Sunday, November 26, 2017

In Praise of The Pargetter's Art (updated)

Pargetting can be very bold in concept & execution, as seen in this example.
Pargetting is one of the less-common elements found in Tudor and Elizabethan buildings. Perhaps the inherent nature of exterior plasterwork and its comparative durability vs. brick, timber and stone makes this inevitable - but there are still existing examples to be found dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. New or old, it is always a delightful feature whenever it is found.

Any number of natural or stylized designs and motifs can be found in plaster.
The term Pargetting derives from the word 'parget', an old Middle English term that is probably derived from the ancient French 'pargeter' / 'parjeter', which means to to throw about, or 'porgeter'- to roughcast a wall. With the ‘wattle and daub’ method of construction (since pargetting is really best suitable for a lathed and timbered backing) the craft became an important and integral part of the building trade until bricks became more freely available. The term is more usually applied only to the decoration in relief of the plastering between the studwork on the outside of half-timber houses, or sometimes covering the whole wall.

In some cases, the pargetter would press the moulds of wet plaster (usually a mixture of slaked lime, sand, hair and the inevitable ‘secret ingredient’, known only to individual craftsmen) to the house exterior until it was fixed. In other examples, the ornate plasterwork is done in-situ totally freehand, in the still-wet lime render. In this case, the work is roughly outlined with a small trowel and then built up with the addition of hair in the lime plaster.

A particularly exuberant example of exterior pargetting.

The work is then brushed back into the wall to smooth it out and finally finished with a lime wash. Pargetting patterns came in a variety of forms including friezes (using ribbons of chevrons, scallops, fantails or dots); often there are overall frames enclosing motifs, geometrical or floral designs, and coats of arms. Occasionally devices were stamped on the wet plaster in varying degrees of relief, and work in the time of Elizabeth I of England will often represent figures, birds and foliage.

Today's craftsmen carry on an ages-old tradition. (Courtesy of The Pargetting Company)
Today, the Pargetter's art is kept alive by experienced craftsmen like Bill Sargent, based in Mid-Suffolk, who has been practicing pargetting and decorative plasterwork since the 1960's. Amongst the highest regarded pargetters in the country, Bill's work can be seen in Suffolk, Essex, Kent and Norfolk. He handles most all areas of Conservation Plasterwork and pargetting (also spelled pargeting) including conservation plastering for listed buildings, Lime washing, Lime plastering (mouldings etc.) Arches, Lime floors and Brick stone and slate work.

Note: This article was recently updated with new images, due to the fact that the original featured a gallery hosted on, which was shut down a few years ago.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

NYC Exhibition Highlights Downton Abbey Sets, Costumes and More

Just came across this story from Houzz about a new exhibition in New York City that opens today, the 18th, and runs through January 31st at 218 W. 57th. Having visited Highclere Castle--where the Downton Abbey series was filmed--the exhibition fills in some of the show-oriented details that aren't evident when visiting the historic house. Click on the photo below for the complete story.

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition
When: Nov. 18 through Jan. 31, 2018
Where: 218 W. 57th St., New York City
Cost: Starts at $30

Monday, November 13, 2017

VISITS: Highlights of Highclere Castle

Back in May, I provided a brief overview of this year’s UK trip, which centered around London and areas close by. One of our stops was at Highclere Castle, the home of Lord and Lady Carnarvon, and the house made famous by the Downton Abbey TV Series. Thankfully, the great success of the show has increased the number of visitors over the years to such an extent that many needed repairs have been made. Ongoing restoration continues, and many educational and tourist programs have been added as well.

A little rain shower did not diminish my daughter's enthusiasm for the tour.
While perhaps not my first choice, I succumbed to the desires of my wife and daughter to go see the house, which I had first read about in Mark Girouard’s book, The Victorian Country House. Designed by architect Charles Barry, and featuring a park designed by Capability Brown. The 5,000-acre estate is in Hampshire, about 5 miles south of Newbury, Berkshire. Reportedly the original site of the home was recorded in the Domesday Book, and the first house was built on the foundations of the medieval palace of the Bishops of Winchester, who owned this estate from the 8th century. Highclere has been home to the Earls of Carnarvon and their forebears since 1679.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Tudor House Continues to Serve Portage Lakes as a Community Treasure

When Frank Mason, a senior executive of the B. F. Goodrich, built this grand home on Turkeyfoot Lake and gave it to his grandson and his newlywed wife, Zeletta Robinson, he may not have dreamed that it would one day be a local civic center. Today, the Frank Mason Raymond home—known locally as Tudor House—or the Franklin park Civic Center, continues to charm guests as a serves as a popular wedding, meeting and banquet facility, often available without charge to non-profit organizations.

Located at 655 Latham Lane, in the Portage Lakes area of New Franklin, the beautiful 20-room, 2 ½ story, brick and stucco mansion sits on 5.8 acres, adjacent to Portage Lakes State Park, and has 335 feet of frontage on the west shore of the lake.

Friday, November 3, 2017

OUT FRONT: Fences and Flower Beds

Nothing like a fresh coat of white paint.
As I noted in my previous post, I regret not getting more done this summer around the house. What did get done focused mostly on the backyard and pool area; while my efforts to get the front lawn back in order bore some fruit, it was not until September that I was really able to get to work on the front of the house.

As I noted in previous posts, I have been working to restore the fence that flanks both sides of the house. I was finally able to complete the restoration of the large post at the west side, and then continued sanding and repainting all the fence pickets in-between. As of this writing, I have completed three of the eight 8-foot sections of fencing. With the sides facing the front of the house, I applied a very high-quality latex, working it in with a brush; I may use my new paint sprayer for the rest, to save time.

Just need to define this flower bed a little more...
I think I have re-painted this fence maybe twice in 25 years; this was by far the most complete wire-brush-and-sanding job that I have ever done, so hopefully it will last for a while. The treated cross beams are fine; a few of the cedar pickets (especially where they have been in contact with the ground) have seen some rot. This will be hidden by a treated 1” x 4” that I am adding at the bottom, which will not only look better buy hold back some of the soil and mulch I am adding in front.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Pox Upon Both Your Houses

Similar treatment. Totally different plan.
I recently came across this Toronto Star story about two couples in Canada who were involved in a lawsuit regarding the appearance of their houses. Apparently the owners of a 1935-era Tudor Revival home—which they had spent a lot of money to renovate in 2006—had many of its features “copied” by owners of a newly-built neighboring house nearby. The owners of the older home sued the couple who built the new house for $1.5 million in damages, including $20,000 in copyright damages and $1 million in punitive damages.
The owners of the existing home claimed that the neighbors copied a number of features from their home, including similar gray stonework, the same shade of blue on the windows, similar treatments in the gables and other unique design cues that made their house “one of the most well-known and admired houses in the neighborhood” - according to the lawsuit.