The Secrets Behind Plaster

On Pig Row we are presently stripping and renovating. The stripping element of the last sentence probably got you all excited, red faced and maybe even stopped you in your tracks. 



The renovation though may have thrown a spanner into the works of your imagination. This has been the case with a wall in our kitchen, a couple of weeks ago we pulled away the hardboard wall coverings that had been nailed up there sometime in the 1950s. These were state of the art fire proof tongue and groove effect panels that worryingly went up like a bomb on the bonfire last week. Behind these dark brown panels were decades of whitewash that probably spans back to when the house was built in the eighteenth century. The walls showed great bumps and contours hiding the stone beneath. We found patches that looked like filled in windows and a strange outcropping of stone near the back door. For days we wondered what was under it, could it be a coal hole, an old well opening? Then we decided as much of the plaster, now exposed to the air for the first time in sixty years, was starting to flake and crumble to take many of the walls back to the stone. The wall behind the new cooker would be stone, this revealed a patchwork of stone and brick. Fortunately, we are not without stone at Pig Row; in the last two years I have dug out of the garden over four tons of stone from old dry stone walls and what looks like an old outbuilding, long gone and probably a privy. A word of caution, don't dig too deep. So any bricks found where raked out and replaced with stone, then the whole wall was pointed. There is something deeply satisfying in pointing a stone wall, none of the stone is flat, none of the stone runs straight, this means you can either go insane trying to get a raised and proud pointing effect or you can just go with the flow. I have always been in the latter camp and the overall finished effect even stopped my wife in her tracks. Her response? 'I didn't think it would look so good'. Words of praise. 

Today I tackled that wall with the strange bump of stone that could be a well opening, brick bolster and hammer in hand, wrecking bar ready I attacked the loose plaster and then peeled away sheets of plaster with the wrecking bar. Each foot took me closer and closer to the strange bump, even my wife and Little D came in to watch the moment when this final area was stripped. Little D sat in a deckchair with a drink and a packet of biscuits and a banana. Occasionally dunking the banana in his drink. Then the moment of truth came, the plaster stuck fast and my wife yelled, 'Whack it, whack it hard'. Off came the plaster, there was dust, there was plenty of coughing, there was the sound of dunking and a stifled yawn. The dust settled, Little D was now donning a knotted hankie on his head still dunking away. Then the truth about the wall was revealed, with awe, with excitement we looked down at more wall. Nothing hidden, just the simple and plain fact that eighteenth century builders didn't really give a toss whether they use a plumb line or not. Wonky walls abound at Pig Row, this is just another one to add to the mix.