume, and that’s the charm Mount Stewart has for me!
Mortise & tenon joints
A joint which is used on all doors or at least should be is a mortise and tenon joint. I have included a few photos of Trevor showing James how to form the joint being used in adding the new sections to the shutter doors.
I would like to introduce to you our latest member of staff, Mr. Stephen King. Stephen joins us for a year as part of a CITB training scheme and is a very welcome extra pair of hands. Stephen has many years experience in the building trade and is hoping to learn new skills during this project.
The upskilling of persons in the various trades employed during this project is seen as a vital part of this projects legacy. Our two apprentices will have such a start in their respective joinery lives and will no doubt be very employable wherever they may end up in years to come. I know speaking for myself the knowledge I have gained so far is priceless, Trevor I’m sure will agree.
We need your help, we need wood!
I also would like to take this opportunity to ask if anyone has or knows where we can get old reclaimed timber. One species in particular would be bog oak which we need for the inlays to doors, floors and furniture.
Any reclaimed pine I would be only too glad to receive and one can be assured it will be put to good use.
I have included a few photos on a loop showing the work being carried out to the shutter doors and one of the damage which is typical of what we are finding.
The wood we have used is Quebec yellow or eastern white pine. It’s a very stable and easy to work with (just like myself!) It is either the same species of wood that was used originally or it’s very closely related.