I hear a conversation in the street outside my front door. George has been working on my front windows and numerous people had stopped to pass the time-of-day as they admire my scaffold-free front. There’s still lots to do of course but the outside is looking up and the door surrounds will add to that when they’re finished.
“Excuse me sir, is that your cottage? It’s quirky I really like it”, it’s the man from ESH, impeccably mannered and very friendly.
Greeting over The Years
Things have altered over the years with regard to courtesy and greeting. Today’s little exchanges would have been a little more formal in the 1750s when I was being built. There was a lot of action on that road. It was a time when there was a lot of activity in the harbour too. There’d be warehouses and boat builders along the dock. The harbour edge moved towards me then away from me again over the years and the road that is there now varied between narrow boarded walkaway to the wide thoroughfare that is current. In those days there would be horses and carts, horses and carriages, horses and riders and pedestrians. There’d also be handcarts and barrows employed to shift materials and goods from ship to warehouse and thence to traders who would put the goods for sale locally or arrange for their distribution in-land via horse and cart or more ships and boats. Everything was labour intensive and necessitated a protocol for greeting.
ESH and the Anti-Flood Contractors
In 1750 the man responsible for the polite exchange at the head of this update would probably have doffed his hat prior to initiating the conversation and remained bare headed throughout the engagement. How things have changed for the better. The workmen outside are politeness personified and engage without formality but with scrupulous manners. They are a credit to ESH, the contractors who’re digging the footpath to re-lay the services prior to the anti-flood measures being built. There’s a lot of noise and dust but the workmen explain their objectives and when there is a mention of painting my door there is an offer to start a little further down the road but George wouldn’t hear of it; however, the point is that these guys are the manifestation of a caring company and the image they project is exactly that. I like these guys; they’ve even made provision for us to get delivery vehicles in and for the next-door neighbour and his disabled son to get out at times throughout the day. They’re also quick to move barriers if they see George or Lee dropping stuff off. Well done ESH and your excellent staff, you get my vote.
Back to My Renovation
The boys have moved up a gear stripping the last of the concrete from my walls. There’s a fair amount of pointing necessary on my walls but my fireplace is now complete and reinforced. The holes for the rear windows have now been cut and the bricks have been set aside and cleaned for use in other parts of my interior.
The Window Tax
In the mid-1700s as I was built there would be great care taken over the number of windows that I was allowed to have. There was a window tax and it varied according to the number installed. It was meant to be levied only on people that had larger homes and, by inference, were deemed to be able to afford it. Income tax had been invented but not applied as it was deeply unpopular because it meant that people would have to disclose their income and that, at the time, was deemed to be too intrusive. From what my walls pick up from conversations and the wireless, the big earners still manage to hide what they earn, they just launder it and set it off-shore so nothing changes!
The Brick Tax
In 1784 George III imposed a brick tax to help pay for the wars in the American Colonies. Fortunately, the majority of my building had been completed but some of my bricks appear to be bigger than others and may well have been used for repair work during the period of its imposition. Later in the 1800s the rules were refined to stop the practice of creating larger bricks by doubling the tax on any brick bigger than 10” x 5” x 3” but not before some brick manufacturers had become quite creative by producing real beasties, in fact, Joseph Wilkes of Leicestershire was responsible for a particular size called “Wilkes’ Gobs”, whether you sympathise with these ‘creative’ ways of avoiding tax you must agree, it’s a great name!
Now I have Windows
Lee has been up to Jack Hallam’s to pick up my dormer windows and the two rear ones.
They’re excellent quality and weigh heavy. He’s been talking about how to get them up to my openings that have been carefully prepared when the dormers themselves were re-leaded and made watertight. My wooden, spiral staircase isn’t conducive to getting anything but humans between floors and after some deliberation, he’s come up with a cunning plan. The floors are temporary and only there for safety. I remember years ago when builders would dance about on my joists before laying the permanent flooring, that doesn’t happen any more and that’s a good thing. They’ve managed to re-roof me, re-dormer me, refurbish my joists, restore my walls, remove the damaging concrete, rewire me and add insulation all without mishap and that’s due to the temporary flooring that Lee laid many months ago. It’ll be going soon but in the meantime, the new windows will be lifted through a gap in the floor boards of what will be my kitchen then up between the joists to the top floor, ingenious eh?
Lee and the team have worked wonders today. The cunning plan was a complete success and not only did they manage to install my dormers, but they also managed the other two windows as well. Now there is light in my rooms my plasterer will be able to work his magic using specially prepared lime plaster that will not destroy my hand made bricks as the concrete did over the years. Apparently, it can be tricky to use but I have every confidence he’ll deliver the goods. In fact in all of these wonderful tradesmen have treated me with respect, incredible skill and, most importantly, care.
View From The Middle Floor Front
View From the Dormer Top-Floor Back
George has got rid of the Jag and bought an old X-Trail so that he can carry stuff to aid my restoration, he’s been busy burning old paint off and I’ve managed to surprise him with evidence of seven layers of paint on one of my windows.
Numerous people have stopped and passed the time of day with him and all, without exception, have wished him luck with my completion, I’m pleased with that; the love of the people of Whitby and beyond is reassuring and I look forward to you on some open days to let you see what’s been done, George will keep you informed.
There’s a bit to go but I think I’m beginning to look good!
Flooring is next…I’ll let you know.
With love from The Little Yellow Cottage…x
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