A ‘quickish’ update!

Hello folks!

I am so sorry I have not been producing blogs for the past wee while, I have had so much to do which has near made me go round the bend! But as we say in Ireland, ‘sure, it will be grand’, which carries with it the connotation of a care free attitude. However I can assure one and all that around here we care greatly for this property and it shows through in the people I work with.

I must say I work with the most amazing bunch of people! Everyone loves their job despite the frustrations and problems which arise. The passion we all share for our jobs and the place we work can be so strong that I find personally I can’t switch off. My life is given over to this project and the delivery of it on time(ish)!

I am writing this over lunch time as things are quiet around here between 1:00 and 1:30pm!

So I nipped down earlier to take a few photos of a floor which is being lifted in the Drawing Room. This room was where various functions would have taken place among other rooms but this room was totally stunning with all its decorations etc. I have mentioned the room in previous blog posts and this time you will see the room with all the furniture and paintings removed and in storage, it feels like it’s having its heart ripped out.

So, just had to pop out there and sort out a delivery of timber! Why on earth does that happen?! Deliveries come either at 4:55pm or between 1-1:30pm, usually just as you’re about to sink your teeth into a sandwich!


The Drawing Room…

No wait!

Ladies and gentlemen, I am very proud to bring to you a special wee woman who was over with us for a week to gain some knowledge in heritage carpentry and joinery. I hereby present to you Miss Sarah Hudson.

Miss Sarah Hudson

Miss Sarah Hudson

Sarah took the decision she wanted to become a joiner and has proved herself very capable in the trade. She will do well as she proved to me that she has a very keen interest and wants to learn. I don’t want to uplift the trade to any height but anyone who wants to become a tradesman in any of the trades must go through 4 years of low pay and feel the weak link in any team, totally reliant on their work colleagues and needs support in most areas. There must be more inside the apprentice to really want to be a trades person to see past the early years.

Speaking of myself, I was 16 when I went out into the big bad world and had to get wise very quickly! The thing is, Sarah is mostly in a man’s world and yet she sticks at it and I must applaud her for her determination and drive to push boundaries.

Keep up the good work Sarah! The joinery team at Mount Stewart wish you well and hope in years to come to hear you having completed your apprenticeship.

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Right! The Drawing Room

In the following images one can see the floor mostly lifted with the joists being visible. See what I mean by having its heart ripped out?

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A few stories have emerged following the floor being lifted. I noticed at the commencement of the project when I lifted a few boards seeing glass scattered all over the place.

So why all the glass?

Back when I first noticed it, I picked a few pieces up and noticed it was from something that was curved. I figured that it was a broken glass table or something which had been swept into the floor void.

So when the floor was lifted I saw that the glass was all over the floor not just in one section. So the penny dropped (and in my head it has to drop a long way)! I am one of those people who wins an argument an hour after it has happened! One of the joiners said to me, ‘It’s almost like they cut all the glass for the windows in here’.


That’s it! It’s crown glass! My goodness! It’s all the remnants of the glass from the late 1840’s when the windows were being installed and the Drawing Room was used to glaze the sashes.

In the photo below you will see how glass came to site. Glass manufacturing of the day was by means of placing molten glass on a spinning table. The centrifugal force flatted out the glass into a disc.

If you’re ever around Mount Stewart look at the windows, those are the ones I have taken out. Look particularly close at the panes, they will be distorted but the key to spotting crown glass in particular is the circular rings which can be visible.

Why is this guy so excited about finding this?

Well crown glass is no longer made anywhere in the world, to find these bits of glass gives me a sense of just how big the discs where and I can also imagine all the sashes in the room and the glazers cutting and fitting the glass and glazing them. I am now going over their work approximately 144 years later! I find that amazing.

Yes yes, I need to get out more!

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Two more joiners

We have two more joiners started with us which brings the team up to 7 poor souls who have to work with me! I will post a few images and a bit of info about them in due course, I have run out of time for this session.

All the best and please keep on supporting the project here and the National Trust in general.

Bye for now. If I haven’t posted another blog post in a few weeks please come and find me, as I might have taken to the hills or rocking back and forth mumbling about sash windows and glass! I am so glad I have a beard these days it’s such a de-stressor, as I muse and think over what the dickens I have to do next!

