Intricate Windows, a Mysterious Find & Muck-Spreading

After last week’s harvest in the heat, the estate took on a decidedly autumnal feel as we moved into September. The fields are being cultivated with homegrown Lincoln Red manure and chicken manure from a neighbouring farm. Estate Manager Paul Barnes enthusiastically engaged with the muck-spreading process with both feet. The land is also being drilled with a cover crop to protect the soil, then it will be tilled with next year’s cereal crop in late September and early October. A lovely, vintage David Brown 990 tractor from the 1960s helped with the harrowing.

 

The Walled Garden continued to yield delicious produce. Roy from The Old Rectory Guest House harvested a good crop of beetroot, while one of our graduate trainees, Finn, turned our rhubarb into a fine crumble cake.

Maintenance and refurbishment continued apace. Pell Plant re-jetted South Ormsby’s drains and found an intriguing artefact resembling a miniature police truncheon. The consensus among the estate’s social-media followers was that the item is an antique priest or knocker, a device used in hunting and fishing to administer the coup de grace to game or fish.

 

Work on the biomass boiler stepped up a notch. Both the boiler and its water tanks were placed on their hard standings and the boiler was plumbed in. The biomass installation looks well on course to take over from the thirsty, fuel-oil burner on which the Hall currently relies. The younger members of our Lincoln Red Beef herd did their part by un-stacking fallen branches of dead wood to get at the tender grazing beneath. There remain numerous fallen trees to be cleared up around the estate.

Inside the Hall, the skilled craftsmen from Abbey Joinery of Horncastle did their best to work around our office staff. They’re busily repairing and restoring our windows, a painstaking process demanding patience and attention to detail.

 

Rick Swift of Abbey Joinery began his career in the mid-1980s with a four-year apprenticeship. More than 30 years later, he says he’s still learning his trade. The existing glass is only 2mm thick and cracks easily. The windows at South Ormsby vary in age. It happens that the more recent units are in the poorest condition because they used softer woods which may have been kiln-dried quickly. By contrast, older windows used harder woods allowed to season slowly. If maintained every four or five years, higher quality wooden frames can last more than 30 years.

 

At South Ormsby, Rick and the team have two key tasks. The first is getting sash windows to work again. Rotten or worn parts must be repaired or replaced, including frames, cords and beads. While the team retain as much of the original as possible – vital in a Grade-2 listed property like South Ormsby Hall – sometimes a full sash needs to be replaced. Precision work includes inserting brush beading for an easy slide – the fit must be perfect for the window to work.

Dealing with dry rot is the second key issue – the joiner’s equivalent of dealing with gangrene. Where dry rot is found, it is better to remove too much wood than too little. Excising the affected areas and then re-fabricating and joining new parts that remain wholly in keeping with the old is intricate and highly skilled work, usually carried out on the bench in Abbey’s workshop. Rick loves his job and gets an immense sense of satisfaction when the job’s finished, the windows are decorated and a property is left safe and sound for another generation.

 

Enquiries into the estate’s heritage continue to reveal fascinating stories. An original boat once used for punting on the lake was discovered in a poor state and plans are afoot to restore it. When images of the boat were shared online, we discovered that workers once took the boat onto the lake to access and clean the pipe that fed a water trough. This may be a connection to the days when Adrian Massingberd-Mundy pursued horse-racing. Enquiries are ongoing.