Thursday, 8 January 2009

The Merchant of Shepton Mallet

My, how the flames have reached my ears today, see below for some background, and how glad I am I do not live in Salem. Eeeeeeek.

In the garden, the cold weather has meant a large number of tits in a feeding frenzy. Clearly, that is not confined to my garden.

Don't make the elementary mistake I made while searching for an image of birds on google - be specific. Those are great tits in the picture. Try adding 'birds' to the search term.

A great deal of news sent to write about, but so gobsmacked at the vitriol some seem to think acceptable on another site (pots and kettles, citizens? I leave you to decide) that I will today confine myself to a few snippets of information. Possibly I should post a fruitcake recipe too, but I think after Christmas we have all had enough of fruitcakes?

Moving on...

Firstly, I hear that Jon Maine has finally completed the long time repair of the Merchant's House in Shepton Mallet. and Family Maine spent Christmas there. Such good news, a most beautiful and important Grade II* building rescued from dereliction; I leave the website to fill in the background, but I gather Jon is open to offers to come along and work his magic on your own home.

His recent Open Day, with guest Kevin McCloud off the telly, raised a substantial sum of money for the local hospice. Brilliant.

Courses for the next few months at the glorious Cressing Temple, Essex, which people may wish to consider for some hands-on experience:

New Year Lectures 2009

Building Recording
9.30am – 12.30pm Wednesday 28th January
Speakers: Andrew Westman, Museum of London and Elphin Watkin, Historic Building Specialist
Good building conservation is dependent on understanding and analysing the fabric of a building. These lectures will look at different methods and approaches, and the standards of documentation required in the planning system. Cost £50.

Historic Lead
9.30am – 12.30pm Wednesday 11th February
Speaker: Dr Peter Rumley, Stephen Bradbury Architects
Good specification is essential to good lead work. This day will look at historic lead, its features and how it can be repaired. Cost £50.

9.30am – 12.30pm Wednesday 18th February
Speaker: Keith Quantrill, Thatching Consultant
The session will look at the Essex thatching tradition, and address the practical issues of repair and maintenance, as well as looking at new thatch. It will also consider how to reduce the risk of fire. Cost £50.

Joinery Repair
9.30am – 12.30pm Wednesday 11th March 2009
Speaker: Joe Bispham, Historic Building Specialist
Traditional windows and doors make an important contribution to the appearance of historic buildings and should never be replaced if repair is at all possible. These lectures will look at historic joinery details as well as covering differing approaches to repairs and their specification. Cost £50.

Lime Specification
9.30am – 12.30pm Wednesday 25th March 2009
Speaker: Roy Cafferty, Traditional Lime Plasterer
The return to using lime rather than cement is the most important development of the last few decades in the care of historic buildings. The lectures will discuss the different types of limes, their use in plasters and mortar mixes, and will highlight the importance of preparation and aftercare. Cost £50.

TV tonight

A new series, The Victorian Farm, on BBC2 telly at 9pm, followed by Adam Hart Davis repeat of What the Victorians Did For Us - Steam.

"Watch a new series in which historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn move into a Victorian smallholding on the Acton Scott estate in Shropshire and live the life of Victorian farmers for a year."

No doubt it will all be available on watch again sites if you miss it. I have bottle or three of good ale in and a stack of logs, and will be glued to the TV.

Brewery website of the week (an occasional series):

Interesting website with a forum, which looks in needs of a few more posters to me:

Yesterday's comment and picture from Gareth very interesting, indeed I wonder if that is by Boardman? Great similarities.

Do keep in touch. I gather some have had probs posting comments, I HOPE that is resolved but I am very new to finding my way around the Blogger technology. Thank for all the support, I cannot tell you how much it is appreciated.



Gervase said...

Oh dear. The Victorian Farm was a nice idea.
I'm afraid the presenters irritate the t!ts off me. And I won't even begin to comment on the plastering.
Oh, al right, if you must...
Yes, do reuse old lime plaster, but only as aggregate, You've got to add some fresh lime to the mix, as the old stuff has long since carbonated. What they were intending to slap o the walls from that tin bath would have fallen off in a week. I can only assume that the far larger quantities they were later applying were made properly.
As for the chimney - a lot seems to have been left unsaid and unshown, including testing to see if it was still sound for fumes. I guess they popped a stainless steel flue up there and kept quiet about it (I somehow can't see them parging it with lime and cow crap).
Sloppy script-writing and production there - and I'm sure other authenticity nazis will point out similar solecisms. A shame, as it's a lovely topic, but have these presenters gallumphing around and dmbing it down for the camera with their irritating voices rather ruined the concept.
When will the BBC learn that there's nothing wrong with actually explaining stuff, and showing that you know what you're talking about, instead of capering around like a Blue Peter presenter on Benzedrine.?

Gervase said...

But what the heck.
Elvis would have been 74 today. Cripes!

