Thank you, Flanders and Swann

Twas on a Monday morning that the gas man came to call….

In my case it was Sunday, but we’ll stretch the point a little.

To summarise:
Due to some deconstructive vandalism, I have been patching up the plaster in the Ladies’ loo. Just as I was about to start painting the walls, I noticed another bit of bulging plaster near the door, which I duly chipped off in preparation for more sealing, patching, skimming, and sealing. And then I wondered what could be behind the 1.5m square bit of plywood that was on the wall between the bit I had just patched, and the bit I had just spotted.

Mistake.

Behind the plywood was:

  • 1×2 wooden strapping, the lower parts of which were most definitely rotten. Dry rot: that lovely black, almost burnt-looking effect with square cracks which is unmistakable once you’ve seen it.
  • old plaster: not horsehair plaster this time (unlike the bedroom wall) but so old that it had pretty much reverted to sand right down to the layer of (possibly) cement or old bond plaster which was still mostly stuck to the stone wall behind.
  • new plaster: a bit about 30cm square, right in the middle of the wall, which wasn’t budging at all, and which had to be removed if I was to have any chance at all of getting the new plaster level

As seems to have been the case throughout the building, if something was broken, damaged, or otherwise needing attention, the response was to hide it.

So, we hauled off the wooden strapping (easy peasy) and I then spent three-ish hours with a chisel and hammer, and earplugs, removing the chunk of new plaster in the middle of the wall and as much of the loose old plaster and cement/bond plaster as I could.

At worst, the depth I’m going to have to fill is in the region of 15 – 20cm, so it’s going to be a three-to-four-day process just to get the bond plastering done. Too much plaster too quickly tends to result in a disheartening schlopp sort of sound, as it all falls of the wall about 10 minutes after you’ve cleaned up.

Silver lining
We’ve suspected, from old maps, that what is now the Ladies’ was originally an entrance either into the building, or to a narrow covered walkway called either a close or a vennel depending on where in Scotland it is.

Underneath all the perished plaster I found the first faced stone I’ve seen in the construction of the building. It certainly looks like a possible entrance, and the size and shape match the now-defunct second front door to the building which is directly behind (or in front, depending on whether you’re facing the street or not) the putative entrance.

Pictures will follow, but first I need to get the cement off my fingers!

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