Just as we thought it was safe to look away and concentrate on other projects, a section of plaster fell down into the road through the Portcullis arch. Luckily, no-one was hurt. We had looked at repairing it when we re-roofed the portcullis in 2008, with the generous assistance of the Country Houses Foundation but had decided it could wait as it was still secure. We were right, up to a point.
We decided to knock all the plaster down after inspecting the supporting timbers, which, after years of what architects call ingress i.e. leaks to ordinary people, were rotten. But at least they were dry following the replacement of the lead valley gutter above.
Our Works Department swung into action and erected scaffolding, from which they could safely measure up for the replacement timbers, which we then cut out in out workshop. They were fitted in a day and netting added to keep away nesting doves, who would certainly have moved in, uninvited, before the plaster was replaced. With the approach of spring cleaning and the house closing, the scaffolding will be re-erected and the job finished. The men said the enjoyed the job as it was out of the ordinary.
Ironically, one event we held while the ceiling was down was for our architect, who had supervised the original repair, but we did not draw the job to the attention of his guests. It would not have been fair to imply any failure on his part. He said it would need doing sometime, and he was right. It is always nice to be able to blame someone, but there was no chance this time. JH-B 25th February 2011