Revamping Laughton Place

August 2018

Laughton Place is a moated brick tower standing on the flatlands between the South Downs and Ashdown Forest. In June and July this year, we closed the building for several weeks to give it a bit of a makeover. Our Conservation Manager Alastair Dick-Cleland takes us through the work done, including a revamp of the kitchen and treating the brickwork on the stairs.

A brand new kitchen

The principal change at Laughton Place has been a brand-new kitchen, including a wall-mounted rack above, all made by our Workshop Manager Mark Smitten in our workshop at Honeybourne, Worcestershire. Hot-footing it from our current restoration project Llwyn Celyn, it was also installed by him and Beau Boulton. 

It has been painted in a striking Farrow & Ball colour called ‘Cook’s Blue’. F&B’s website says “Cook’s Blue was inspired by the rich and poignant finish in the cook’s closet at Calke Abbey [just down the road from Knowle Hill] where the walls had been untouched for many decades. This bright and deeply pigmented colour is perfect for use both in kitchens and exterior eating areas, as this vibrant tone is said to deter flies! But it is perfectly at home anywhere in the house.” We have been able to include a dishwasher for the first time here, and together with a new cooker and fridge, Landmarkers are all set for some ‘fine dining’.

This kitchen/dining room has a rather lovely lozenge-shaped terracotta tiled floor – which over the years had lost much of its pointing. Repointing such a floor is a tricky business but Ben Muriel of the Traditional Buildings Company, ably assisted by our own Craft Trainee Bill Barkley, has done a very nice job. Bill helped for two weeks of the closure enabling much more to be done in the short time available.

A boiler in a tight space

Less obvious to guests is the fact that we have installed a brand-new boiler. This lives in an almost impossibly small space in a tiny cupboard behind the cooker (hence the apparent ‘door’ here). Our newly appointed plumber and heating engineer, Stephen Woodley, who lives nearby, calmly dealt with all the challenges of working in such a confined space.

We also took this opportunity to replace the hot water cylinder, and to change the system so that it is all now at mains pressure – which means not least that the newly-replaced shower works even better. 

Treating the bricks

As always with any closure, there are a host of other jobs to do. Laughton has a rather striking spiral staircase built in brick – but a couple of them have been 'under-fired', and so are very soft bricks, which gradually crumble away.

One day we will probably have to cut those few out and replace them, but in the meantime they have all been treated with a colourless and porous consolidant which will hopefully reduce the vacuuming burden on our housekeeper, Joanna Townsend. 

Improvements to the sitting room and bedroom

We have also improved the proportions of the sitting room and the double bedroom above, by adding simple oak picture rails which have the effect of visually lowering what are quite high ceilings for relatively small spaces.

These picture rails match the architraves around some of the doors and fireplaces, and were again made by Mark Smitten in 5m long lengths so that we didn’t need to have any joins. They were ably installed by Ben Muriel and his team, who have also carried out plenty of other smaller jobs both inside and out. 

 

Book your stay at Laughton Place

Laughton Place is a wonderful base from which to explore the Sussex Downs, from Pevensey Castle, where the Conqueror landed in 1066, to lovely Lewes and the artistic arcadias of Charleston and Glyndebourne. This moated brick tower is available from £22 per person per night.

"The sun shone. The moon shone. The mists rolled in. The best way to watch the world from the battlements is with mugs of mulled wine in your hands."
from the Laughton Place logbook.

 

Book now

 

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