Timber – from sawmill to sash window

by Ross Perkin

This week the Scholars got to grips with timber. At Whitney Sawmill Will Bullough explained the process of managing a diverse woodland. The sawmill specialises in home-grown timber of all varieties of soft and hard wood. Will put the Scholars to the test on identifying timber species before explaining the variety of uses that are suited to each. This was followed by a step by step explanation of the cutting and drying process.


imageThis visit was complemented by time spent at Treasure and Sons building contractors in Ludlow. Steven Treasure has headed up the family-run business for many years and has overseen work on conservation projects for both private clients and English Heritage in and around Shropshire. Treasure and Sons have a large joinery workshop that specialises in traditional hand-crafted work.

Steven and Mike explained each step in the process of creating their precision crafted carpentry. Our session ended with a detailed workshop on the function and repair of vertical sash windows

Tuck pointing with Anthony Goode

The Scholars journeyed to Slawston near Leicester to meet up with Anthony and Jean Goode. Anthony is a member of the SPAB Technical Panel and has worked as a building contractor on conservation projects in the Midlands for many years. Anthony was excited to show the Scholars a draft of the upcoming SPAB technical pamphlet on gypsum floors. Gypsum flooring is often incorrectly referred to as lime-ash floors and was extensively laid throughout the Midlands until the mid-19th century.

Tuck-pointing was on the agenda for the latter part of the week. This technique was used extensively in the 19th century to imitate gauged brickwork. Rough brickwork is flush pointed with mortar that matches the brick colour. A v-shape groove is then cut into the coloured mortar and a white stripe of lime mortar is ‘tucked’ in to create the impression of very fine mortar joints.

tuck pointing

image3Although the Scholars did not altogether master the tuck pointing (left) they did leave with a solid appreciation of the craftsmanship involved in the technique.


Craftsmanship in Cambridgeshire

by Hannah Reynolds

Week 11 saw the Scholars travel to Cambridgeshire, my local stomping ground. The week began with an interesting day at CEL Roofing just outside of Peterborough. We were hosted by their enthusiastic and knowledgeable Managing Director, Carl Edwards. We were able to build on existing knowledge of the lead casting process, hand pour some cast embellishments and try our hand at lead welding before going out on a site visit.

Leadcasting at CELWe were able to see re-roofing and stone repair being carried out by CEL’s building repair section at All Saints Church, Elton. We then spent two days with members of the SPAB Mills section, millwright consultant, Luke Bonwick; Chair of Trustees for Burwell Mill and Museum, Paul Hawes; owner of Histon Mill, Steven Temple and architect and previous Scholar, Philip Orchard.

We visited both Burwell Mill and Soham Mill where conservation projects are currently underway. This was an eye-opening insight into the intricate workings of our historic mills, as well as the challenges faced by those fighting to ensure this industrial knowledge and heritage is not lost.

Paul Hawes is also owner of Cambridge Brick and Tile Company in Burwell; they still produce hand made bricks and tiles using local Burwell clay, which Paul’s family have been doing since the 1840s. We were lucky enough to be invited to try our hands at tile-making. It is safe to say, despite our valiant efforts, more practice is needed before we match the 450 tiles produced a day by Paul’s craftsmen!

Ely CathedralThe week closed with a visit to the historic town of Ely where we were kindly invited to sit in on the meeting of the Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Diocese of Ely, a committee on which Philip Orchard sits. The Committee makes decisions regarding current faculty applications, the church’s equivalent to the planning application process. This was followed by a lecture from Dr Tim Reynolds (Diocesan Archaeological Advisor to Ely Diocese) regarding the correct engagement and importance of archaeology within church projects. Stuart Hobley, East of England Development Officer for the Heritage Lottery Fund, gave an overview of the available grants for places of worship from the Heritage Lottery Fund and explained the application process. We ended the week with a visit to the outstanding Ely Cathedral.