Recently we have been joking about the pace of construction at Mabel’s, as inevitably with this type of renovation life has a habit of getting in the way of the build. We have always imagined the work at Mabel’s to be a ‘slow build’ — in fact we are thinking of setting up a ‘slow-build movement’ for fellow long-term builders.
Running a busy architectural practice alongside the renovation, with a recent office move to Cheltenham to arrange and manage, has somewhat pushed Mabel’s to the side lines. This means a bit of a temporary break, and it is likely that underpinning works will not start until next spring.
Even though the pace has slowed, we have used the time to research more about our building. In fact, we have been lucky enough to make contact with Iris, a former resident of the house, who was able to provide some lovely photos of Mabel’s through the years. These photographs confirm that the house was in fact thatched and all of the windows were originally Crittall.
These photographs will provide vital evidence when making our case for some of the changes we would like to make to the conservation officer. For example, we would like to replace two wood windows, which we believed to be modern, with Crittall to match all the other windows. The photographs clearly show all the windows were originally Crittall so it is hoped that the conservation officer will support this change.
Crittall is a brand name, typically used to describe steel windows with small individual panes which came into prominence in the early 20th century in England. The windows in Mabel’s are genuine Crittall, dating from 1919, and are stamped ‘Crittall, Braintree’.
The cottage-style casements fit in well with the style of the house, and let in a remarkable amount of light as the profiles are very slim. We feel fortunate to have original windows, as so many have been removed, primarily because of their lack of thermal performance.
The Crittall style has become very fashionable recently with production restarting and new aluminium sections providing improved thermal performance.
The windows have been a long-term project; we have been researching the best way to repair them. Some of the windows are hinge bound, and layered up with paint, making them difficult to close. Other windows have broken handles and snapped stays. We have been working with a local blacksmith, Tony, and Toby our glazier, to explore how they can be repaired.
Tony has managed to make some replica stays from one of the originals and also use the heat of the forge to remove layers of paint from the handles.
We have also sanded and painted the window seats in the living room, and reinstated the shutters with the help of our trusty joiner Alan.
We have never been in a rush to finish Mabel’s — it is a cliché but it really is a labour of love for us, and more important that we spend the time to do things right. This involves researching materials, products and most of all the craftspeople to ensure she is preserved for future generations. For us, Mabel’s is more than a home, she is a hobby, project and an opportunity to try out different conservation techniques.
However, we may not feel as enamoured with her when the cold weather starts to set in and we can’t turn up the heating (or even on)!