Wray Castle is a Victorian neo-gothic building at Claife, near Hawkshead, with beautiful views over Lake Windermere. The house and grounds have belonged to the National Trust since 1929 however it has only recently been opened to the public. In the meantime it was let out to various organisations including phone companies as training facilities and such like, and sadly the decisions to equip and transform the interior for their purpose were not with the conservation of the property in mind.
See how our restoration team recover the beauty and history that lies beneath the surface…
(Dining Room before work began – image from visitcumbria.com)
One such area was the Dining Room. A sizeable room, with the high ceilings you would expect from such a grand building and the floor had been carpeted. One can only assume this was to reduce the echoes, which would have been considerable had it been floorboards when it was like a call centre.
Our restoration team went out to assess the work. By crawling down beneath the floor they were able to see the condition of the original oak floorboards and exciting to find them laid out in a ‘herringbone’ format creating a V-like pattern of long boards.
(The layers of carpet and plywood covering the original oak floor)
By taking up a section of the carpet in the bay window alcove, the team found that the job was not to be an easy one. The top carpet had been glued down onto plywood which in turn had been nailed down to cover another carpet and underlay, that had been glued to the original floor. It was apparent that when the fitters had come to replace the first carpet, they had found it too difficult to take up the worn carpet and so had decided to simply cover it with a new one.
Our restorers, John, Josh and Ted used this area as a trial for the rest of the floor. Various chemicals were tested to see if this would help remove the glue from the oak floor, but it was worried that a strong chemical might remove the aged surface of the floorboards containing its history. It was therefore decided that removing the carpet by hand with paint scrapers would be the best solution.
After seeing this section of the floor revealed, the National Trust could not wait to see all the carpet removed. A number of volunteers were called in to help and work continued immediately to tear up all the top carpet and plywood and rip away the black carpet and underlay.
(Ripping up the bottom layer of carpet – Image from National Trust Wray Castle Facebook Page)
The work was tough, dusty, hot and non-stop and by the end of each day every member of the team were feeling the continued effort in their bodies. Despite the hard work, progress was difficult and slow. The resin on the floorboards was well stuck and the scraping knives were quickly going blunt and needed sharpening. Some boards could take up to an hour to clear!
(Discovered under the carpet – a stunning stone hearth)
As the layers of glue were scraped away and more and more boards cleared, it became apparent that the work was worthwhile, and as the gaps between the boards were unblocked the definition of the herringbone pattern came alive. Sadly it also revealed some of the damage obtained through its previous users. Many large holes had to be plugged that had been drilled at equal intervals across the room, probably for wiring, even into the beautiful stone fireplace hearth.
Hoovered, cleaned and wax-polished and the rich depth of colour, returned back to as it would once have been before the carpet. A transformation worthy of the effort. Why not visit Wray Castle and see for yourself?
Watch the video of our restoration at Wray Castle:
If you have a similar project you would like us to review, please Contact Us