Topping out at the Folly

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The crenelations all in place on the tower

Paul Coleman, Project Manager, updates us on the Folly project.

We’ve been celebrating at the Gothic Folly, bring together the craftsmen, consultants, National Trust advisors, staff, volunteers and sponsors who have all been involved so far in the project to mark the ‘topping out’ of the crenelations and the last stone inserted which marks the completion of this phase of works.

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Inserting the last stone!

But we’re not finished we have a few months work left on site, there is still lots to do but whilst its very cold we are encouraged to see the signs of spring as snowdrops poke up and trees come into bud.

For centuries, builders have celebrated the moment the building structure reaches its topmost point. This tradition was originally there to bring good luck on the building and ward of evil spirits.

This old age tradition of topping out , for many years involved a yew branch or sapling featured in the ceremony.  So at the Folly we will have a legacy of our ceremony, we are looking at the landscape around the building to research and put in place the historic planting scheme and for the building to have a fitting back drop.

C Engraving of Gothic Tower  Cap Brown 1768

18th Century engraving of the Gothic Tower

We know from historic documents – the pen and ink drawings from 1749, 1774 water colour and 1777 engravings that the Folly may have had a backdrop resembling a Fir tree plantation.  This has long gone and we have an area of mixed species of self-sown trees which are encroaching on the views and this important area.

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Folly illustrated on the Frog Service

 

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Sanderson Millers original design for the Folly

 

The images resemble a fir or evergreen which had distinct drooping branches and the shape is very similar to that of a Deodar Cedar.

The deodar cedar is one of three cedars found in the British Isles along with the Lebanon cedar (Cedrus libani) and the Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica), but its shape is very different from the others.

From a quick search we have information that the Deodars were introducing into Britain in 1831, Atlas in 1844 and Lebanon in 1638, however the Folly was conceived in 1749-51 and completed in 1772 – so are we looking at artistic license or from the Architect or Landscapers of that time being well travelled individuals who had seen these desirable species on their world wide travels ?

However, I would like to think we are looking at the Deodar – as it has such a fitting history.  The tree is the Himalayan “Tree of God”, comes from the Sanskrit word ‘devadaru’, which means ‘timber of the gods or divine wood’.

The wood is fragrant and used to make incense, distilled into essential oil and is a disinfectant. The fragrance from the tree makes it insect repellent and due to its anti fungal and repellent properties has been used for making rooms for storage of meat and grain – but not at the Folly ! when the Game Keeper was in residence.

It is alleged that in its native country sufferers of asthma or breathing problems are advised to sit under a Deodar tree in early morning.

Bankes Harraden

However what ever tree we decide to be planted, it will be a celebration of both the works but also making the Folly sit at the top of the hill with a stunning backdrop of evergreen and over the years we will see these stately conifers giving the historic character back to the building.

So please give us your thoughts,  any budding tree experts would be welcome to join the debate.

Let’s play conservation spot the difference at the Folly….

Clunch weathers in many different ways however what we are seeing at the Folly is the semi hard face of the stone eroding in patches which leaves a soft fragile core face of stone exposed.  These areas are more susceptible to weathering and the decay accelerates as the water gets into the stones and it crumbles fast. In addition once the outer face is lost it reveals the original light cream stone colour which looks blotchy when viewed against the rest of the surrounding stone, the original has built up a patina over the last 240 years. We had a building which looked like a Friesian Cow, patches everywhere.

Area of clunch face loss

Area of clunch face loss

The conservators have been using their artistic touch to colour these areas to match the surrounding weathered and aged stone – the appearance is to capture the years of lichen and algae growth.

A repaired section (around the centre stone)

A repaired section (around the centre stone)

Not only will it blend with the surround stones but more importantly the coloured lime wash (shelter coat) holds the fragile surface in place (called consolidation,  it will bind the surface but allow it to breath. They have an artist’s palette of colour at hand and use a mixture of ingredients, greys, greens, browns, creams and whites.

Pallette test

Palette test

An array of stuff to test

An array of stuff to test

What’s in it … We use a base coat to add the background colours, this consists of : 5 Litre of “Cennini” limewash with casein 5 Litre of water 2.5 Tablespoons Cotswold stone dust 5 Tablespoons Raw Umber pigment and then over this the splodges, sponge effect, lines, with a typical green colour as 750 ml of the Base Mix, limewash with casein 25 ml Terra Vert 10 ml Raw Umber 5 ml Y47 Raw Sienna 2.5 ml Yellow Ochre 1 ml CSK Black there are then the other 5 colour mixes which are individually toned to make sure the Tower of the Folly looks perfect but is well protected.

