A Week on the Estate: Motorcycle Live, Log Scoop & Windsor Chairs

The rain clouds finally departed this week, and the estate continued its work in some fine late-autumn weather.

 

The social media campaign inviting the community to name Leanne Gains’ new nursery drew an enthusiastic response. Of the many suggestions, two were put to a vote – ‘Little Ormsbees’ and ‘The Little Dryads’. Both encapsulate the rural spirit of the new enterprise and the winner will be announced next week.

 

The estate’s Massingberd-Mundy products were splendidly represented at the 2019 Motorcycle Live event at Birmingham’s NEC. Our enterprising team made the most of their week in the spotlight to share the estate’s rural success story with the biking public, and to impress them with the sheer quality and passion underpinning Massingberd-Mundy beef and Burrell’s Dry gin.

Closer to home, Paul Barnes demonstrated for the camera how Hall staff can get more warmth for less elbow-grease. The log scoop used with a mechanical lifter will allow us to add a cubic metre of logs to the biomass boiler in one quick and efficient movement.

 

At The Old Rectory Guest House, Tanya launched a festive initiative. From 29th November to 22nd December, The Old Rectory will be offering delightful festive high teas, featuring traditional Christmas sandwich fillings, mince pies, crackers, decorations and a roaring fire, all for only £12 per person.

 

At the Hall, a pair of Windsor chairs thought to date from the early 19th-century are about to receive some skilled attention. We learned that they were probably more expensive than the average Windsors as they feature elm seats with yew and crinoline stretchers in a bowed pattern, while most chairs were made wholly from ash with ‘H’ pattern stretchers. Elm is more resistant to splitting than any other wood. A Windsor should never be upholstered – a finely contoured seat should need no adornment.

Windsor chairs are built in a specific way. Whereas the rear legs and back of a standard chair form one continuous length, with a Windsor chair all four legs and the chair-back are round-tenioned, i.e., joined to the seat via drill holes. The Windsor is typically carved into a saddle shape to better accommodate the user’s thighs and posterior. Legs and uprights are formed using a pole-lathe, while the curved arms and framework are steam-bent. The forerunner of the Windsor chair was made by 16th-century wheelwrights, who found a way of turning wheel spokes into both chair spindles and extra income.

 

Well-made as these chairs are, the modern world can prove ruinous. A typical 200-year old chair was made in a workshop and then kept in a home where the average temperature was far lower than would be normal today. Also, open fires drew in moist air, and even in air-drying areas of workshops, the humidity would have been no lower than 14%. By contrast, modern central heating keeps temperatures consistently high and takes humidity down to 10% or lower.

In short, antique furniture was made for a colder, damper domestic setting. Over time, modern conditions induce warping, shrinkage and cracking. Tenon and mortice joints can change shape and get progressively looser when used. If we were less polite, we could also add that the average 21st-century user of Windsor chairs is a tad heavier than their Regency-era ancestor.

 

South Ormsby Hall has seen major investment in sustainable central heating in recent years. We’re committed to preserving our living heritage, so we’ll continue to support the local artisans who can give the furniture the care it needs to serve many more generations to come.