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Whitestauton Manor

Whitestauton Manor

Conservation & Restoration Winner 2008

Location: Somerset
Architect:Jonathan Rhind Architects
Wood Species: English Oak

Whitestaunton Manor is a Grade I listed private house with 14th century origins as a Hall House, growing in the traditions and taste of following centuries encompassing the introduction of layers of decorative timber work, beginning with magnificent wind braced roofs, hidden by carved coffered ceilings, in turn hidden by Georgian/Victorian lath and plaster ceilings.

Following intensive repair of the over riding roof structure, a large amount of research and documentation was undertaken in each roof area of the Manor and consents applied for to reveal decorative timber work that would in turn tell the story of the buildings evolution. The Hammer beam roof in the North range, a coffered ceiling in the West wing, panelling within the dining room (relocated from unknown origin) and medieaval windbracing in the East wing.

Commencing in December 2006 a massive project of conservation/restoration has been undertaken, revealing different elements of the timber structure and fabric throughout the house.  All of the work was undertaken in English Oak to match the existing.

Accompanying photographs chronicle the re-instatement of a Hammer beam roof, which had been ‘hidden’ in the attic space for over 200 years following Georgian work to the building.  All elements of the original construction were visible in the attic area, albeit some re-sited and others (such as the hammerbeams) remained in outline only.  The challenge was to ensure the rebuilt structure would be self supporting, having been significantly altered when hidden. A combination of carpenter, engineer and architect minds worked out how connections between wall plate, truss foot and hammerbeam were originally intended to work; the skill of the craftsmen employed to undertake repairs ensured connections were made and the structure did become, once again, self supporting. Over 8 months, new elements were carved to match the existing and exceptionally careful repairs to remaining original pieces were undertaken, resulting in the re-establishment of a stunning roof structure.

Running concurrently with this project was the exposure and repair of a 16th century coffered ceiling, hidden in its entirety when the original room it spanned was partitioned into 4 different rooms.  All ‘recent’ interventions were removed and the room returned to its original size corresponding to the decorative ceiling.  Only one element of steel structural repair was required to ensure its integrity.

Similary, the careful repair of deathwatch beetle ridden timber panelling in the dining room was undertaken, with scraping tools being fashioned out of metal to ensure the exact match of the existing panel mouldings.

The final element was the exposure and repair of a late 15th century wind braced roof (much smaller in area than the hammer beam, but equally well repaired and as delightful – not illustrated).

In all cases, the work that has been completed is a tribute to the timber craftsmen of the 21st century, who, showing respect for the skill of the carpenters of previous centuries have again brought to life the beautiful timber details built to be seen within this Manor.