Our first major restoration project followed the damage caused to our towers by the hurricane in January 1976. The force of the wind blew some of the battlements off the tops of three of them, and there was no option other than to repair them. We managed to get by over the following ten years patching up the roof as we went along, but in 1986, the keep stonework that had suffered from many wet and freezing winters began to show signs of collapse, so we started on a new phase of major work.
My mother instructed Ian Stainburn a local architect based in Ledbury with experience of similarly challenged ecclesiastical buildings and dealing with English Heritage a grant was offered, and work started before there was any serious damage. We then went on to replace crenelations that had been removed from the tops of the four chimney towers, which restored the original appearance of the roofscape in a very satisfactory way. In further phases, we replaced most of the roofs across the rest of the house, using lead where previously short-term, but effective, asphalt had sufficed. We also removed, with some regret because it had been so effective, asbestos cement corrugated sheeting, which had been very low maintenance and invisible behind the parapets, and put slates in its place.
Much of this high-level and high-cost work has been grant aided by English Heritage and, latterly, by the Country Houses Foundation. Although there will always be more to do, we decided, after 25 years during which we had also restored much of the interiors, to apply for a Georgian Group award in the category: Restoration of a Georgian Country House, sponsored by Savills. The timing coincided with Ian Stainburn’s retirement, and at a ceremony held at Christie’s in London; we shared first place with Boconnoc in Cornwall.
We were delighted to have been recognised in this way and with the report in Country Life and the article on 28th November. It has been hard but satisfying work; we hope the house is now in a condition in which it can sustain itself in the future as long as we keep it well maintained.
James Hervey-Bathurst 10th December 2012
We have had a long programme aimed at restoring our roof coverings, which are a mixture of slate on the slopes and lead in the valleys. Much of this work has been supported with generous grants from English Heritage and the Country Houses Foundation and we thought we had finished last year.
But our architect, on a routine inspection, noticed we had a number of open joints in the stone work, which were allowing water to penetrate into the stone and brickwork below and cause damage. The technical word, apparently, is water ingress. Over time, the walls become saturated and, if there is a frost, cracking can occur, and masonry will blow.
As prevention is obviously better than cure, especially now that grants are rather limited and we have had our fair share of them anyway, we have hired the services of Cliff Griffith, a local stone mason, to work his way round the roof, raking out and then refilling the defective joints. He uses lime mortar, rather than sand and cement, which sets too hard and tends to crack with temperature change. The lime mortar has to dry slowly, and so Cliff keeps it damp with a spray gun.
The job is going well so far, but Cliff and our Clerk of Works, Alan Smith, who brought him in, think he may be with us for some time yet. He has settled in well with the recently-arrived house martins, whose mud-reinforced nests are sharing the higher regions of the castle with him. JH-B