The Big House Reborn lands on TV this Monday!

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The Big House Reborn follows the story of our £7.5 million restoration of Mount Stewart House and Gardens and starts this Monday 22 June at 8pm on UTV and UTV Ireland.

Produced by Evergreen Media and supported by the BAI Sound and Vision Fund, the series will run for six weeks and will consist of six half hour programmes.

We can’t wait to see the documentary and we’re looking forward to you all seeing the highs, lows and huge challenges that we faced during the project!

Take a look at the trailer below:

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The much delayed blog!

Once again I find myself saying sorry for the delay in the posting of these blogs. To say we have been very busy is an understatement! Anyone who has ventured to Mount Stewart will see what I mean. There seems to be an endless stream of differing tradesmen coming from all over the country. I mention this as the painters all come from Castlederg and the surrounding area, a drive which takes them 2½ hours each way! I thought I was bad coming from Lurgan but I don’t complain anymore.

So for the update, I can tell you now, this will be a long blog, there is so much to tell you all.

The New Look Gallery

As you may or may not know we had huge structural problems with the gallery which I mentioned in previous blogs. The fixing of which fell to the structural engineers who quite frankly did an outstanding job!

Not only did they stabilise the gallery from getting any worse but they increased its load bearing capacity by 44%, an outstanding achievement!

Well, as you may recall Callum our senior apprentice (the face of Mount Stewart) was tasked with turning a sample spindle, from which 100 other spindles would be copied. Callum turned up trumps and in due course after handing the samples to H&J Martin the new handrail accompanied with the spindles arrived on site to be fitted.

H&J Martin organised for a subcontractor to come and fit the said items and it looks amazing!

Below are a few snaps of the items being installed and the finished article.

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While work was being carried out on the gallery a section of wood was discovered with some writing on it. You should be able to read it on the picture. These things are nice to find and give me the sense of what we are doing is carrying on where someone left off 93 years earlier.

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Wild life management! We get a chance to get close to nature!

While we are first and foremost joiners, we do have other duties to see to, and this job detail definitely falls into that part of my contract which says, ‘and any other duties deemed necessary’, that part is invoked quite often!

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Enough wildlife we’re not the David Attenborough appreciation society!

Wall Paper Protection

In the Versailles bedroom the hand painted wall paper is very precious and is irreplaceable. The reason it’s precious is because it was one of the items which the family brought back while on their travels, thus historically interesting and part of the fabric which gives us the feel for the person that was Lady Londonderry.

We had to protect it as remedial work needed to be carried out to the room’s floors, walls and ceiling. We carried out the protection by hanging tyvek, a protective sheet which is breathable just over the face of the wall paper but not touching it. Tension was put into the sheet by the means of a brace thus not allowing the tyvek to rub against the wall. It’s also a great advertisement for the company who’s name is plastered all over it!

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A Tasty Piece Of Work, Well Done Stephen!

As part of the works which we carried out to Lady Rose’s private quarters we were tasked to add new timber mouldings to a lovely big cabinet. This cabinet had previously been up against a wall so the mouldings at the top were not carried around its corner. This meant we had to add new mouldings and various other timber sections to blend it all in.

Stephen was tasked with this and as you can see did a superb job!

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Bob The Builder Doesn’t Have A Look In

Is there any end to this joinery team’s talent? We don’t think so!

This job to extend the painters work shop was one I enjoyed no end, it was one of those jobs which needs a bit of thinking before it starts but when building, it all clicks together.

When building a structure I always get a sense of achievement that is above other things we do just because one can see the fruit of ones labour on a larger scale.

I designed this workshop space to fit around the commercially available timber sizes so to cut out waste. It is a timber framed insulated structure cladded externally and internally with OSB3. This sheet material is the cheapest I could find.

While it is not the prettiest building in the world and won’t receive any architectural awards I am chuffed to bits with it, as it only took 3½ days to build!

I was also tasked to bring this project in as cheap as I could and was given a budget of £2000 which included the wiring.

When all was said and then done the total cost of the materials needed came to £1369.20. The electricians need to do their bit and to save them working it out they have £630.80 and I want change!

The Saloon and it’s not the Wild West

Although it does look like there has been a brawl I can assure you peace and harmony abound in this place.

I have included these photos to show how well H&J Martin’s joiners are getting on with re-laying the floor. You can see in the photos below it is almost complete, and you can just see the under floor insulation peaking out.

The old floor had over the years shrunk and one could see large gaps between the boards, so when the floor was being relayed the joiners tightened every board as tight as they dare, the result was a superbly well laid floor.

We knew that as they would get to the wall a gap would form because of the floor boards being tightened by approx 2 mm each, so over 45 boards the gap would be around 90mm. And as expected this is what happened.

