Old Hall Farm formerly known as Matt Hall. A grade 2 Listed cottage in Blyton, West Lindsey.
Redecoration of interior ground floor rooms (entrance, front entrance, dining room and lounge) with emphasis on the removal of existing black paint from original beams.
July 2017 to January 2018.
Background of Old Hall Farm, Blyton
The interior decoration was tired as it had not been painted for a couple of years and showed signs of damp. Wall surfaces had been painted or papered in the past and then over-painted in a modern synthetic emulsion. This restricted the movement of moisture through the walls as it was trapped behind the coating, resulting in peeling paper and flaking paint. Consequently, all surfaces required extensive preparation before decoration could begin.
We realised that we might need listed consent to remove the existing paint from the beams as I stripped existing paper and cleaned surfaces down to prepare for redecorating. We made further enquiries and found this was the case. The client submitted the consent application which should have taken around eight weeks. For various administrative reasons, unbelievably it took a total of six months. During this time, other trades were upgrading various areas of the property. They exposed two sets of beams after removing false hardboard ceilings in the entrances. The beams had been lime washed, and in one entrance they had been papered over and then lime washed on top.
Once we had obtained consent, I began work on the beams following guidelines set by the conservation officer with reference to Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) guidelines. The approved practice for stripping is to use a poultice, and there are various strippers on the market which work in this way. I have used Tradestrip several times in the past which has always proved to be effective. Therefore, I completed the first room using this. I carefully removed the paper, and washed the lime off to reveal the ancient oak beams beneath. After speaking to the conservation officer I decided to use Kling Strip on the second set of beams to compare the two. In comparison, the client found the odour from Kling Strip disagreeable; this was not noticeable with the Tradestrip product and the end results were about the same. In future, my preference would be the eco stripper Tradestrip.
We left any splits or natural consequences of the timber moving and drying over the years, to maintain their integrity. We also retained the areas filled with the original lime to show their history. SPAB recommended that if we applied any further treatment to the beams after stripping, we should only use a thin coat of clarified beeswax. As the client did not wish to risk darkening the beams, we decided to leave them in their raw state. Stripping beams is never a pleasant job, but seeing the results of this transformation was satisfying after the effort put in. The work has transformed the room which now exhibits the true character of a 16-century cottage.
After completing the beams, attention then turned to the woodwork. The top coat had split and flaked and was breaking down, so the safest long-term option was to remove all coatings. Over many years the existing paint had built up with several coats of synthetic gloss. Beneath that there were older coatings eventually leading to a layer of lead paint. I coated exposed areas of suspected lead paint or removed them completely to prevent lead exposure, in accordance with lead paint regulations. I removed the paint down to the base coats with an IR (Infra-red) Speed-heater because the property was uninhabited. This works at a lower temperature than a burner, which enables the paint film to soften and not ignite, and prevents the release of toxic fumes.
As the primer was likely to hold the highest content of lead, I removed this using Tradestrip from Eco Solutions. I liberally applied this by brush, then sealed it in polythene and left it for over 24 hours. When I peeled the cover back, it was easy to scrub the old paint off. I chose Tradestrip because it was PH-neutral. When using a linseed-based paint finish, paint remover which is either acid or alkali can cause a reaction leading to premature breakdown of the coating.
Whilst I was completing the woodwork, we also stripped an aged raw wood pitch pine cupboard. The original intention was to repaint this in an authentic natural oil eggshell. I finished the cupboard in Linseed Oil with added pigment, and this became a feature of the room. This evened out the overall colour and gave the wood an attractive warm appearance. The door dividing the room was in the same condition and I gave this the same treatment, with pleasing results.
Before completing other work, I stripped and scrubbed the beams to prevent the finish of the ceiling and walls becoming soiled. The ceiling sections in-between the beams were loam and reed finished in lime plaster. The first job was to make good the original ceiling panels where small areas of the lime plaster had broken away. During the summer, I had attended a lime plaster course at Mike Wye in readiness to repair any such areas. With this new knowledge and skill, I set about plaster patching.
One of the main areas to patch was above the main beam; this required facing up to match the existing plaster around the beams in the entrance. This followed the contour of the beam edge which also looked more in-keeping with the period of the property. The plastering turned out well and I subsequently painted the ceiling in white clay paint.
For the completion of the first phase of the project, all that remained was to wash the walls to remove any residue splashed from cleaning the beams, and to repaint all surfaces with final coats. In the main entrance I used Edward Bulmer natural emulsion as this is more durable for higher traffic areas.
Points of Interest:
Whilst I stripped the ceiling paper in the lounge, I noticed several symbols incised in the ceiling plaster near to the entrance door and fireplace. These symbols look like a daisy wheel, and are known as Apotropaic marks (from the Greek apotrepein which means ‘to ward off evil’). They were carved into surfaces near entrances, windows, chimneys, fireplaces or places where valuables were kept. They are also referred to as ritual or witch’s marks, as they were placed where people thought witches could enter the building. The interlocking daisy wheel effect is an endless single line which was designed to confuse and trap evil spirits to prevent them entering the property.
The only other marks found were roman numerals, which were probably carpenter’s marks and may not have related to this building. Timbers could have been brought to the site from another building or even a ship during construction, as the property was close to a shipping port.
Eco Solutions ‘Trade strip’ from Celtic Sustainables
Kling Strip from Strippers Paint Removers
Linseed Oil from Oricalcum Linseed Paint & Oil
Natural pigment, Coarse lime putty from Mike Wye & Associates
Earthborn White claypaint, conservation filler from Lincolnshire Lime
Natural emulsion – “Plain White” from Edward Bulmer Natural Paint
Natural Oil Undercoat from Edward Bulmer Natural Paint
Auro Natural Wall Filler from The Organic & Natural Paint Company