Friday, 10 October 2014

The other nail shop

          Nails Bite Back

hand made nails Garrick,s Villa Hampton

While I working at Garrick's Villa (1770/80s) in Hampton recently I came across these hand made nails under the floor.I have often taken out the old "Rose heads" used to fix lathwork but these large nails got me thinking.Each one hammered out individually it must have been so difficult to make them ,transport them and I am sure they would not have been dropped all over the floor like we do today, you could not waste these.

I was aware that the Midlands or Black Country was a major  centre of nail making in Britain and I knew that it was a tough way of life but I found an article which described the lives of the nail makers.They treated people like shit and go on about the Empire. I for one wont be throwing these around after knowing what went in to making them. 

Little pieces of people's history

A typical nail shop was usually about ten or twelve feet square with one door and one or two unglazed windows. The nail shop had a central hearth or fire ( this differed from a chain shop which had the hearths around the walls ) so that all the family could work independently of each other but using just one fire thus saving on fuel. There could be as many as six working round one fire. Nailers usually either rented or owned their own shop but a nailer who for some reason had no shop of his own, could rent a "standing" from a fellow nailer and share the fire to carry on making nails. Nailers provided their own tools, These were not numerous or expensive. The bellows, a small block or anvil, sharpening tools and for nailers making large nails, "the Oliver". The Midland Mining Commission report of 1843 includes this description:- "The best forges are little brick shops of about 15 feet by 12 feet in which seven or eight individuals constantly work together with no ventilation except the door and two slits, a loop-hole in the wall. The majority of these workplaces are very much smaller and filthy dirty and on looking in upon one of them when the fire is not lighted presents the appearance of a dilapidated coal-hole. In the dirty den there are commonly at work, a man and his wife and daughter, with a boy or girl hired by the year. Sometimes the wife carries on the forge with the aid of the children. The filthiness of the ground, the half-ragged, half-naked, unwashed persons at work, and the hot smoke, ashes, water and clouds of dust are really dreadful".

Rose head nails for fixing lathwork

The nailer placed three or four rods into the fire, when a rod was sufficiently heated the nailer began forging the end into a point on the small nailer's block. The pointed end was then cut off to the required length ( measured by a gauge ) by being placed upon a fixed chisel called a hardy. It was then inserted into the bore, point down. The bore was made to fit the thicker part of the nail and was countersunk to form a mould for the nail head. A few blows with the hammer formed the head and a spring called a "whimsey" was touched with the hammer to release the finished nail. A girl could make over four nails a minute or over 250 an hour. Time also had to be allowed for fetching and carrying the iron and taking the finished nails to the warehouse.

"The Black Country Nail Trade" by Arthur Willets.

laths fixed with Rose Heads

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Garrick's Villa

Garrick's Villa

Over the last few weeks we have been working at the Grade 1 Listed building in Hampton South West London.The plasterwork in at least one of the rooms is likely to have been designed by Robert Adam and carried out by the Joseph Rose Plastering company in the 1770s. After investigating the plaster moldings in the imaginatively named Adams room it looks like a mixture of hand modelled stucco and cast elements .I am not at the moment down to repair the moulding but I did some cleaning and casting out of interest in case too much is lost.

We are however doing all the flat work lath work lime plastering and finishing and you can see the results so far below  

Typical Rose Company Stucco and plaster casts

Earth aggregate found in pricking up coat of original Limework

Samples of existing Lime plaster and proposed mix

On investigation and consulting a real expert this is likely hand modelled

sample of lime plaster prepared

New lathwork

applying pricking up coat

New lathwork to "Adams" room ceiling

Float coat applied to lathwork

Pricking up coat to ceiling

Adding hair

Pricking up coat scratched

Collapse of existing ceiling  

Original lath work Circa 1770

Original sample of Lime plaster 

Float coat applied to Adams ceiling

Finish coat Lime plaster

Finished lime plaster

Small ceiling finished lime plaster

Adams ceiling floated and left to carbonate 

Plaques in Adams Room I think they are hand modelled stucco but others think they are cast  I cant tell at this stage but I bet I am right

Dont Know Whats occurring here

Update on Adams Room

We re-plastered the ceiling and I am not sure what they had in mind for the cornice .stucco roundels and the walls ,as you can see they were in a right state.i think at one point it looked like it would be lost. We suggested we clean and repair the mouldings make good the walls apply a breathable lime based primer and re-skim the walls with lime plaster.Thankfully the client agreed and you can see the results below.I am not sure how involved Adams was in the plasterwork He certainly designed the portico on the outside. He also applied a secret mastic stucco on the wall outside part of the secret apparently was how it worked since it  failed and had to be replaced using fake bricks or mathematical tiles supplied by Adams big rival.Well we all make mistakes.

As far as the plaster work in side is concerned I am convinced it is the work of the Joseph Rose Company since the cast work is exactly the same as the fragments found at the workshop of Joseph Rose at Audley End The fragments were found swept under the floor boards after a renovation there , some things never change.

I am not sure what the roundels depict they are really beautifully modeled such fine detail all the facial expressions and drapery.possibly Italian modelers who were influential on British plaster work of this period. I think they are scenes from the classics it is clear that they had been on the grand tour. Now its done I think I am going on the grand tour of the pub

Fragments from Audley End Joseph Rose Plastering Co

Fragment From Garrick's Villa 


Audley End

Garrick's Villa

Thin Gypsum cast work

Finished work 

Roundel cleaned

Repairing Plaster work

Add caption

Cleaning under way

Note the detail

Cleaned up roundel