Our farm tracks get a bit of a rolling from steam engine, volunteer Shane explains all . . .
Here she comes
It’s the smell of new Plasticine that takes me back to my early schooldays and the visual stimulus of a Rupert Bear annual that dragoons back memories of Christmas’ past. So what is it about steam that evokes such powerful emotions? No, I don’t mean the pure steam that comes from a boiling kettle but the steam associated with traction engines. This ‘steam’ is a beguiling mixture of burning coal, hot water and lubricating oil that can transform a man of a certain age into the small boy he once was by conjuring up pictures of railway stations of old. But I get ahead of myself. What were the forestry department doing with a steam engine?
Keeping the tracks and by-ways of the estate in usable order for the farm machinery, and the walking public, is one of the responsibilities that falls to us at this time…
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Paul Coleman, Project Manager, talks us through an interesting find at the folly.
We’ve found lots of things at the Folly during the works, especially whilst carry out out soil movement which unearth lots of broken pot, plate and ceramics – all telling a story of the people who have used the building and the estate over the years.
But something fascinating turned up out of a huge pile of soil, a bullet and this is one of the things which has struck me about working at Wimpole that the estate has been used by many people for many years and you just don’t know what’s around us. Using your imagination you start to try to connect with the people who used these special places in the past and start to make up your own stories…
The Fact . . .
A number of bullets, or their cartridge cases were found and you can date these, so by carefully rubbing on the end you will see the ‘Head Stamp’ and this tells a lot.
CP 43 VII
It tells us it was manufactured by Crompton Parkinson Ltd, Guiseley, Yorkshire. Originally a electric supply company and component manufacturer, who made a wide range of electrical goods including electric motors, electric generators, light bulbs, power cables and batteries. This factory was set up as part of the 1939-1945 war emergency expansion plan to make ammunition for British Military.
The cartridge was made in 1943, right in the middle of World War 2.
Crompton Parkinson produced .303 caliber cartridges during the period 1940-1944. This cartridge had 174 metal grains in the pointed Mark VII bullet.
The 303 was the main light round for the British Army used in the Lee Enfield Rifle (British Army Standard issue rifle adopted between 1895 and 1956), Vickers medium machine gun ,Browning(Vickers and BSA manufactured) .303 machine gun – the machine guns were either static ground mounted or used on aircraft such as supermarine spitfire, hawker hurricanes, Gloster Gladiator, Fairey Swordfish and Wellington Bomber.
Fiction . . .
So why have we found a number of these spent cartridges, we know part of the South Park was the site of an American military hospital built during the Second World War. After the war it was used for a short time as a teacher training college before it was demolished in the 1950s. We are also on the flight path of Duxford – on a clear day you can see the reflections of the big hanger from up on the hill.
My story is one of the Folly at War, a time when the sky was charged with squadrons from many different countries. Duxford airfield lay over the horizon and in 1943 it was assigned to the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) however a small but important squadron of British planes were retained and including a fearsome team of Spitfire. The Folly was a beacon on the hill used as a triangulation point, a way marker for their approach and point for their final approach to land.
A clear sky with the moon setting a sliver glow across the park, the expanse of the Hall pinging into view, the heightened anticipation and adrenaline of arriving home after a long and gruelling sortie, the howl of the engines stirring a flock of geese near the lake, and a low flight across the park. The Folly shines in the distance, edging its way above the tree line and yes, the adrenaline kicks in again – the speed of the plane can be sensed as the Folly rapidly gets bigger through the glass cockpit window.
In the field beyond the Hall, the camp is bustling with activity and many of the men are sitting on the steps of their make shift huts smoking and listening to the low drone approaching, they know from the sound of the distinct whine and whistle that it is at least 3 planes, they stand to try to pick out from the moon light above the Hall the distinctive shape and wing formation.
The trio skim the top of the folly tower they bank hard left releasing a sharp burst of fire into the sky. The orange trail line of the bullets can be seen for miles, the spent cases rattle off the wing and tumble to the ground.
Its not a display of power, but the exhilaration of coming home and a sense of pride running through their finger as they press the button on the joy stick, as a short burst of the cannon fire releases a line into the sky.
Fact, the browning had a Muzzle velocity which was rated at 2450 feet per second (that’s right quick) and an effective range to 2,190 yards, with maximum range to 4500 yards. So using the Folly as a point of approach and the spitfire maximum speed of 340mph. They would be passed the Wimpole Estate in a flash, releasing a cannon fire quickly would mean the spent cases dotted for some distance around the area and quite possibly those which have been found at the Folly.
