This will be a split post as today was a half and half kind of day. The morning was back at the Regency Townhouse getting messy playing with plaster and the afternoon was a much more refined tea and talk at the Anne of Cleeves house in Lewes before carrying on to Windsor for the night.
Firstly – plastering. So. Much. Fun.
We went back to see Nick at the Regency Townhouse, this time we received a crash course in the science behind lime and the methods of turning the lime source into quicklime (really nasty stuff, don’t play with at home) to then turn that into slaked lime or lime putty (much safer and easier to handle. This was important as many historical buildings are made with some form of lime mortar, generally putty lime but there was also the discovery of hydraulic lime which will set underwater, if that happens to be where you are building.
During the 18th century the British and French were re-learning the properties of hydralised lime and came up with a ranking system; feeble is the weakest, only slightly stronger than lime putty, moderate is generally strong for all purpose use and eminent is the most resilient of the hydralised limes. Of course we have simplified the terms since then and they are now referred to as value 2, value 3.5 and value 5 hydralised lime, which I don’t think sounds as interesting. There were extensive chalk quarries in the outer areas of Brighton so plenty of lime to work with.
Nick gave us a fantastic overview of Georgian building techniques and materials and how this has helped shaped their restoration methods. They have found the most effective way to repair plaster damage to the walls is to chip out the original plaster, smash it back up into dust, rehydrate it by mixing in a 1/3 lime putty and then plaster it back into the wall. I think it’s great as they are effectively repairing the damage with the original fabric of the building. There’s no real replacement components and it will match the surrounding fabric meaning it will behave the same way, no unexpected reactions with new substances. Nick mentioned it’s a bit of an experimental idea and they can have trouble when trying to explain it to funding bodies.
Anyway, enough of the talking, on to the fun stuff. We were allowed into the basement/ servants quarters of the house to meet Paul and have a go at plastering. Paul is a volunteer who has been helping out with repairing the plasterwork on the walls and ceiling. Nick also let us have a go at the more decorative plasterwork which is used for the cornices and ceiling roses and other decorative elements in a room. I’ll let the pictures explain better.