Sunday, 26 October 2014

October Update

Work continues apace with the internal finishes now all under way - stone floors are being completed, plastering is almost finished, flooring and painting will commence in the next few weeks. Additionally the internal joinery is being fitted along with Mechanical and Electrical installations. 

On Monday 3rd at a red carpet ceremony in London the Angel Awards will be presented by Andrew Lloyd Webber - hopefully Adam Hill whose has been working on the timber repairs for the project will be amongst those receiving an award!

Latest photos from site below:

Door leading onto the Main Hall Balcony

Clay to the infill panels

Looking up in the Main Hall at the inside face of the original external wall

Inside the library - with the walls being lined out to receive shelving and panelling

Repairs to the original staircase

External render designed to look like brickwork on the East elevation

The newly laid stone floor in the main hall

Monday, 8 September 2014

Masters House Site Tours Saturday 13th September

As part of the wider Herefordshire Heritage Open Days and Museums event (click link for full programme) the Masters House will be holding Site Tours on Saturday 13th September at 10.00am, 11.30am & 1.00pm

This is the last chance to take one of three tours of the building before it opens to the public and is fitted out as a library. Enjoy a special display about the painted timbers conservation project.  

Booking is essential (available Monday – Wednesday). Maximum 12 people per tour. As this is a building site sensible footwear is required.

To book contact : 01432 383158 or

September 14' Update

 September Update

Inside the Kitchen Wing where the new library is to be located
Internally - The underfloor heating and lime screeding is now complete. Lime plastering works have significantly progressed as well as repairs to the wattle and daub panelling – the mixture for which was produced with the assistance of  children from Ledbury Primary School.

Infills to the panels on the kitchen wing are complete.

The new frame at the end of the kitchen wing
Externally -  brickwork repairs are nearing completion and the windows have been installed. Rendering has started on the East Elevation.

The external stores have been constructed and roofed using reclaimed tiles from the original roof of the building

Lathing ready to receive the external rendering
A large paddle mixer used for mixing the lime plaster and render
The newly constructed external store with reclaimed roof adjacent the 19th Century wing

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Adam Hill - English Heritage Angel Awards

The annual English Heritage Angel Awards, founded by Andrew Lloyd Webber and supported by the Telegraph, celebrate the efforts of local people who have saved historic buildings and places.

We are delighted to say that Adam Hill who is currently working on the Masters House has been nominated this prestigious award for his inspirational work and continual improvement over the course of the works.

Adam Alexander Hill, The Master’s House, Ledbury
Adam hard at work
Embedded image permalink
Filming on site for the awards

As the ultimate winner is voted for the public it would be excellent if you could register your support for this outstanding young man by taking a couple of minutes to complete the following voting form by following the attached link!

See below for details of the submission that was made to English Heritage detailing Adam's hard work and progress throughout the project.

'Extract from the submission'
Adam was employed as a labourer in 2011, carrying out general works on site. It was soon recognised that he had a keen eye for detail and, once it was revealed that he had some training as a joiner, BHA the architects suggested that he should be given the opportunity to work on some minor repairs on the historic timber frames.

In this context, Adam soon flourished and his true potential became abundantly clear. Indeed, his early framing repairs demonstrated innate skill and outstanding craftsmanship far beyond his years and experience.
As such, he was soon trusted with many of the more demanding historic repairs, including fine mouldings, frame repairs and chamber beam repairs. Adam completed these works with exceptional precision and acute attention to detail, deservedly earning a pivotal role with the specialist framing sub-contractors. He became responsible for the execution of the most complex repairs to medieval timbers throughout the Master's House.

Moreover, Adam has proved himself to be an inspiration to the workforce with his diligence, care and enthusiasm. He has been pro-active in learning and executing new found skills, spending his spare time making traditional tools for his colleagues. These have included a range of carpentry tools (framing slick, froe and gouges) and lignum vitae beaters for the leadworkers. In his research, Adam has gone to extraordinary lengths: making his own forge at home to cast a fantastic array of axes and blades out of old car springs.
Adam has demonstrated his proficiency as a sympathetic traditional craftsman and is set to have a bright future within the heritage sector. He made an outstanding contribution towards the repair of the one of the most significant surviving examples of a medieval timber framed hall house in the UK. We have no hesitation in highly recommending Adam for the award for 'best craftsmanship trainee'.

See the Heritage List entry for the Master's House, Ledbury

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Western Power St. Katherines Carpark Works - Closed Sunday 8th June

Although not directly connected with the Masters House project - Western Power on behalf of Herefordshire County Council will be undertaking the construction of new substation to replace the existing one which is currently located behind the 'Barn'. The new substation will be in the location of the existing bike racks within St. Katherines Carpark.

To faciliate these works the carpark will be completely closed on Sunday 8th June to allow alternative linemarking works to be undertaken - all vehicles must be removed by 7:30am. The existing disabled bays and bicycle racks will be relocated within the same carpark.