As we have some readers who might appreciate the following:

Slán go foil! Or goodbye for now in English!



An update on recent works

Hi folks! I find myself yet again in front of the computer to assemble another blog.

I hope you forgive me for the absence of blogs recently as we all have been extremely busy! I never expected this job to demand so much of my time, I am not crying about it I love this job to bits! The weeks just melt into months and life just seems to be an endless rush to get out of one area in the house to the next.

Let’s get stuck in!

The Saloon fights back would be the title of this part as we have unearthed some very worrying discoveries.

Just when all was going well, the floor was brilliantly re-laid by Craig and Martin, two of H&J Martins joiners and the painters had moved into the room prepping for the first layers of paint when, on the removal of a rather ropey piece of architrave in order to replace it…. wet rot! Pheew said I to myself, at least that’s not dry rot!

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Work then began to remove the window and assess the damage when we thought we should also check the window opposite, what state would this window be in? Well, as soon as the window was removed…Nightmare! DRY ROT!

Feeling all deflated and alarmed as to what extent the dry rot had spread or what it had affected, Dennis our fantastic Project Manager calmed everything down by pointing out from experience the best method is not to worry about these things as they are what they are and we will deal with it as it comes.

So I put on my surveying hat and inspected the said window to my amazement while the mycelium (the fungus) was all over the wood it had not caused as much damage as I expected.

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Once the window was repaired, our own joiners Patrick and Steven set about rebuilding the architraves and panelling. The hood was refixed more effectively and securely whereby previously it was only held up by 2 nails and the architrave!

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Now you’re asking, what is dry rot and what’s the difference between it and wet rot?

Dry rot and wet rot both destroy wood and the destructiveness of the two funguses can be amazing, causing all sorts of problems.

Wet Rot

wet rot and dry rot

  • Local to a source of damp not wide spread nor active in non damp areas.
  • If the source of damp has not been stopped the timber is wet and spongy to touch.
  • A black fungus can appear on the wood with a white line towards the edge of the rotting section.
  • If the source of damp is stopped the wood will be cubed, dry and crumbly but crucially not active.

Dry rot

dry rot

  • White sheets (known as mycelium growth) are often present.
  • An orange coloured fruiting body may be seen on the timber.
  • The timber will be brown in colour and will crumble due to dry rot feeding on the timber.
  • More destructive than wet rot due to its ability to suck moisture from the wood.
  • Even though the timber is dry the fungus is still active.

The best combatant against any rot is ventilation! 

Callum’s Window

Callum has been tasked with removal of a rotten section of timber from a window in the Family Room as it has succumbed to wet rot along the sill line. Again what I thought may be a simple case of remove and repair has morphed into a bigger job than expected. However Callum is more than a match for this window!

I pointed him in the general direction and left him to it, now and then he would come back and seek some advice but he had no difficulty in identifying the problems, all Callum needed was assurance.

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One more section to show you just what dry rot is capable of if left unchecked.

If you look closely you will see that the floor joists have steel bolted to each side of them. This is due to the dry rot having eaten away the timber which then needed replacing. The replacement timber needs this steel to make it stronger. The wall has had to be striped of its plaster due to the dry rot eating the studs behind, what you see here is modern skim finish.

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Well folks that’s all for now, I will be back again soon as we have a specialist conservator with us who is repairing some beautiful lamp stands (if that’s the right term for them).  Now these stands are not any old stands, they are overlaid with gold leaf! Whooo you might say so take a quick peek!

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All the best


Wood Worm attack!

On Saturday morning while working along side the contractor I discovered a small section of a floor in the flower room had or still is being eaten alive by wood worm!

So, the thought popped into my mind that a blog post would be in order.

What is wood worm?

Wood worm is a generic term used for any beetle larva which bores into wood.

These are the following;image002

  • Common Furniture Beetle (Anobium punctatum)
  • Deathwatch Beetle (Xestobium rufuvillosum)
  • House Longhorn Beetle (Hylotrupes bajulus)
  • Powderpost Beetle or wood boring weevil (Lyctus brunneus)

Life cycle

The beetle lays its eggs into an existing cracks or holes in the timber. The eggs then pupate into larva and the larva then burrows downwards into the wood, only surfacing to hatch into a beetle to breed.

It is only when this last stage happens that you can see an infestation, as the hole you see is an exit hole.

