Work is progressing very well to reinstate those wattle and daub panels which had to be removed so that repairs could be carried out to a number of the structural timbers.
Once the Green Oak Carpentry Company had completed their work to the timbers, a dedicated Museum team of Mervyn Mewis, Mark Powell and Alex Conway (recently joined by Jamie Bell), took on the remaining tasks of painting the timbers, attaching new laths, applying new daub and limewashing the panels.
We used a linseed oil-based paint, colour-matched to the original for the timbers. Such paint allows the wood to breathe and any moisture which gets into joints and cracks is able to escape much more easily than with their modern, synthetic equivalents.
The panels which had been removed required new, sweet chestnut laths which were produced for us by Justin Owen who also contributed to the production of the Gateway roof shingles. A number of other panels subsequently had their daub removed due to it being in very poor condition, although the laths remained in place.
Re-applying the daub has been a learning process for the team and overseen by Museum Rural Life Interpreter Jon Roberts. Mixing the correct quantities of ingredients – sieved, original daub which we saved, straw, dung, soil and water – into the right consistency. Learning how to apply the daub so that it stays put; having one person on each side of the laths pushing the mix against each other so the laths are completely enclosed, applying layers at a time so that the whole lots doesn’t just fall off under its own weight, keeping the applied mix damp so that it doesn’t shrink too rapidly and leave cracks and finishing the panels by hand to leave a smooth surface.
To date, all panels have had new laths attached and over half have had daub applied. Limewashing is also now taking place which helps to further consolidate the surface of the daub and minimise and cracking. However, as up to 8 coats of limewash are required the project still has some time to run before it is complete.