Paul Coleman, Project Manager, talks us through another dimension added to the Folly – glass and windows. Why?
Glass possesses the quality of bringing life to a building, adding atmosphere and ambience – glass is seen both internally and externally and at the Folly gives some truly amazing reflective qualities. Outside it is more dramatic where we see changes in the pattern of the glass, the refracted images caused by the irregular glass finish which handmade glass possesses, a soft wave and shimmer or ripple and a different texture to the building being offered. The poetic stuff out of the way, lets talk fact….
The Folly was originally glazed but over the years windows were broken or vandalised and eventually in the 1980’s all openings were boarded up (unfortunately people in the past loved to throw stones at the old girl !!).
The windows were predominantly metal framed inserted into the gothic stone arches and glazed with leaded light windows – we see evidence of this on the early photos (which have been again our source of information to replicate the window style and design),
We also had one surviving metal frame which we found removed from the stonework and buried under the piles of pigeon guano and another mangled piece broken and twisted.
All of this again has led to us being able to piece together information to enable us to replicate the metal windows which are back in the building – traditional ironworker crafts and the team at Cliveden have helped replicate the windows.
But the glass, we had a lucky find (well lots of little finds) – we had to excavate around the perimeter of the tower to reduce the ground level (as too high) a resulting 220 tonne pile of soil was heaped up. And from this pile we started to see fragments of glass, leadwork for the windows and other interesting pots and pieces. We excavated carefully to retrieve more, and this gave the final clues for the building – giving the glass type, thickness, pattern, size, colour and critically the lead work size to hold the glass in place.
We found lots of different glass dating over a number of years which shows it had been repaired and replaced in many areas (caused by accidental breakage or unfortunately vandalism). Our glass expert looked at the varying samples and concluded :
The glass could be split up into three main groups:
- The thin pieces with iridescence are crown glass ( C18-19th), very early glass in deed,
- Most of the rest of the thinner glass is sheet glass (C19th-early 20th), this was probably cylinder glass or bed glass,
- The thicker pieces of glass are float glass post 1959 – this is very flat as you would see in a modern house,
Thicknesses range from 1.2mm crown, to 3.5mm float glass (modern glass) and colour varies from iridescent, clear polished, pink manganese tint, greenish iridescence, green tint and blue tint.
So, we knew we have leaded light windows, Small square bits of glass held together with sections of leadwork which form a larger panel which fits into the metal frame of the window. Some of the windows are opening (hinged) and some are fixed – we see this on the old photo’s.
The lead work called Lead Cames – is an ‘H’ profile, where the glass slots into the legs and holds it into place,
Looking for new glass…
It’s a challenge trying to match glass, as there are so many things to think about, mainly from my perspective it about the thickness, colour and texture. Texture is important as when the glass is made in a traditional way, it has irregularities in it (the ripples, air bubbles, ridges) these all give life to the glass and when you look at an old building or through an old window, you get that distortion in the view which looks wonderful. Plus the light falling on or through it bends and reflects giving some weird and great patterns.
So we choose a modern glass produced to give traditional appearance and very thin (2-3mm thick), but one which had that movement in the glass and as seen, does give a truly wonderful appearance to the building.
To describe the type of glass we found,
Crown Glass –made by blowing and spinning a huge blob of glass which gradually enlarges to make a huge flat spinning disc. Several panes of crown glass could be cut from one disc, the closer to the middle is where the thicker bits are and towards the edges it gets thinner. The outer edges were prized, and would have been very expensive. The patterns in the glass are obviously circular,
Cylinder Glass – made by blowing a very large bottle shaped cylinder, the ends are cut off and then the tube is cut along its length. Its then heated and unrolled to give a flat piece of glass. It has a good pattern of ridges.
Bed or slab glass – made by flowing molten glass into a big flat caste, once hardened it would have been polished and ground flat,
Float glass – modern glass which is plain and has no texture to it, the molten glass is floated over liquid tin to give a very uniform thickness and ‘clean’ glass, it is then repolished and ground flat,
So, its not just glass – it’s a work of art….
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.
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…..
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.
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…..
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.
Two beginners to Nordic Walking talk about their experience of it during a couple of taster sessions run at Wimpole recently.