Gareth Hughes said...

Well, I quite liked it (apart from "the old range will be discarded"). At least it wasn't "Lady Faceache restores to glory".

Nemesis said...

Yes, two of us here were saying exactly the same about the plaster, don't try it at home folks! Don't breath in the dust either, at least put a hanky over your mouth.

The far larger quantities were probably from one of the lime people, and arrived in plastic tubs alongside a couple of hired hands from a SPAB course.

The stove also - a botch job. No doubt it was all meant as a quick flick through to show how different it was in times of yore, without worrying their heads thinking some of us are actually not so far removed from a great deal of it.

The grate polish was a cheat - it came from a tube. When I was a young un it still could be had in powder form and it was mixed with vinegar.

These days we do use it from a tube, to lead a stove and fireplace.

No, the Gervase method of cow crap and lime I doubt was carried out, it's period repair lite I feel. It's more to show how ho ho it all was. But then it possibly is to most people, they don't want the details. It's only nuts like us who care that much about authenticity. Possibly come the End of Oil, we will have the last laugh, those of us with traditional skills and the ability to look after ourselves to some extent?

I have to say, though, so much of what was being shown, even in watered down form, is really not so far removed from how people lived in my living memory in rural areas.

Indeed, there is atill a farm at Sillywrae, Northumberland worked by horse, not a revival but has never been worked any other way.

I felt quite odd about watching the chutney making, something which is dome regularly still in this household; they made it all seem so remote and strange. Pig's bladders are not used though to seal the jars, but I do think that wasn't the only method. Parchment coated with fat I seem to think was another way. In country places a pig's bladder would have been left from the pig killing; everyone had a pig, and yes the saying about everything being used except the grunt was possibly true.

We still have a pantry like the one shown, with a rack to hang the side of bacon out of the way of mice.

This all makes me sound ancient - but Elvis 74? I'm not that old.

A pause, though to pay homage and sing a chorus or two of Blue Suede Shoes, How wonderful he was in his prime. A 74year old King wouldn't have been right.

The machinery though was fascinating, how good to see it working, and I enjoyed Adam H-D after.

The Queen's Mill at Burnley, I must pay a visit.

Nemesis said...

Yes Gareth I enjoyed it once it got going, far better than vast quantities of what they show on telly I have to say! And I agree about the stove - wonder where it went...

But that mill, I have never been, I know it's there and I'm ashamed to say not visited. It's on the list.

Gervase said...

Oh dear, you're all far kinder than me. I see I'm going to have to ban myself from here if I carry on like that!

Juju said...

I quite enjoyed The Victorian Farm but was very suspicious about the work on the house not shown, like the plastering and chimney repair. I was amazed that the floorboards, etc were in good nick after 50 years of the house lying empty. I guess some repair work was done before they moved in.

I guess it will be educational for the viewers who don't know about lime plastering, etc. I was pleased when my 11 year old stepson walked in on the plastering bit and said 'Oh are they using lime and cow poo?' He's either picked up useful tips from me or perhaps he learned about it at school! He once listened very patiently to me explaining about how our house needed to 'breathe'. Luckily, he likes detail and technical stuff. His sister walks off in disgust when such conversations take place...

Nemesis said...

It's probably like Nigella's supposed 'kitchen', the one created as a replica of her own on an industrial estate in order that the camera crew can get into it to film her having her love affair with herself. Oooh did I just say that... Never mind, we can all pull it to pieces for the next few weeks. However, it might just spark some interest in the things shown and pull some new people in to wanting to know more about 'the past', and traditional building methods too. (I wonder why one of the women was wearing a doyley on her head though? You would have thought they could have made her a proper cap.)

Orion said...

I find I do worry about the fashionable shilly-shallying with 'period living'. I'll swear that most people think it means having a bit of shabby chic, the odd candle, a small patch of defunct woodworm that you can point at and say "We survived THIS!", and a 4x4 in the driveway. The BBC only has to present viewers with enough grittiness to make a good programme. After that, most people don't want to know. I've lost count of the number of old and ancient houses I've been to where all mod cons have been shoehorned in, where age has been scraped off the building, and yet (when you get the 'tour') they wax lyrical about how 'ancient' the house was when they bought it. I listen, and pine for what they have discarded and hidden.

Maybe the real downside of 'period living', when you're engaged in trying to recussitate a building, is the rising costs of some materials. Lime is cheaper than chips, but a lot of things aren't.

Perhaps some of the move to ricketty old buildings is a political statement. If you're not a big fan of the modern world, and the way society seems to be going, then you can turn on, tune in and drop out. You can sit by an old range and pretend it's 1876 (when life would probably have been a lot worse!), and enjoy an imaginary time when things were 'better'.

Nemesis said...

Struth - seems you can go and stay there as a far from luxurious holiday let!

I can stay at home in similar circumstances, so I don't think I'll bother.

( Welcome Craig :-) )