By the end of February the weather came warm enough to paint the outside of the building. As we have used a lime render, it was important to use a breatheable paint. Normally one would use limewash, but this requires re-doing every two or three years – an inconvenient job right on the roadside. Instead we have chosen a mineral paint from Germany call Beeckosil which has a lime and silicate base. The paint actually bonds to the lime substrate through silicification. The process involves removing the alkaline "sinter" skin on the lime render with dilute acid followed by a coat of fixative, then two coats of the paint mixed with fixative.
In February the floor tiling was completed and the screen which encloses the front entrance lobby was installed. It was made by Grandfields of Nether Stowey from ash with full height glass panels. The display/storage unit under the front window was made and installed by Acorn Woodwork of Wellington. The electrical second fix was completed by Alan Manchip Electrical, including all the emergency lights, the fire alarms and the security systems. We have disguised the undersides of the steel beams that were put in to hold up the floors and walls above, by installing concealed lighting.
On 24 February we invited interested local artists to view the unfinished building. It proved to be a very pleasant and worthwhile occasion.
The fireplaces required repointing, so we raked out the joints and pointed with a lime-based mortar using red sand to attempt to replicate the colour of the original.
We cleaned up the wooden beams, lintels and bressummers and oiled them. The main beams and bressummers are of elm, but two sets of lintels are of oak, which is unusual for West Somerset. On the main bressummer we found rushlight marks. Rushlights were used in rural houses over many centuries and were made by soaking dried rushes in wax. They were held in holders at an angle, but didn’t last very long – probably not even an hour – so often burned right down to the holder when left unsupervised.
We also found a row of tally marks cut in the chamfer and two types of stamp. One constitutes the letters ES about half an inch across and the other the letter S made up of two double semi-circles about two inches in diameter put together.
These seem to indicate the possibility of some sort of manufacturing or trade which may have taken place. As mentioned in earlier blogs when we took the fireplaces out, we found evidence of hearths which may have indicated non-domestic use – possibly so0me sort of smelting. If anyone can shed light on this, please let me know.
So many passers-by and local people had expressed an interest in the building work that we decide to invite anyone interested to visit on March 16. We had a very positive response with about 60 visitors, some of who were able to talk about their knowledge of the building in past decades.
We have now thoroughly cleaned the gallery areas ready for opening, but there is still work to do in the WC and tea-room. The outside walls are painted, but the windows are yet to be done!