And the removal of twenty-first-century dormer windows
The roof structures of the old manor complex at Halswell date from the many different phases of building. Roofing evidence from before the Tudor period has not yet been identified; we know there has been a manor here since at least Domesday times but the roof structures have not necessarily survived as well as the stone. From the early and late Tudor periods respectively we have the Great Hall building to the east, the south range and the two sides of the inner courtyard. It is this area of the roofing structures and their associated wood and stone repairs where this current phase of restorations focusses.
The below four images of the same area of roof show the progress of the re-roofing works. After the scaffolding roof was erected the thin and brittle 1920’s slates were removed. Once we were able to get inside the workings of the roof from above we could access rot and other damage to the historic timbers. Due to historic lathe and plaster ceillings in all of the rooms this could only be done from above. The worrying water ingress that was effecting many of the gullies and corners meant we needed to examine the sixteenth-century purlins, trusses, wall plates and even the small lathes holding the plaster ceilings in order to evaluate damage and treat it accordingly. We were pleasently surprised to see that most of the historic wood was in servicable condition and the water ingress to certain areas had been caught in time to save the historic fabric. Howevger it wasn’t just the woodwork that we knew needed attention. The gable in the south east corner was structurally unsound, but in addition the southern gable the Great Hall builiding, though abutting another sixteenth-century phase of building, had a pronounced and decidedly unsafe bend to its gable. Only by removing the 1920’s slates could this assesment and restoration be carried out by our wood treatment specialists and stone masons. After the stonework, structual and decorative, had been repaired we moved onto renewing all the lead guttering and installing the much needed insulation. Different forms of insulation had to be chosen for the varying historic needs within differently built sections of the roofspace. As the slates had not been off since the 1920’s, perhaps unsurprisingly, Halswell had completely missed the twentieth-century revolution in building insulation! This much needed addition will to add to the long-term warmth and therefore the stability of the building’s fabric for generations to come.
The original Tudor master mason’s vision of how the buildings looked when completed is of the highest importance for the restoration of Halswell. To this end un-historic additions are rooted out where correct to do so. The Great Hall building is of first rate importance, not just by being a Grade 1 listed building, as all of Halswell is, but by being the most important existing phase of the old manor, which to a great extent exists in its original state. The roof of this part of the house has never had windows, however less than a decade ago his area was given two dormer windows. As useful as they may be for letting light into the top floor the insertion of two lightweight dormers to the third story of the Tudor Great Hall block was historically wildly off the mark.
Though there are attic level stone windows throughout the old manor, this, the most important section, displays no evidence it possessed them and as such, both visually and historically, Edward Strachan decided that these must go. With the encouragement of Historic England and Sedgemoor District Council we have removed these later inclusions and are restoring the integrity of this, seemingly the earliest surviving, building in the old manor complex. This roof line of the Great Hall remained unchanged from early Tudor period until the early twenty-first century and bringing back that historic integrity was very important to the owner, the Halswell team and the protective heritage bodies who oversee all the works we do at Halswell.