Harry Potter and the Crazy Paving

The South Terrace at Cliveden

So I should say first that Harry Potter isn’t actually part of this story. Sorry. He’s not actually handed in his wand and Auror hat to become a Cliveden Ranger, bringing Ron along with him to work at the Orangery Café.

Posted: 21.06.2016

I think JK Rowling missed a trick, because Crazy Paving is a fantastic title, and one that has wriggled its way into Cliveden’s lexicon this past month. But I feel I have jumped ahead without introducing myself. Or indeed explaining what Crazy Paving has to do with anything. Don’t worry – we’ll get there.  
Hello, my name is Emily and I’m the Senior Visitor Experience Officer here at Cliveden. Since the beginning of April, we’ve had company down on the South Terrace; new people dedicated to looking after Cliveden as much as we are. The South Terrace is the oldest part of the house (the fires of 1795 and 1849 have consigned the rest to contemporary portraits and description) and, like any tricentenarian, it needs a little looking after. 
 
So an enthusiastic team of workers from Dædalus Conservation come in each day before the rest of us have even had our morning cuppa, and help give the Terrace a new lease of life.  It’s a unique challenge; working on such an historic site requires careful planning and sensitive handling, and Ian Gangadeen – site manager – is there to oversee and advise as they go. Ian has also managed to translate their work to me, the Ultimate Layperson and I have to say, it’s amazing what they’re doing. 
The South Terrace stands above the Ferneries and the Sounding Chamber, both nestled adjacent to the steps. The former - unsurprisingly - was once used to grow and display ferns, and was perhaps part of the 19th century ‘Pteridomania’ or Fern-Fever. The latter is a bit of a mystery, possibly a music room, possibly an entrance hall, possibly a centre for 17th century astrology, but either way they both lie directly underneath the Terrace and have been the unfortunate beneficiaries of something a bit yucky and incredibly detrimental.
 
Damp.
The ferneries suffering damp at Cliveden.
The ferneries suffering damp at Cliveden.

Yes, that delicious green and pungent villain, ruining perfectly good homes and walls since the dawn of time. Many years ago, a faulty drainage system was implemented in the Terrace and rainwater has been dripping into the unsuspecting rooms below.  

 
But do not fear, for Ian Gangadeen and his team are here to save the day. They’ve been lifting up the slabs of the terrace, carefully storing them in the East and West lawns and fixing the problems that past constructors created by inserting a waterproof membrane underneath.
 
And this is where Crazy Paving comes in (told you we’d get there in the end). Crazy Paving is that lovely higgledy piggledy paving that suggests romantic and rustic origins. One could imagine Bilbo Baggins is a fan of Crazy Paving. It originated in Ancient Rome and doesn’t half look classy and beautiful when it’s properly done.
 
Paving on the South Terrace
Paving on the South Terrace

To the naked eye, it looks randomly placed. But like so many things, what looks easy masks an incredibly detailed process, complicated and time consuming. 

As (previously mentioned) they’ve been lifting the Terrace slabs and the West Lawn’s Crazy Paving is no exception.  But these slabs cannot simply be lifted and replaced at random. No. Akin to a giant jigsaw puzzle, they all fit together in a perfectly designed and planned fashion, with only 5mm of wiggle room. Ian and his team have had to take an accurate drawing of how they originally fitted together, lay them gently together on a piece of tarp like skeletal body parts discovered underneath a Leicester car park, only to place them again in their allotted home once work has been completed. 
Conservation jigsaw puzzle.
Conservation jigsaw puzzle.

Pretty mind blowing how much work goes into this, isn’t it? When one is working with historical buildings such as this one, every tiny detail has to be meticulously thought about and planned. There’s no room for error. 

Over the next few months I’ll be keeping you updated on what’s going on, what they’re working on, what’s being found and what’s being talked about. Because honestly, there’s so much exciting stuff going on down there. I never thought I’d be so enthusiastic about building works, but that’s the power of conservation. I’m a Conservation Convert. New superhero name, perhaps? 
Join the team at Cliveden
Join the team at Cliveden

And here we all are: Cliveden employees and super-fans of Ian’s team and their work. We’re trying to pass as construction workers, which didn’t work for some reason. I think it’s the fact we stopped to take a photo. Or our impractical shoes. 

 

Come back soon for more on the South Terrace Project... Or take a visit.