It has been a while since I last posted a progress report, simply because the building works have been all time-consuming. But progress there has been and the renovation is beginning to take shape nicely. Having said that there is still some way to go but we are in no rush, and doing a good job is more important than a quick one.
In the meantime the building continues to reveal its secrets. Some of the old lath and plaster ceilings were in such a poor state of repair that whilst working in one room the ceilings next door started to come down. So reluctantly we have had to remove quite a few of the original ceilings. It does make wiring and plumbing much easier but more interesting is the number of artifacts that fall out from the ceilings and are revealed after having been “lost” for so many years. A copy of The Standard from 1868, Tuesday 11th August, an old letter from June 27th 1893, sent from a relative in Attleborough, Warwickshire, old books, a Georgian wall candle holder and even old sheet music. Earlier in the restoration we had discovered a signature on the wall dated 24th July 1760, “E R Petty papered this wall“. We will preserve this wonderful memento, but if there are any surviving Petty’s of Abingdon out there, you must get in touch.
As to the work …….. well, the first fix power and lighting is almost done, the data cabling is in, the wiring for the fire alarm is done, as is the plumbing, the new boiler flue has been moved to accommodate the glass roof to the inner courtyard, and the gas pipe and meter has been re-routed and repositioned to dispense with the need for a false ceiling.
Next up will be the new windows in the rear of the building, the demolition of the existing fire escape and the patching of the roof to replace missing and damaged slates. The design of the first floor deck and replacement fire escape has been settled and we are currently out for prices. So it is coming together nicely and we are pleased with progress, although one of the most pleasing aspects is the secrets the building is revealing.
August 1873 but clearly a quiet news day, but that sheet music is something else. Entitled “You Are Old Father William” it is not at all clear who the composer is. Nor is it clear whether the music is Georgian or Victorian. It is distinctly odd though.
You are old, Father William, the young man said, and your hair has become very white, and yet you incessantly stand on your head. Do you think at your age it is right? In my youth Father William replied to his son I feared it might injure the brain, but now that I am perfectly sure I have none, Why I do it again and again!
Make of it what you will, but decidedly an odd story to compose sheet music to.
Friday was a red-letter day. After months of stripping out and removing parts of the building, we finally put something back. We are relocating two of the Georgian sash windows to accommodate doors onto the new deck and to provide two rooms at the rear with more light. On Friday the new window to the staff room was installed. There is still more stripping out and demolition to do but nonetheless it felt like we were finally turning a corner.
More to follow and we hope to have the building presentable by Saturday 14th September, so that we can open up to visitors for the Heritage Open Day.