Coloured sand and stone dust

Coloured sand and stone dust

Preparing lime shelter coat

Preparing lime shelter coat

The lime shelter coat prepared

The lime shelter coat prepared

They even add the white moss / lichen growths.

Repair to bottom left

Repair to bottom left

So can you spot the coloured patches.

A repaired section (look carefully)

A repaired section (look carefully)

Where there’s muck there’s grass

With the coming of half term comes the start of the main visitor season at the farm. We are now open to visitors from 1030 to 1700hrs every day.

Its good that the visitors are back to see the horses, but for a few more weeks it puts some pressure on us. Currently the troops are in stables overnight and will stay that way until the weather perks up – probably end of March(ish). So we have to take the horses out and have the stables mucked out and ship shape before opening time. Main reason for the time pressure is using the small tractor and trailer to shift the muck out and the straw in makes life a lot easier but we can’t use them when we are open.

Once we are mucked out we will bring a couple of the horses in for the public to see and meet-one of them will do Meet the Shire at Noon. After Meet the Shire typically we will swap a couple over. If they spend too much time in the stalls they get a bit bored.

Of course the other thing that starts in earnest now is pre-season training. We need to get the gang back to peak fitness and raring (in a sedate manner) to go. They get harnessed up to remind them of the weight. They get ridden to help with their fitness levels and reinforce their awareness of the commands. Some people think it’s just Emma enjoying herself having a hack round the park – well she is enjoying herself but also training the horses, getting them fit and showing them off to the visitors.

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Emma and Jasper

They get longreined to remind them of working while being controlled by two reins.

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Emma coaching a student on the Driving Course for Beginners course

They also pull the sledge to remind them of working while pulling some weight – helps the fitness levels as well.I get fit as well because when I am grooming I get to walk where the horse walks. I’m just happy they haven’t found a harness that fits me.

Of course there are some who try and dodge the work . . .

Harry&Sheep

Harry decided to hide with the sheep in the hope we wouldn’t find him for worktime. Luckily he forgot to put on his woolly jumper – so we found him.

Archaeology isn’t all about digging holes…

Paul Coleman, Project Manager updates us on paint.

It’s about uncovering the past to inform the future.

The scientific approach continues at the Folly where paint research has been undertaken to research and investigate the sequence of decorative colours which may have been used on the outside doors of the building.

What we want to do is try to find out what colours and paint types they used since the building was complete (1772) through to its occupation as the Game Keepers House (1805) up to present day.  We are trying to match the colour of the Game Keepers front door…..

The process is an archaeological investigation and we have employed Karen Morrissey a specialist paint researcher to look in depth at the building, colours and paint used.

The process involved taking bits of the paint which then are taken to the laboratory.  The samples were embedded in polystyrene resin, cut in half and the end polished which gives a cross section through the paint layers.  Using very high powered Microscopes under ultra violet and high power lighting – we are able to see each individual layer of paint.

Looking at the sample at 63x magnification, gives very impressive results.

Magnified cross section of paint layers

Magnified cross section of paint layers

Looking more like layers of cheese on toast or a vegetable lasagne, these images allow us to see the number of paint films, including primers and undercoats.

As well as the microscope work, samples were also sent away for testing to establish the presence of any natural, manmade or other pigments (colours), the type of pigment can be used to aid dating of the paint layer.

So, what have we found…..

Sample number 2

Ground floor door frame

 

The frame of the ground floor door is more interesting than the basement door – looking at the paint coatings to the timber and counting them, there are 13 schemes applied. The paints are generally stone and buff coloured lead oil paints; however there is one scheme of ‘invisible’ green and also one of very dark grey/ black early in the paint strata (schemes 2 and 3 respectively). These paints may be ‘impenetrable’ paints, which were manufactured from coal tar.

On one of the samples it shows that the oak timber frame appears weathered, suggesting that the timber may not have been painted originally or that its early coatings failed to protect the timber that well.

From the photographic evidence we can see circa 1880 that the doors were painted in a two tone colour (obviously in black and white in the photo !!!!) but gives an indication of the tonal difference which may be desired.

Problems can be experienced in paint analysis with such things as paint loss on the surface, weathering, deterioration of materials, colour fading and loss and as with the Folly there is evidence that some of the timber to the basement has been stripped with a blow torch.

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Ground floor door

 

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Gamekeepers door showing the two tone effect

The basement door is less interesting as there are only 3 paint layers,  with indication that the door has previously been stripped of all its paint.  However the Microscope images are much more dramatic…..

amber layer

The amber layer is the softwood frame

There is now the debate as to which of the 13 colours we should opt for –  so come along during the Summer to see if you like the Game Keepers front door.