Oak House repairs
Published on 26th September 2012
A section of the historic Elizabethan Oak House at West Bromwich is undergoing urgent repairs – with experts using the “good old ways” to preserve the eye-catching black and white building.
Conservation experts have been drafted in by Sandwell Council to do a programme of repairs, centred on a 17th century horizontal cill beam on which the timber frame rests.
They will also be doing repair work and replacing parts of the timber frame and the panel infill that have been damaged by the failure of the cill beam.
Museum manager Frank Caldwell said: " The 30cm square cill beams run on top of the stone and brick foundation at the very bottom of the building.
"These were all replaced at the front of the building in the 1890s restoration, but were patched at the back and sides.
"An additional 100 years of wear and tear from weather and insects has caused the cills around what was historically the 'bolting' room - where ground flour was sieved and stored - to fail."
This was noticed when the door frame was observed to no longer 'fit' the door, said Mr Caldwell.
"We are taking the opportunity to replace and repair other timbers that have been affected by water damage, and replace all the panel infils in this part of the building," he said..
"Historically, this would have been done with a 'wattle', a lattice work of timber strips, covered in a lime plaster 'daub'," he added.
Mr Caldwell said repair work in the 1970s was carried out using a mix of plaster panels and rockwool with a cement plaster top coat, which was regarded as 'best practice' at the time.
"We now know that the old ways are the best ways," he said.
"With an expert team of timber craftsmen from McCurdy and Co, of Berkshire, we are also repairing some internal floorboards due to the wear and tear caused by up to 15,000 visitors per year.," he added.
Some further changes to the external surfaces around the hall will also take place to reduce the levels of damp in the surrounding soil which can affect the building.
This will be done by constructing French drains - gravel filled trenches - which help drain water away from the sides of the building.
Mr Caldwell added: "We apologise for any inconvenience to visitors. Anyone who wants to know more about the details of the work should speak to members of the staff."