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01 Dec 17

Rediscovering long-lost floors

This week MOLA’s archaeologists have made substantial progress in understanding the arrangement and alterations to the rooms in the north-west corner of the house (i.e. the Servants Hall, Dryden Sitting Room, stair and Cook’s rooms etc) by producing a full elevation through the house.

The painted wall in the Dryden Sitting Room is part of a cohesive (though partly incomplete) timber frame which can be traced from under the kitchen stairs, up to the mid-level rooms (where it forms the painted wall of the Cook's Room), up to the Dryden Sitting Room and finally into the roof space.

By analysing the full elevation of this timber partition the archaeologists have suggested that the Servants Hall is actually a later creation and that there were formerly two rooms in this space (i.e. two rooms stacked between the Servants Hall floor and Dryden Sitting Room floor). This floor between these rooms would effectively be a continuation of the Cook's Room / Parlour Maid's Room and a small remnant of it still survives and forms the void adjacent to the 'masonic cupboard'.

View of the Servants Room at Canons Ashby

20 Nov 17

Recording Canons Ashby’s historic door fittings

In addition to the large scale recording of Canons Ashby the MOLA archaeologists have also been undertaking detailed recording and drawings of smaller features such as window and door fittings. Canons Ashby retains a great collection of plain and decorative historic fittings throughout the house and these range in date from the 17th century (some possibly earlier) through to the modern period and include bolts, latches, handles and hinges. Close inspection of some of the earlier door fittings such as those near to the Servants Hall (see below) show finely incised decorative detailing to these elements.

17th century decorative door fittings at Canons Ashby

14 Nov 17

The intricacies of constructing a roof:

Last week MOLA’s timber specialist, Damian Goodburn, visited Canons Ashby to examine various roof arrangements and areas of panelling and floorboards. His visit was very useful and allowed MOLA to refocus their recording on new areas of interest.

One particularly interesting aspect of the roofing Damian highlighted is the variety of setting out and assembly marks utilised by the historic carpenters. Roman numerals, scratched lines, gauge marks and symbols are all utilised on different trusses over the Long Gallery and Dryden Sitting Room, suggesting the work of different carpenters.

A very rare find was seen to survive on a truss over the Dryden Flat second floor bathroom and comprised of thin red 'ruddle' lines used by the carpenters to set out the positions of purlins and collars on the principal rafters. These lines consist of iron oxide which and a string covered in this powder would be pulled taut and snapped onto the timber to leave a mark. This was quite a tricky process and could be hard to perfect on the first go. During their survey MOLA have identified instances of 'missed lines' wherein the line was snapped onto the timber at a wrong angle causing it to skip and the ruddle line was then redone in the correct location.

Chiselled Roman numeral assembly marks on a historic timber joist and tie beam at Canons Ashby