In June we met up with Gail Haddow, 2007 Fellow and plasterer, onsite at Pound Farm, Midhurst. Gail has her own lime plasterwork and historic building repair business, Earth and Lime Ltd.
Gail began along her chosen path purely by accident, she says. She started out in landscaping and horticulture and she just knew that she couldn’t work in an office. Gail says ‘I always had my hands in the dirt somewhere!’
Whilst working for St Blaise Ltd Repair & Conservation of Historic Buildings in the late 1990s, Gail began cleaning stone monuments, and carrying out small repairs to decorative plaster work and water damaged ceilings. Gail credits St Blaise with kick-starting her passion for lime; there she was able to take on larger plastering jobs. When she started out most colleges didn’t offer training in lime, she says, so she learned on the job.
The Fellowship supplemented her hands-on lime training and offered Gail more of what she loved about working with historic buildings, the opportunity to enjoy parts of buildings that the public don’t often get to see.
Looking back on the six month country-wide tour, Gail says the Fellowship gave her a huge confidence boost. An integral part of the Fellowship is collaboration and camaraderie, to have your opinions challenged by the other Fellows and Scholars in a supportive environment. The site visit that really stuck with Gail was Chapter House in York Minster and climbing up through the building’s amazing timber frame roof.
Since the Fellowship, Gail has worked across England from Hereford to Hampshire to North Wales. Gail says that a plasterer gets to know the local material, ‘you get used to the way that your local sands behave with lime, you know what you can and can’t get away with! Going to a new area, you definitely have to re-learn a lot of that’. Gail has a very refreshing approach to her work and says that ‘it always seems that Mother Nature gives you exactly what you need to build with, wherever you are’.
Gail is currently working on the plaster repairs at Pound Farm, a 15th century building with 17th century and late-Victorian additions. During the tour of the site, Gail was keen to point out the smoke-blackened wattle and daub cross frame with woven hazel rods. Up in the roof space, Gail enthused about the 15th beams, ‘Here you can tell that the craftsman working on this beam had a ding in his axe, it has marked the wood in a unique way, I can tell exactly what beams he worked on’. The Fellowship fosters this love of craftsmanship and the place it has in protecting our heritage.