Floor or giant chessboard?

Our last blog focused on the care of our wooden floors in the show rooms, but we also have a beautiful 400 year stone floor in the Great Hall and at the Bottom of the Great Stairs.

Birds eye view of the Great Hall floor, taken from the minstrels gallery

The Great Hall was built as a part of Archbishop Bourchier’s palace in circa 1460, but the Purbeck marble floor visitors walk over today probably dates from Thomas Sackville’s, 1st Earl of Dorset, remodelling of the building in 1605-1608.
The floor is naturally showing signs of deterioration due to its age, and the wear and tear it has experienced.  Cliveden Conservation* have produced a survey the floor and this week carried out some repair trials before remedial conservation takes place in a couple of weeks to the areas in need of attention.

“The extent of decay depends not only on the strength of the individual stone, but also because of the conditions the floor is repeatedly exposed to” Cliveden Conservation.
The darker stone has deteriorated more than the paler stone due to the differences in their physical properties.

There is a lot of staining along the Stone Court side of the Hall floor and Water Court side of the stair floor.  This indicates an external source of damp which has resulted in the ingress of salts.  The salt crystallises as the stone dries leaving the stain, and eventual loss of the stones polished surface.

Cliveden Conservation carrying out a condition survey in the Great Hall.

Surface damage to the Purbeck stone in the Great Hall

Deteriorating and missing mortar between stones in the Great Hall

Conservation of the floors in the hall and stair will include the removal of surface dirt to improve the appearance of the floor; consolidation of flaking areas of stone; cracks will be filled with runny mortars, known as grouts, to fill voids and support weak areas.  The ‘grouts’ will be capped with mortar colour matched to the existing stone; lime mortar will be used to repointing between stones to stop them rubbing together and prevent grit and dirt getting trapped between stones.

Condition survey of the Great Hall floor.
Red = 70% surface damage. Green = 10-70% surface damage. Orange = 0-10% surface damage. White with dots = cement.

This week the Cliveden team were in to carry out mortar and consolidant trials on some test patches.  The mortar needs adhere to the stone and function as required but it also needs to have the right appearance.  In a couple of weeks they will be back to begin on the remedial repairs.

Cliveden Conservation carrying out a test on damaged stone under the Great Stairs.

Once the conservation work has been completed lets hope the floor will last another 400 years!

Sarah, Lucy, Melinda and Emily

* You can find out more about Cliveden Conservation via their website: http://www.clivedenconservation.com/


3 thoughts on “Floor or giant chessboard?

  1. What a lot if work – but the finished product
    will be stunning. Will you need close
    this section to visitors during it’s
    restoration period. How long will the whole
    process take?

    • Certain areas of the floor will be roped off as they work, as long as mortar and consolidant dry and set I believe only parts of the floor won’t be accessible at a time. Not sure how long it will take at the moment, waiting for confirmation on the schedule.

  2. Pingback: Purbeck Stone – Zac Chapman – Kingston School of Architecture

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