There will be ongoing excavation and construction works within the carpark undertaken directly by Western Power throughout June. We understand they will endevour to keep disruption to a minimum although there will be occassions when the footpath from the carpark into town and at the back of the Feathers Hotel may also be disrupted.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Masters House Tours as part of Ledbury Community Day 7th June 10am-2pm

The Masters House will be open for tours this coming Saturday 7th June as part of Ledbury Community day. This year over 60 local groups have signed up to put on a variety of events throughout the town. Last year was a great success and this year should be even better. For more details, programme and locations of venues visit the website

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Wattle & Daub Day

On Wednesday 21st May adults from the local community where invited to take part in a bit of history by assisting with the construction and restoration of new and existing Wattle & Daub panels within the building. 

Wattle and daub - is a composite building material  in which a woven lattice of wooden strips called wattle is daubed with a sticky material usually made of some combination of wet soil, clay (from just outside Ledbury) sand, animal dung (although this was omitted on the 2014 version!) and straw. Wattle and daub has been used for at least 6000 years and is still an important construction material in many parts of the world (1)


The children from Year 4 at Ledbury Primary School who had recently been studying the Tudors where also invited to tour the building to see what a building from that era really looks like and get dirty by helping to mix the Daub in the traditional methods by hand & foot knowing that they were helping to build something that hopefully would be there in another 500 years time. They then produced clay models which were dried in the sun and returned to the children at school.

The 'finished' article

File:Tacuinum Sanitatis-cabbage harvest.jpgMany historic buildings include wattle and daub construction, and the technique is becoming popular again in more developed areas as a low-impact sustainable building technique. Indeed the reconstructed panels at the Masters House made excellent use of those panels to badly degraded to mended by simply wetting and mixing them back up again to reuse the materials - 528 years after they were first installed! Recycling at its very best!

Thanks to Gary Butler and the rest of the team from Butler Hegarty Architects for their infectious enthusiam that made this an extremely enjoyable day and hopefully one that will stick in the memories of thoese involved for a very long time.


Saturday, 10 May 2014

SpellerMetcalfe team running for St. Michaels Hospice

Whilst this is not related to the Masters House project it is important so hopefully the followers of this blog will indulge me. In a moment of madness I have agreed to do Hereford Half Marathon tomorrow along with around 20 other people from SpellerMetcalfe.

In truth I'm not a fan of running and have done next to no training so it is going to be a painful experience if I do get round. Nevertheless it is for an extremely good cause - St Michaels Hospice 

If you live local to Ledbury/Hereford then the chances are you know somebody who has used St. Michaels and will know of the excellent service they provide. Indeed as unfortunately 1 in 3 people will get Cancer it could be you or I that need it so if you could spare a few quid to help the cause that would be great. We already have around £1000 pledged from our various subcontractors but if you would like to donate please do so by either letting me know personally or by giving at


Monday, 5 May 2014

Externals Exposed

Now the scaffolding has been removed a few people have asked for some shots of the outside - as it is still just about covered by the scaffolding.
South Elevation

East Elevation

Internally plastering works have commenced whilst externally construction of the new brickwork stores adjacent the 19th Century wing have begun.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Masters House Newsletter

The Masters House now has it's own Newsletter! the aptly named - 'Masters House News'.

Please click this link to download a copy of the Spring EditionThe newsletter has been compiled by Jessica Worlock who has been appointed as the new Heritage and volunteering coordinator for the Masters House project. Employed by HCC part time for the next 3 years and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund - Jessica will be offering the local community opportunities to get involved with the Master’s House project through volunteering, events and educational activities, and keeping you informed with newsletters, a webpage and  social media.

The first newsletter is a catch up of the history of the project and the recent 'topping out' and 'scaffold removal' but it also explains about the young men who have been inspired to become craftsmen of the future.

As part of the Master’s House restoration Speller Metcalfe have been able to offer some local young people a chance to be involved. Keiron  Smith and Adam Preece, students at John Masefield High School, have been gaining work experience onsite alongside mentors from the  Speller Metcalfe building team.

The yound men are studying a BTEC in Construction at Herefordshire and Ludlow College one day a week and then come to Master’s House one day each week to gain experience.
Keiron (pictured below left) first came to the Master’s House for a week of school work experience after a talk about careers at the school given by Matthew and Ed and has since come every week for six months.

Adam (pictured above right) showed dedication by  coming in every day of his half term holiday, he said the placement helped motivate him and gave him an idea of what life is like on a building site.

This level of commitment has not gone  unrewarded, both Adam and Keiron have been accepted to start full time places at the  college in September. Keiron said he now feels more motivated to achieve good results in
his Maths and English as he needs them for his college course.

Keiron and Adam’s college courses are being supported by Live and Learn, Herefordshire Council’s School Engagement Programme for 14-­16 year olds. The programme is funded by the European Social Fund.