I have included a few photos of the new oak boards being machined. The oak that is being used is native Irish oak. This particular oak was from trees that had been planted in 1762 in Shanes Castle, County Antrim and cut down sometime in the mid 1990s. It is quite simply a beautiful timber, hard and dense but a pleasure to use.

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Welcome Patrick!

Mr Patrick Kinney is our new start, a very welcome addition to the team and I am sure he will do very well. He has settled in well and just slotted in like he had always been here.

The only problem is he speaks with a funny accent being from North Antrim! So we wull jist hady get used to it!

Mr Patrick Kinney

So looking forward, we are just about to start the much awaited and feared works to the windows! Its not that the work is difficult, it is the shear amount of windows this property has, being 152 windows at my last count!  As for the time scale we will need, that depends on how quick the painters can get the old paint removed so we can patch and repair the wood, only after that can the painters repaint all the bare wood.

It is hard to estimate at this stage how long it will take, however further down the line we will find out the turn around times and be able to figure it all out.

But what I do know is that it’s going to take 4 painters and 4-6 joiners at different stages to complete this task.

Bye for now,

David

Carpet blocks

Hello again folks!

This time I thought I would show you what our youngest apprentice James has been getting up to. He has been progressing very well and has integrated into the team seamlessly.

He is just about a quarter of his way through his NVQ level 2 and is well on his way to completing it. At this stage I am trying to get him to master the use of hand tools and cement his ability to work off plans.

James, although only just 17 years old, has previous experience in the joinery field as his Father is a joiner and has always involved James in his work, helping out during holidays and instilling in him from a young age the desire to follow in his Fathers footsteps.

This task was to help James development in the use of portable power tools, in this case the jig saw.

What are these carpet blocks you might well ask? Well these little items fall into the package and protection side of things, not the restoration work that you have seen in previous blogs.

Mount Stewart has its fair share of carpets, all of which need to be stored at some stage during the restoration project. Some of these carpets are very much worn and fragile requiring much restoration by the conservation team. Some of the carpets are very precious having been brought back from family holidays many years ago.

We have been working closely with our conservator Fiona to establish what she required from us to properly move and store the carpets. The picture below shows how the carpet blocks are used and how the carpets are stored to preserve them while they are in waiting for conservation work to be carried out.

carpet blocks 001

The carpets are rolled with the pattern facing inwards to the pipe. The pipe which Fiona normally uses is 6” plastic drain pipe and is just brilliant for this job.

The pipe is cut 500mm longer than the carpet so that when the carpet is rolled the pipe sticks out 250mm past each end to allow the pipe to rest on the carpet blocks which are designed so they can be stacked on top of each other to minimise the amount of floor space used.

carpet blocks 002 carpet blocks 003

Now it was these handy wee things that James was tasked with. Trevor kindly showed him the ropes and left him to it. I have as usual included a few photos of James merrily working away. He did a good job and has proved he can work on his own with minimal supervision.

004 James cutting out the area for the end of the pipe to rest in. He is showing great attention to the line!


James cutting out the area for the end of the pipe to rest in. He is showing great attention to the line!

005 James has used the jig saw well and followed the line. Using a jig saw is not just as easy as you would think


James has used the jig saw well and followed the line. Using a jig saw is not just as easy as you would think.

006 Counter sinking the screw holes , very good James!


Counter sinking the screw holes , very good James!

007 With all the sections needed sitting in from of him James is starting to fix the posts to the sides. I do wish though he would have used a panasonic drill instead of that  makita!


With all the sections needed sitting in from of him James is starting to fix the posts to the sides. I do wish though he would have used a Panasonic drill instead of that Makita!

008 The holes have been drilled and ready for screws


The holes have been drilled and ready for screws.

009 James is now starting to assemble the various pieces and LOOK, a powerful and most wonderful Panasonic drill!


James is now starting to assemble the various pieces and LOOK, a powerful and most wonderful Panasonic drill!

010 Good action James, shame about the drill


Good action James, shame about the drill!

011 look at the concentration even with me pointing a camera at him! I would also just like to point out that it takes two Makita drills to try and beat a panasonic! OK OK its my drill!


Look at the concentration even with me pointing a camera at him! I would also just like to point out that it takes two Makita drills to try and beat a Panasonic! OK OK, it’s my drill!

012 Jenny our wonderful project admin pops in on her way home to keep us right!


Jenny our wonderful Project Administrator pops in on her way home to keep us right!

013 The finished article! well done young James!


The finished article! Well done young James!

014 They are stacked up here showing what they do


They are stacked up here showing what they do.

The Project Conservator has asked us to make some boxes to transport some metal ornaments over to specialist Conservators in England to have some restoration work carried out on them which I think would be another excellent job for James and of course I will keep you posted.

Bye for now!

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