Considerable work was done in the 1980s by Paul and Ginny Broomhead, the previous owners, to preserve and adapt the building, but it was not finished. The building had been roughly repaired when it was owned by Rush Green Farm, whose farmhouse they bought in 1983 (now renamed Holm Oak House) along with what is now The Old Brewhouse. In particular, the south gable wall of The Old Brewhouse had been rendered in cement over chicken wire to make it watertight after the southern end of our building was demolished, which was some years before the Broomheads arrived.
In the Broomhead’s ownership:
- The roof structure was strengthened with replacement timbers and new roofing felt was laid. Many of the old timbers were left in place and reinforced rather than replaced. Polystyrene insulation panels two inches thick were laid above the felt.
- The peg-tiled roof was overhauled using very similar second hand tiles as replacements, which we are told can be identified by their smoke stains.
- The original stairs in the south west corner of the building led up to what is now the south bedroom, from which the rest of the first floor was accessed. The stairs are shown on a plan of the building by ND Wright of the University of East Anglia dated 21.8.86. (See separate post on his doctoral research). These stairs were removed, and a complete new pine floor with new oak joists was installed on the existing beams.
- A pine ladder-type staircase was built immediately by the front door near the centre of the building.
- A door frame was made at the south end from old salvaged oak.
- A new first floor room at the north end was created from a larger single space by building a stud wall, mainly using the existing posts and beams, which provided a natural dividing line. Plasterboard ceilings were installed in the bedroom space created. The remains of a lathe and plaster ceiling were found but not kept.
- Dividing the space in this way left a large enclosed landing at the top of the new stairs. This was further divided by a stud partition with a door into a space for a bathroom. The door was surplus from the renovation of Holm Oak House next door.
- The lath and plaster south bedroom ceiling was left largely untouched, except in one area where it was replaced with plasterboard.
- A new hatch was built into the loft space from the landing at the top of the stairs.
- The floorboards on the landing were taken up and relaid on plasterboard, which lie on top of the joists, and provide soundproofing.
- New back and front doors were made of pine.
- New leaded windows were fitted on the outside of five original mullion windows. Opening windows were placed outside a sixth, but not all the mullions on that window are in place (which seems sensible, as the window is the only fire escape from the room, and there is space to get through the mullions that are left). One mullion window in the kitchen has been blocked on the outside but the mullions are visible inside.There was also a Victorian window in the kitchen, in good condition. There is an eighth window that has been blocked, in the living room, and it is a reasonable conjecture that mullions are buried in the plaster that fills the space, but we don’t want to disturb it to check. Another window in the living room was completely replaced; the other, a Victorian window, was in good condition.
- Two very small windows in the south bedroom were replaced, and a third was inserted in what had been the door space leading into the part of the building that has disappeared.
- The door into the south bedroom was original but was hanging in the door space now filled by the south window.
- A very old door was moved from the ground floor, repaired, and used as the door into the north bedroom.
- This door had been the entrance to the kitchen when it was immediately to the right of the foot of the present stairs. One of the hinges is still present in the kitchen. The opening was filled with blocks and a new door opening made at the other end of the same wall. A Victorian door was installed but was removed during repair works in 2009 to leave an open entrance to the kitchen.
- The entire chimney was close to collapse in the early 1980s. It was taken down and completely rebuilt on concrete foundations in 1985, copying the shape of the structure it replaced, including the bread over (though the vaulting inside the oven was apparently not copied properly).
Detailed drawings have been kept of the chimney before it was repaired.
- The new chimney was built plumb, which means that it did not accomodate the lean of the old wall very well, so modifications were made to the wall timbers. The chimney was lined with a concrete flu and a ventilation shaft from outside emerged in the centre of the hearth. The main cross beam that rests on the chimney structure seems to have been too short to meet the new chimney and so it rests on a steel pad above the chimney; the other end of the pad is fixed under the main upright post from the floor above. The pad is stabilised by the weight of the structure above resting on it.
- Two fireplace alcoves were reproduced, each with a small plywood shutter. They are used for wood storage, but when the Broomheads moved in were fitted with cast iron and copper ‘coppers’.
- A concrete floor was installed throughout the ground floor.
- A large stone sink was found in the south east corner of what is now the living room. It is now outside the front door and full of succulents and alpines. It had been used for dairy work.
- Three large metal sinks for dairy use were also installed on the west wall of what is now the kitchen. They were removed.
- There was a lean to, floored with brick, along the wall where the hand pump was installed. The floor bricks remained in situ and we have reused some of them for a patio in the same position.
The lean to was removed at some point. Some evidence of pink pigments was found during the repairs to the house wall it sheltered.