As you can imagine the house staff here and in any older property watch out for the signs of an attack, so to be able to nip it in the bud. There are many different treatments for wood worm and all successful. Some are simple in that you spray or brush on a suitable liquid or some are very technical which apply to a piece of furniture which needs special care.

I have included as usual a few snaps of the damage the offending beetle has caused.

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Lifting the Saloon floor

Hello all!

This time as the title suggests we are lifting the floor in the room called the Saloon.

This room is a fantastic room; it is the room which in prior times held all the socialising the Vane Tempest Stewart family did. Just think, this room has had grace it the feet of Kings, Queens, Winston Churchill, Foreign dignitaries and myself! (Sorry I had to put that in). A thing also to remember is that the affairs of state and country would also have been discussed within its walls.

The reason we have to take this floor up is so that the contractors can fit insulation and also under floor heating.

Structurally the room has not many issues other than its ceiling which has a crack running just above the chandelier. This crack has already been investigated, as this is a blog about the floor I will leave that subject for another time.

The floor is itself is a beautiful floor being laid in 4 sections which radiate from the centre of the room.

The floor boards are oak, but particularly quarter sawn. Oak that is quarter sawn is particularly beautiful due to the boards showing the medullary rays.


We started the lifting the floor just after we came back from our holidays at Christmas time. I must admit I had some nervous moments just thinking about lifting it!

Some of you who are joinery or DIY minded will be thinking this man is a big woose! But just wait until I show you why!

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The boards have a fixing every 6 inches, now that’s something else.  I was afraid that the pressure needed to separate the boards would be too much and thus damage the boards so badly that we would not be able to lift the floor without major intervention.

Thankfully in the past some boards were removed to facilitate the fitting of electrical cables. These electricians had done us a huge favour in that they provided a ‘way’ into the floor. Once we had a row of boards up it was just a matter of prizing them apart from each other.


With things being so busy and the joinery team here operating on a never have a minute basis, H&J Martins were only too glad to lend a hand and give us two joiners to help us which in turn gave the two men experience in lifting this floor.


So we all got stuck in! And we got half the floor up in 3 ½ days. Brilliant!

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I remember Lady Rose jokingly mention to me some time ago when she spotted me lifting floor boards that, ‘If I ever find any jewellery or money which has dropped through the cracks, it still belongs to the family.” Needless to say I was very disappointed as I was going to operate under a finders keepers basis!

Very quickly we found some interesting things and found a massive sum of money! Twenty pence!

However we did find a very old shoe, mouldings which were fragments from the plaster moulding around the ceiling, sea shells and a dead mouse!

As this floor is a very historic floor we invited the National Trust’s archaeologist, the brilliant Malachy Conway, down to Mount Stewart.


When one talks to Mal you can see very clearly he loves his job and is also very good at it too. So on seeing the floor his eyes lit up on seeing such a treasure trove of history and so began furiously to dig into the rubble. He quickly unearthed some artefacts and after an hour or so of fanatical archaeology, he had to be calmed down with a stiff drink of tea!

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We also had to build a rack for storing the boards until we lay them again. All the boards are numbered and kept in their rows. We had to stack them in the room because the room has the right atmosphere to keep the boards from taking on moisture.


Well folks I will let you know when we have finished the floor and hopefully we will yet find something special.


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.


Discovery of the week – 1919 Newspaper and cigarette box

This week while working on the floorboards in the Hague bedroom, Callum, our apprentice joiner discovered a newspaper dating back to 1919 and a cigarette box.

Our project joiner, Callum discovering the newspaper dating back to 1919 (c) Peter Muhly

The cigarette box dates more than likely to 1919 as it was found alongside the Ulster Examiner newspaper dated 23 August 1919. Various news headings in the newspaper were, ‘Excursionists Stoned – Attacks at Newry, Banbridge, Dromore and Lisburn’ and ‘German Reconstruction Legislation for carrying out peace treaty – Big Economic effort’

A close-up of the Ulster Examiner, dating back to August 1919 (c) Peter Muhly

The cigarettes are a pack of 20 Gold Flake honeydew made by W D & H O Wills. They were founded in 1786 and became part of Imperial Tobacco in 1901 which remains one as of the largest tobacco manufacturers.

The Gold Flake cigarettes box which was also found under the floorboards (c) Peter Muhly