Nordic walking at Wimpole! What could be better?
Sandra says “It was a beautiful autumn morning in the most beautiful surroundings in which to try this new sport. I am an experienced long distance walker in cities and mountains, and wished to find something that would offer me a new challenge. I believe Nordic walking is that challenge.
Under the careful and thorough tuition of Mandy I was quickly able to grasp the basics and thoroughly enjoyed our jaunt through the beautiful country estate of Wimpole to the folly and back. I have now signed up to the 4 week course and am very much looking forward to learning more and honing my technique. I would highly recommend the taster session as a fantastic introduction to thus energetic and energising pastime!”
Val writes . . . My Grandson and I had a very nice hour on Sunday morning, with Mandy our teacher learning how to use the ski poles in Nordic walking. My grandson, who is fifteen years old and not really a sporty type, really enjoyed the experience. After having about twenty minutes getting used to the poles ( walking up and down on grass), Mandy took us walking around the grounds, ( it’s not that easy) especially when you go up an incline. When we had finished our lesson it felt strange walking normal again, I felt it was a very good workout, better than going to the gym.
This week, Paul Coleman, Project Manager, talks about the mortar mixing process up at the Folly.
At the Folly its just like the Isle of Wight, coloured sand of every shade and texture everywhere.
Conservation take on a scientific approach where we’ve been looking at mortars (the stuff that sticks the bricks and stones together). We’ve been sampling different old mortars in the laboratory, analysing them to determine their make up and ingredients. Taking samples of the material, setting them in resin and taking very, very thin slices of them – we then, under high resolution magnification, can see what they put in the mix.
Yes ‘ingredients’ as like any cake its about putting in the right stuff to match the appearance and texture but also to make sure it performs structurally (the stick and stay test) but allows water (rain) to absorb and evaporate and for it to be not too soft or hard— the latter will damage the surrounding stone. So it is a complex process of getting the right components to put in the mixing pot. Porosity is important, as if water is trapped in the mortar or surrounding stone it will freeze and result in damage – so it has to breathe! A term we use widely with our old buildings (the process of absorption and evaporation)
So by adding different colours of sand, different texture of material (gritty, lumpy or smooth), sands, bits and bobs we are replicating the existing historic/old mortars.
So a typical mix includes for Brick Pointing (the stuff which you see between the bricks)
1 Hydraulic lime
1/2 Hydrated lime
1 coarse washed sand – light brown
1 fine sand – silver grey
1 ginger sand
1 coarse Bath stone dust
1/2 fine Bath stone dust
1/2 coarse Chalk chips
Small sprinkle of Scalpings
The result is a light golden mix with lots of texture, quite rough but in appearance has lots of bits and bobs which give it a coarse surface.
This is just one of the mixes being used and there are a number of different ones which we use for different locations and types of repair on the Folly ruin.
So building is not all bish bash bosh, we do think carefully about what we are doing.
The conservators use tools such as small hawk, mild steel pointing iron, brick jointer, water sprayer, small bucket trowel for application and hessian rag, soft and hard churn brush for finishing it.
So a wall is not just a wall !!, next time you look at an old building, be an forensic expert and look at the wall closely. Now look closer, see if you can spot the texture (rough, sandy, smooth, ragged), what colour (white, grey, orange, cream, beige), what bits are in it / inclusions (stone, grit, white lumps, shell)
So why is it important to spend so much effort on getting it right ?, well not only do we want the walls to perform in the way they should. What is equally important is the visual character and interest, the colours, the texture – we spend a lot of time talking about the character of the building in conservation.
Performance is important we need to make sure the mortar is breathable, and fits with its surrounding material (either stone or brick in the Follies case), it should not be too hard as will cause damage to the surrounding materials, it has to be tough based on its level of exposure (on the top of the walls we use a harder mix as it is more exposed to weather). Its all about knowing where the mortar is to go and how it should perform. We need it to be compatible with the original historic materials also, so our mortar should have a vapour-permeability similar to, or greater than, that of adjacent historic materials, be visually compatible with surviving mortars and/or with the original appearance of the building and should reflect how the original building was put together and the methods used at that time.
So a little about the materials…..
Sand can come in a variety of colours (greys, blacks, greens, yellows, creams, oranges) Sands are usually described as “soft” or “sharp”. With lime mortars “sharp”, angular coarse sand provides good strength and if well-graded, aids water vapour permeability while “soft” sands often provide good colour – so we mix both to give different features.
