• christian2765

Towards the end of the summer we were graced by the presence of the 2021 S.P.A.B Scholars and Fellows. Now, if you have not heard of SPAB before we shall go into a little bit more detail below, but these band of merry travellers tried their hand at stone carving, timber repairs, pointing and assessing the historic fabric of the building.

The SPAB Scholars are made up of Architects/Engineers/Surveyors while the Fellows come from a hands on background, this year being 3 carpenters. The program see's them travel the country for 9 months of the year, visiting some of the most important heritage and conservation projects running in the country at the time. Giving them the chance to see the best projects, meet the best craftspeople, get hands on, learning the necessary skills to further develop their understanding of historic buildings.

Christian (Montez Architecture), having been a scholar himself in 2019 thought it would be a great opportunity to bring the team to Orleton Manor, where we are undertaking a wide range of repairs to all aspects of the building. Repairs to timber frame building is something that is seldom understood, especially in the conservation capacity and how new materials interact with historic.

Having spent several days at Orleton Manor, the scholars familiarised themselves with the cutting of a stud repair joint, understanding the difference between a green piece of oak and one that had been seasoned many years. With a little bit of help from their carpenter colleagues and the carpenters on site, they managed to complete the task from a set of drawings, setting out the joint and cutting it by hand. We thought the use of hand tools rather then power would be more of a challenge and give a better understanding of the material that they were using. A great first attempt we can all agree!

Whilst the scholars were busy trying their hand at timber framing, the fellows under the instruction of Chris Lawrence were busy learning about hot mix pointing and having a go at stone carving. There are some transferable skills between timber and stone, but a very different medium, Tom and Toby completed some great work carving a Yorkshire Rose.

But who are SPAB? Well if you have not heard of them, they are The Society for the Protection of Ancient buildings, both a charity and statutory consultee in terms of historic buildings, who were set up by William Morris and other members of the arts and crafts movement in 1877. Their ultimate goal is to protect the nations historic buildings, through education, lobbying, hands on training and the scholarship/fellowship. They provide excellent technical advice which can be accessed though the website as well as on the phone through the technical advice line and of course they provide the excellent Fellowship and Scholarships.

If the sound of travelling for 9 months (paid), looking at and staying in the greatest historic buildings across the country, as well as meeting the leading craftspeople/architects/engineers/surveyors, the programme is run annually and open to building professionals and craftspeople. It truly is worth an application should you have the time and interest you can follow the journeys of this years scholars and fellows on Instagram at;

  • orletonmanor

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

Jake of Oakley Frame Buildings has been working incredibly hard with the team of carpenters at Orleton on this fantastic repair which not only ties the corner post back in , but extends the kitchen wing wallplate into the hall tie beam, giving much needed rigidity back to the failing structure. Originally at this point the post top, wallplate and tie beam end had all succumbed to rot due to a failing roof valley and poor historic detailing, this genius solution solved all three problems.

A few words from Jake

"An interesting detail, the tie beam scarf repair has dovetailed tenons to help take tension in the tie beam.The tie beam repair then dog legs and reduces in section size to form a new section of wallplate.

This new wallplate picks up the next truss tie beam of the kitchen wing, with a half dovetailed lap joint and again dog legs to line through to the next run of wallplate.

Certainly not a repair you see everyday!"

These works form part of a wider scheme of repairs which will cumulate with the lifting of the roof in the next couple of weeks to allow for a temporary roof ready for winter and repairs to the trusses and wallplates to go ahead.

I'm sure you will agree it's both a fine example of both craftsmanship and engineering and a testament to the quality team which we have working at Orleton Manor!

  • christian2765

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

It is difficult to understand a project without getting your bearings around the building in question first. Outsiders, be it consultants, craftspeople or interested third-parties, need some assistance in understanding the relationship the building has with itself.

Orleton Manor has had a number of different extensions and alterations but the core of the house is its early seventeenth century hall range, with projecting east and west ranges. The close-studded timber frame and the size of the building indicate it was of high status. Its framing is not as simple as it could be and is quite different to many other buildings of this style and period in the local area.



The Hall Range

The Hall Range (A on the plan) runs the length of the front elevation of the house. The ground floor appears to have been one large open room, based upon its carved chamber beams, with a screens passage (a close studded wall with a central doorway) running north-south at the centre of the hall.

In the mid seventeenth century, the porch with gable end was added with a room above. The addition of this new opening shifted the screens passage creating a new service room separate from the main hall.

Also on the north elevation is a two-storey bay window. This was previously a first-floor oriel window resting upon decorative brackets forming another porch entranceway below but this has since been blocked up to expand internal floorspace.

The hall has an indent on either end of the rear elevation to accommodate the two wing ranges, which suggests that it was all built at a similar time. However, as expected when working with old structures, nothing quite lines up or is symmetrical – the framing pattern of the trusses in the Hall Range into the East Range do not mirror those from Hall Range into West Range. This might well suggest that the Hall Range and the East Range were built as an L shape but it is very hard to definitively tell.


The East and West Ranges

The East (C) and West (B) Ranges run off of the Hall Range. Both ranges have had their gable ends extended to the south. The West Range was a service wing as told by its large utilitarian fireplace and bread oven. The East Range was built as a solar, the private living and sleeping quarters of the family. As a result of its higher status, the East Range contains a panelled drawing room on the ground floor and a state bedroom on the first floor complete with decorative fireplace and panelling. In the late nineteenth century the state bedroom had its original truss removed and replaced with a scissor truss. This allowed the room to be barrel vaulted as it is found today.


Due to the layout of the house and evidence of mortices on the corner posts of the East and West Ranges, it is suggested that Orleton Manor may have once been quadrangular on plan. The South Range, if ever constructed, could have occupied the area shown by the black line in the plan forming a quadrangle. Croft Castle and Ightham Mote are examples of historic buildings on a square plan.


The Additions

There are a number of additions to the historic core of the building which show its evolution over time.

Major remodelling works were undertaken during the late Georgian era, at which point sash windows and swathes of panelling were added, but also included the construction of a new stair-tower (D). There was likely a stair-tower here previously and directly opposite at the intersection of the Hall and the West Ranges, as the frame tells us that there was once a doorway at first-floor.

The largest addition to the historic floorplan of Orleton Manor was added in the twenty-first century. Unfortunately lean-to rubble stone outbuildings, including a game larder, which occupied two thirds of the length of the western elevation were demolished and replaced with a large extension dubbed the ‘Sun Room’ complete with porch and boot room, directly connected to the West Range. This extension was built without satisfying planning conditions and without listed building consent. The owners are looking to rectify this planning faux pas retrospectively and make the extension less visually at odds with the appearance of the main house.