Limewashing at Lavenham Guildhall

Upper storey and gable of Lavenham Guildhall, Suffolk

Many visitors are keen to know more about the limewash treatment we apply to the exterior of the building and in particular the finish this gives to the timbers.

East Anglia is fortunate in having a wealth of timber-framed buildings, many of which, like the Guildhall, were built with exuberant carving to display the carpenter’s skills as well as the owner’s wealth.

These carved timbers were intended to be seen, while others were covered by a skin of lime render.
 
To protect the wood from the elements, exposed timber frames, were in later centuries painted with a ‘wash’ of lime that acts as a preservative against pollutants and other destructive elements in the atmosphere.
 
The lime becomes ingrained into the beams, preventing the penetration of moisture whilst allowing the wood to breathe – and bugs definitely don’t like it!
Two or three coats are applied, after which any excess is brushed off.
 
During Victorian times, it became more fashionable to use oil-based paints, or to darken the timbers with black emulsion. 
But, in keeping with the history of the Guildhall we continue to use the limewashing method.
We limewash the Guildhall every five years or so, and over time the weather removes the lime, showing the weathered oak as a beautiful silver-grey colour.