The lime, well this is another blog I’m afraid as this is the important stuff which binds the mix together and we select the type in accordance with the type of repair being undertaken. We use Hydraulic, non hydraulic, hydrated, Lime putty in tubs and each come with a hardness rating….. very confusing….
Stone dust, adds colour and fine texture,
Chalk adds texture, the lumpy white bits,
Grit and scalping’s add texture, the lumpy black, grey and amber colours . . .
The Arrow Slits
This week, Cliveden Conservation Conservator, Andrea Walker, talks us through the restoration of the arrow slits on the Folly Project.
Arrow slits, also referred to as loopholes, arrow loops or bow loops, are the narrow vertical windows from which castle defenders would have launched arrows from a sheltered position.
In a functioning castle, arrow slits were built to accommodate archers who launched arrows using the short bow, the crossbow and the longbow. In the Gothic Tower, they were built decorative elements.
Their shape, and location on the face of a tower that receives the brunt of the weather, made them vulnerable to the elements and to the clawing feet of birds seeking a place to rest.
Most of original clunch stones that made up the arrow slits was removed and replaced with a denser stone called Portland limestone. Because the replacements were put in as square units and didn’t age in the same way the surrounding clunch did, they stood out and detracted from the intended look of the tower.
In order to replace them, we’ve now cut all of them out and made sure we cut back to what would have been the original joint lines of the stones used to form the arrow slits: a “T” shape, rather than a square unit.
New clunch has been ordered and, once it’s in the hands of our masons, it will be cut to shape and given a radius (after all it is a round tower), before being fixed in position.
This week, Paul Coleman, Project Manager, discusses going to great heights with the secateurs and trowel.
Rain and sun brings with it weeds which every gardener has to deal with to keep their patch in good order, if left untended they become rampant and cause a real problem.
However, it is not just in the garden that weeds and plant growth cause a huge issue. Well at the Gothic Folly works are well underway, the focus for the last 17 weeks has been repairing the soft stone walls and removing the plant growth which has taken hold on the walls.
The problem being the weeds are in the majority of the case on the wall tops and in areas over 15 metres up, so not just a normal weeding job. With scaffold in place, it gives the chance for our conservators and architect to inspect in detail every inch of the structure to identify problems and put in place the correct conservation repair which will see the walls safe for our next generation to enjoy.
So what is the problem, a few small plants spring up here and there, no such thing the plants have taken a strong hold. Their roots drilling in to the core of the wall, breaking through the surface of the stone, opening up more cracks and letting in more water which rapidly loosens more stone and makes it unstable. Plants continue growing and as they do, so do their roots – increasing in size they expand in the centre of the wall forcing the stones apart with huge strength.
So whilst they have for a number of years been growing happily and have added a green carpet to the top of the walls, this has caused the majority of the structural problems which we are now having to deal with.
It is a slow process of carefully trimming back the greenery, to a point where the conservators can see the tops of the walls and then a process of removing carefully the stones to dig out the weeds (and in some cases trees !) and roots which run into the heart of the wall to eradicate all signs of the roots.
At this point they can then determine the damage which has been caused and slowly piece back stones and brickwork to provide a waterproof top to the walls. This is where an artistic eye also comes into play, whilst many buildings we repair in the Trust are done to resemble (normally) straight line in brickwork or stone, on say a mansion – what they are doing at the Folly is recreating the appearance of the sham ruin, maintaining the ragged lines, the jumble of stone, an atmosphere that the building is falling down. This takes care, time and an appreciation of where they are working, it would be all too easy to make the repairs to uniform, too straight and by doing so we would loose the ruined appearance that Sanderson Miller the original architect in 1751 intended for the building. So we should ask the conservators are they absorbing the building into their blood, the thoughts of the original builders and architect to give back the soul to the Folly.
Each photograph will take you through the process of the works.
The scaffold gives the opportunity of inspecting all areas (the cost of the scaffold to cover all walls and the main tower is circa £55,000) and it is amazing to see the building in a different perspective, unfortunately we take these opportunities for granted and whilst the views are stunning from up top, there is so much conservation work needed to stabilise the building it is a case of looking at the walls in front of you and not the views behind you.
So next time your weeding think of the challenge you would have if you had a tree growing 15 metres in the air which you needed to remove.