After navigating the tricky building consents process, the repair and restoration of Cobham Dairy - a miniature building in the grounds of Cobham Hall in Kent - are well underway.
This model dairy was designed in c.1795, by James Wyatt, one of the leading architects of the day, for the Earl of Darnley and his countess, Elizabeth. Our project will make it into a charming Landmark for two people, with a bedroom and bathroom in the dairymaid's wing. Meanwhile, the south cloister will be enclosed to create the kitchen and the main double-height central chamber will become the sitting room, complete with a wood-burning stove.
Work begins on restoring Cobham Dairy.
Dick Starr, one of Colmans' most experienced bricklayers, rebuilding the dairy's chamber walls. We are delighted that Colmans is, once again, working with us as our main contractor.
The building has an electricity and water supply for the first time in its history. Remaining areas of stone floors have been carefully recorded, lifted and stored, prior to the installation of underfloor insulation and heating. There have been two discoveries; the first is the brick drain near the centre of the main chamber floor. This was almost certainly connected to some form of cooling water feature, commonly found in dairies. However, sadly, whatever was at Cobham Dairy has long gone, so it will be recorded and carefully removed.
The second discovery was in the dairymaid's bedroom. The team had always been a bit puzzled that the stone slabs on the floor here are significantly larger than those in the rest of the building. Our archaeological survey suggested that this might be in connection with some form of suspended floor and this turns out to be more or less correct. Under these slabs is a shallow brick vault enclosing an empty, unventilated void. We think that this was a way of keeping the dairymaid a little warmer than she would have been were the stone slabs laid directly on the earth, as elsewherein this building.
We've also discovered that the brick walls to the upper section of the main double-height chamber are badly bowed along their north and south sides. Trying to fit the large sheets of slate cladding to a bowed surface would be unsatisfactory, so the most pragmatic solution is to rebuild these affected areas.
As work progresses through spring and summer, we will be replacing and restoring the wonderful rib-vaulted ceilings to the cloisters and to the double-height sitting room. This work will call for craft skills of the highest order.
With thanks to specialist insurers, Ecclesiastical for their support during the Cobham Dairy project.