The house has two fireplaces – one in the living room and one in the dining room so they are back to back and share a single chimney stack. There must have been one in the master bedroom too but that’s been blocked up and plastered over.
The one in the dining room is this range type thing – which fascinates me as it looks much older than the house. Note the cushion (complete with tassel) used as a chimney balloon.
The one in the living room was boarded up and there wasn’t any obvious way into it. I think the electric fire currently by the outbuildings had previously been mounted on the front of it. It looked like this:
I eventually took one of Dad’s crow bars (which was a completely inappropriate tool) to find out what I had – from knocking at it, I was aware there was some sort of opening behind – the mantle was obviously fairly new (it was wallpapered behind!) but who knows there still might be something beautiful underneath the panelling. So with a lot of huffing and puffing and bashing I got the panel off. Was there something beautiful? Erm, no – there was this:
Pretty. Note the twigs? Hmm, looks like a bird’s nest too.
What to do with the fires has been one of my big uncertainties – prior to getting the house I’d convinced myself they were going to have to go as they took up too much space in the rooms – next door have had their whole chimney stack removed. When I actually got the keys I discovered the rooms were actually bigger than I’d remembered (although they are still not massive) and the difficulty (the chimney breast supports the purlin in the roof) and cost to remove vs the space that would be gained probably means they are staying.
The range was particularly troublesome because although it’s a lovely feature, if I was going to have something so big, taking up so much space – I’d quite like it to be usable.
So I decided to get the chimneys swept and to see if that got me any further to making a decision. Thursday lunchtime I went down to meet the chimney sweep – who I was surprised to discover was about my age, for some reason I’d expected him to be at least 100. His jaw actually dropped when he saw the range (the company is two brothers and although I’d explained all to the other one I don’t think he’d passed the info on) but he cracked on nevertheless and promptly came across a huge bird’s nest. I’d assumed the chimney must have been in use relatively recently as the coal bunker is still right outside the back door but he reckoned it couldn’t have been swept for at least a decade. The birds had been nesting in it for so long the twigs had composted and bin bags of soil were coming down. It took ages! After he got the chimney swept he started investigating the range for me to discover how it works (I couldn’t get my head around how the food in the oven could be heated uniformly with a fire on one side) – I think I’ll save all that for another post though (it needs photos to explain properly). The chimney has really good draw though and he lit a ball of paper and it burnt really well – also no masonry or anything came down while he was sweeping it so it’s basically good to go (except it’s not – more about that later too).
The other fireplace also had a birds nest but not quite as solid as the first so was much quicker to sweep. He didn’t light that one as there was quite a bit of down draft. He recommended I get some bird cowls ‘before the Spring’ to stop the birds coming back – so I should probably get on that sharpish.
Chim chim cher-oo!
Good luck will rub off when
I shake ‘ands with you
I know chimney sweeps are meant to be lucky but I did have the oddest stroke of luck while the sweep was sweeping. I decided it was probably best not to sit watching him and asking inane questions (don’t get me wrong, I did that for a while) so potted around the house doing odd jobs and hoovering – then I went to sort out the pallets in the outhouse. There’s no light in the outhouse and as the days are short at the moment and the weather has been awful, I’d not been in there properly other than to stuff the pallets in – there were a few old boxes but I didn’t think there was anything in them. You can see a box in this photo:
In fact, that very box turned out to be full of rusty old bits of cast iron. It was clearly bits from a fire but, to me, most just seemed random and disconnected. Anyway, I pulled them all out and was brushing them down when the chimney sweep came to find me and immediately identified what they all were. All the parts of the open fire in the living room were there – in all their retro glory. So that it now looks like this:
Also there was the fret from the front of the range (which obviously needs some polishing) plus the frame for the damper 🙂
Lucky, huh? I’m not sure I would have realised that fret (I’m calling it a fret as I’ve no other word for it) was something that was intended to go on the front of the range if the chimney sweep hadn’t have been here when I made the discovery!
Then I hot-tailed it back to work after a 3 hour lunchbreak. Whoops…