Tackling the rot at Townend

Now that Townend is closed for winter, we’re about to begin a major conservation project to remove and replace the two main timbers in the oldest part of the house.

A rotten discovery

Imagine what it feels like to press against a 400 year old solid oak beam and feel it crumble beneath your fingers. That was just what we were faced with at Townend when we scraped away the top layer of render to check the condition of the beams holding up this grade 1 listed farmhouse.

The rot was discovered during a routine inspection of the external lime render. On removing the render it was clear that two of the beams in the front façade of the Firehouse (the main reception room and oldest part of the house) were crumbling due to wet rot.

What’s involved?

This will be a huge undertaking, we think that the whole project will probably take us six months and cost in excess of £100,000. The damaged sections of the beams need to be replaced with new timber.  To do this, the 500 year-old Townend will be surrounded with scaffolding and the weight of the house supported while the repairs are carried out.

As the house is small, we will need to stay closed for part of next year so that its contents, including the priceless library, can be packed and protected while work is going ahead. Carefully packing and protecting the library alone will cost £5000, while repairing and replacing the beams is likely to cost in excess of £50,000.

On the positive side

This is a great opportunity for the house to reveal things about itself – it is likely that it was last re-rendered over 150 years ago, what will we find as we remove the layers and can see underneath? This place is full to the brim with the character of the Browne family who lived here for centuries.  But how was it built? How old are the original timbers? And how did the Brownes move a huge oak beam the size of a tree trunk into position in around 1600?

We will keep you updated with the project as we progress and will share any interesting details about the house that are uncovered as we go along. Our discovery of the wet rot has provoked a great response already from our visitors who want to help us by making a donation towards this work; over £5,000 has been raised so far, but there is still much more needed.

You can support our conservation work. Donations can be made online by visiting our Just Giving page at: www.justgiving.com/Townend-NT/.  Or contact Fundraising Coordinator Liz Guest to find out more.  Tel 015394 63806. Email: liz.guest@nationaltrust.org.uk