In addition to the above placements SpellerMetcalfe has recently founded the Worcestershire Apprentice Academy. Following numerous work experience and apprenticeship placements with local education providers, Speller Metcalfe decided to form an independent charity aimed at encouraging Worcestershire school and college leavers into the construction trade. While career opportunities in the construction industry had dipped due to the recession, 2013 has seen positive changes and movement towards higher rates of employment and demand for trained, skilled professionals. Working together with Worcester College of Technology, the WCAA aims to increase the number of apprenticeship opportunities available locally, develop a highly skilled workforce, improve employer / apprenticeship links and boost job opportunities in Worcestershire.For those who employers who may be interested in supporting the scheme please e-mail or for parents/apprentices -

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Dinosaur that came to Town

'The Dinosaur that came to Town' is how the huge crane that came to site to remove the roof trusses that had carried the temporary roof for the last year was described by the Ledbury Reporter. (Click link for article)

Ledbury Reporter: GIANT: The crane on site

The roof trusses were removed quickly and the operation is remove the structure which had dwarfed the carpark and was clearly visible from many parts of the town was gone.

The scaffolding without its wrappings

A silhouetted roof truss at sunrise 

The remaining access scaffolding around the building was stripped over the course of the coming week and in half the time anticipated it was gone to reveal the which had been cocooned for so long.

The top end of the carpark is now open although as the structure was removed quicker than anticipated the blocks which have been weighing it down are still awaiting collection. They should be removed in the next couple of weeks.

Over the past few weeks the site has also been very busy with lots of visits from various organisations. The site entertained members of HAWCE (Herefordshire & Worcestershire Constructing Excellence) with Andy Tector formally Project Manager at Herefordshire County Council giving an introduction - followed by Ed whose passion and enthusiasm for old construction techniques was a delight to listen to. The evening was rounded off with sandwiches and few pints in the Prince of Wales.

Other visits both formal and informal take place on an almost daily basis and have included the ladies of Cradley WI, 20 members of the Worcestershire Society of Chartered Architects & the Friends of the Masters House.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Masters House Scaffold Removal

Having 'Topped Out' a couple of weeks ago we have now reached another key milestone in the project - the removal of the scaffolding and sheeting which has hidden the building from view and protected it from wettest winter ever recorded!

The massive temporary structure which was erected a year ago in late snow fall of 2013 has become a key feature of the Ledbury Townscape. Indeed a walk up into Dog Wood or down Bank Crescent reveals how it dwarfs the surrounding buildings.
Access Scaffolding being erected in March 2013
 Clearly such a large temporary structure has a cost. We have had 12 months from the 1st April 2013 to completely remove the roof, repair the timber frame and get the building back water tight. The cost implications on the onward hire of the scaffold being a key driving factor to meet end of March date.

The scaffold itself is comprised of literally thousand of tubes and beams is weighted down by over 5500 concrete blocks sat on 320 railway sleepers! The removal of the structure will take nearly as long as it took to erect as it has been taken down extremely carefully as not to damage the newly finished roof.
The roof being lifted in place
To facilitate this the top end of the St. Katherines carpark will be closed off for a couple of weeks commencing 7th April. This is to enable a crane to be sited to lift off all steel roof trusses and for these to be dismantled safely. We will endevour to undertake this as quickly as possible to minimise disruption to the town and car park users.
The roof trusses being constructed on the South End of St. Katherines Carpark
Whilst the overall the building is a fair way off being completed the building being water tight shifts the project into the finishing stages. Given the at times horrendous conditions the temporary roof has allowed the project to continue as planned and prevented damage to any of the historic timbers which was essential on such a prestigious and nationally important building.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Topping Out Ceremony at the Masters House

As the roof is virtually completed and the scaffolding ready to start being removed at the end of the month - the traditional 'Topping Out' ceremony took place on Tuesday.

Robert Waddington (Friends of the Masters House), Ed Mandrell (Site Manager - SpellerMetcalfe), Gary Butler (Butler Hegarty), Richard Ball (HCC)
Over 60 Locals, Friends of the Masters House, Local Councillors & HCC staff together with the architect Gary Butler, Site Manager Ed Mandrell, members of the SpellerMetcalfe team and a large number of subcontractors who have worked so hard on the project to-date to celebrated with a glass of champagne and a specially made cake.

Andy Tector and Mairead Lane from HCC cut the special cake created by Bryony from Butler Hegarty Architects

Ed had the honor of placing some local greenery on the chimney - a tradition that predates the original construction of the Masters House by some 700 years with earliest references dating from around 700 A.D., when Scandinavians topped off construction of new halls with sheathes of grain for Odin's horse, Slepnir with Odin, supposedly impressed with this consideration for his horse - and with the raucous good cheer of the crowd - bestowed good luck on the future occupants. The Vikings spread their customs across the portions of the European World that they raided and colonised. Topping-off, however, was modified by some tree-worshiping pagan tribes(1)

Repairs to the timber frame are completed and the internal plastering, mechanical, electrical and window repairs are well underway with completion of the internal builders works due in the Late Autumn.