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What happened next when CHC decided to refurbish the Castle Inn Windows…….

Update February 2021... the end is in sight!


Many of you will know the Castle Inn public house but did you know that it is the only Free House in the village and is owned by a charity, CHC - Church House Charity, with Matt & Helen Brown the current lease holders.  CHC was set up as a charity independent from the Church of England with the purpose of maintaining the fabric of St Nicholas Church and supporting Christian outreach for the ecclesiastical Parish of Hurst.  Lease payments from the Castle Inn provide the monies for CHC to achieve its mission. However, this also means that CHC had to spend a lot of money on protecting its greatest asset, the pub itself!

The work begins…

It was just over a year ago back in January 2020 when CHC agreed to the refurbishment of all the window frames at the pub. We knew that a straight refurbishment would not have to involve the council or its planning / listings departments (the pub being in a conservation area) and we had hoped to complete the work within two months with minimal disruption to Matt & Helen’s business. However, when our builder had to remove some of the render on the front elevation to repair the window frames it became clear that this was going to be a far bigger job……

The bigger picture!

In a number of places the render on the front elevation was hollow and not fixed to the fabric of the building it was supposed to protect, we could see water damage, we knew then this was going to be a far bigger job! By this time we were now going into the first Covid-19 lockdown. With the pub now shut except for takeaways we decided that all the render on the front elevation should be removed to see just how bad the damage was.  We also knew that we now needed to enlist the services of our conservation architects as we would have to engage with the Council Listings Officer to gain approval as to just how the repairs could proceed and as you might expect the costs ahead were mounting!  

The Tudor frontage exposed.

With all the render removed the underlying Tudor structure with its wooden frame was exposed. Passers-by would stop and admire the building and the general feeling in the village was that people would like it kept this way.

Worked stopped while we waited for the Listings Officer to make a site visit, Covid-19 was slowing down the bureaucratic process now! However, with the imminent unwinding of the first lockdown and the new trading restrictions Matt decided that the pub could best open in the rear pub garden. Whilst Matt was building an outside bar and installing a Pizza oven CHC agreed to divert the builder to paint the rear of the pub to help brighten up the garden ready for the July reopening.

Planning Permission and more problems!

It was late July before when we had our first visit from the Listings Officer, he had not seen the pub before because he was relatively new to his position. Very early on in our discussions with him it became clear that we would not be permitted to leave the frontage with its wood and brick exposed but likewise we would not be permitted to re render with sand and cement as per what had been removed. The good news, we would be permitted to re-instate a single door which had been bricked up to be a window.

A lot of the wooden beams were rotting or badly eaten by beetle lave and would need to be re-faced in oak with hidden metal strapping to strengthen. The brick infill between the beams had suffered from brick decay quite badly with over 30% needing to be replaced. We were told that each section of brickwork would need to be taken out brick by brick and put in a frame, so that when replaced the bricks would go back into their same positions. New bricks of the same size and colour would have to replace the rotten ones and lime mortar used. (Over the centuries at least 6 different sizes of man and machine made bricks had been used). The irony is that they will all be covered by a protection layer and no one will know what are new and what are old bricks when the work is completed!

More importantly for us the Listings officer noticed a main beam in the pub was not being supported by an upright and was actually resting on a window frame. (We know from pictures that this has been the case for more than 100 years). We were told in no uncertain terms, that the beam would need to be supported in some form, and that a structural engineer would have to design a support system to support the structure with a design and appearance acceptable to the council.

It was agreed that the final protective finish would be a lime slurry over the bricks and a lime wash over the wood. We could make the wash over the wood a slightly darker colour to the white covering the bricks but not black (even though there is precedent on this and surrounding buildings).  Apparently the black and white we know today is largely a Victorian invention. Often when originally built the whole surface would have been in one colour.

Before we would be allowed to proceed with any work full drawings and material examples would be needed to be submitted and approved before work could start.

Scaffolding up and work starts.

After what seemed to be a long time with no action ,waiting for permissions and the lost longer days of August and early September we were finally allowed to start work. So, scaffolding erected our builder started the task of removing and replacing most of the infill brickwork and making good the beams and supports. The ground floor of the building is double skin of roughly Georgian period with Tudor wooden uprights some terminating at first floor level and others to ground level. The first floor turned out to be single skin, so when the bricks were removed the interior of the building was open to the elements…. Not good with Autumn rains and frosts approaching. The cooler and damper weather also meant that the lime mortar brick work took several weeks to go off!

On wet days when impossible to work outside the new structural support metal framework was put in place to support the unsupported beam mentioned above. This consists for a specially fabricated boxed section set of steel supports that when erected looked like a set of goal posts. The floor in the snug had to be dug up and a large concrete pad put in place to support the structural load.  These new metal beams have been faced with wood and when decorated will just look like an extra thick frame around the window. This work was completed mid-January ’21.

That Chimney could do with some repair!

With the scaffolding up we were able to see that the main chimney stack was also in need of repair and it made financial sense to extend the scaffolding to do that work at this time. Removal of previous bodged repair using cement and brick dust to hide decayed bricks is being rectified with new bricks and lime mortar at the time of writing this article and two old chimney pots will also be replaced.

In for a penny or in for a pound!

With so much work already done what is there left to do? Well, several test patches of lime slurry have been applied and left to dry to work out what is the appropriate mix to cover and protect the front elevation. Recommendations have been made to the Listings Officer to gain approval. This work is planned now for February (weather permitting). At least two coats of slurry then a lime wash will be applied and will then need further lime washing about every five years.

On the inside of the Pub we will have the upstairs single skin brick work plastered and painted and have also decided that as the pub remains shut to re skim the ceiling in the function room.

We also noticed that in the main bar area some of the ceiling plaster was sagging. On investigation and removal of the old wallpaper coverings a large section of the ceiling fell down exposing previous poorly laid wooden laths! So that ceiling will also be replaced and painted.

And Finally

We hope that now all works have been identified and will be completed including decoration in the March time frame. Probably the last work will be the top coating of the external window frames which over a year ago is where we started!

When Covid restrictions are finally eased and we are all allowed to socialise in pubs once again Matt & Helen are planning what is hoped to be a grand re opening when you will be able to come and see the extensive works for yourself.

On behalf of CHC

Philip Payne

Castle Inn Refurbishment: About Us
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