Wednesday 28 December 2016

Old Map Revelations

I have been looking through historic maps of the local area as a possible starting point for a large scale plan of Balintore Castle's gate lodges. A plan of 500:1 or less is required for listed building consent for restoration works on the lodges. Anyhow, the Ordnance Survey 25-inches-to-a-mile maps on the National Library of Scotland's web site seem to provide enough detail for my needs.

In the survey of 1862 the castle is there but the gate lodges are not. This is the first evidence I have had of the gate lodges being later than the official completion date (1860) of the castle. In the survey of 1900 the gate lodges, as expected, are present. 

The most interesting revelation concerns the triangular kitchen structure attached to the side of the eastern gate house, clearly seen in the 1900 map. In the 1862 map there is a pre-existing building in this location. From the angles involved, there seems to be a strong possibility that the gate lodge kitchen is part of the old structure, whereas I had always assumed it was contemporaneous with the gate lodge itself.

1862 - no gate lodges but note pre-existing building on site of east lodge

1900 - gate lodges present with triangular structure attached to east lodge

Between 1862 and 1900 there are also considerable changes in the area of the castle. Most noteworthy is the doubling in width of what are now the castle's stables. And indeed, an inspection of this building several years ago revealed some internal windows that had clearly once been external. The structure was labelled "Offices" in the 1862 map and may well have been the site offices for the construction of the castle. The maps below corroborate this change.

1862 - castle

1900 - castle, note stables have doubled in width

It's amazing how much I have learned about the history of the site in simply trying to draw a plan. :-)

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Merry Christmas 2016

2016 has definitely been a year of “pushing” at Balintore Castle. I took a large part of this year off work to try to get the kitchen wing up-and-running as a holiday let. It will be no surprise to readers of the blog that the holiday let is not yet complete for experience shows us that timescales of a restoration are enough of a moving target that one never actually makes plans in the first place. All one can hope for is “good progress”, and this certainly has been made with kitchen wing. The custom windows and doors are now in - well barring one door which is running late! There has been much plastering, painting, wiring and plumbing. These and other finishing touches are what take the time, and one seems to be forever hovering at the 90% done stage.

The turning point will be the screeding of the kitchen wing floor, but the plumbing needs to be fully in place as this is a “one shot” operation. I hope the plumbing will be completed and the screeding done very early in the new year.

Overall, I really enjoyed working on the castle over the summer with Andy my roofer, Gregor my carpenter and of course assorted other workmen and volunteers. Andy decided to move on after an amazing run of 7 years. He has my gratitude and best wishes for the future. It was sad to see him go, and I hope he would still like to come back and do the odd bit of work on the roof when required.

My Dutch friends came over a couple of times during the summer. They worked hard and moved things forward, and it was great to see the castle humming with life and activity. I even had family members come and visit me at the castle and this made me really happy. My sister has wittily said that we don’t have a family tree but a family “twig” as many people have died off, and there have been few children for some generations. So all relatives even distant ones are hugely valued.

This summer has been brilliant in Angus with sunshine and warmth and this miraculously continued through autumn - a gift for the restoration. It was definitely chillier in November, but we had long spells of clear bright days that kept morale high.

It was only really in December that the cold weather struck. I recall going down to the kitchen about 8PM for some evening painting. However, the pain in my hands from the cold was so extreme that I had to give up, and my friends will tell you that I am someone who never gives up. This was a sign that perhaps I should really be earning restoration money in a warm office. We’ll see what the New Year brings.

I would like to wish you all Merry Christmas, and all the best for 2017. I must offer my huge thanks to everyone who has lent their support: by following the blog, helping directly at the castle or simply by being a friend!


P.S. I normally manage to grab a shot of the castle in snow for my Christmas missive. However, the lack of snow this year has thwarted this. Instead I thought this beautiful seasonally wreathed door in my village down south would suffice. With doors having been on the agenda this year at the castle, I have become obsessed with getting the door furniture correct for 1860, we are talking knobs, hinges, letter-boxes and escutcheons! Speaking of escutcheons I shall have to call round at No.9 and offer the occupant one of my spares. :-)

lovely seasonal door at No. 9