Knock Old Castle – Scotland
Knock Old Castle, A Project Manager’s Tale
If you are new to the blog and didn’t see our last post written by Andrew Rankin about the reconstruction of Knock Old Castle, a wonderful holiday destination on the west coast, you should definitely read it first to get the full picture! We love the tale of how it was transformed into the magical castle that it is today which is why we are sharing another chapter today.
Andrew Rankin, the project manager, continues the story today…
Prologue: We recently entered the restoration of Knock Old Castle into two competitions; The Sunday Times – British Homes Awards – Restoration of the Year – we did not win but we were one of 4 shortlisted finalists and the only project chosen from north of the border. We also entered The Herald Property Awards and were delighted to win The Judges Outstanding Project of The Year! A great accolade for the entire team.
back to the project……
Once we completed the external repointing and stone repair we moved on to the roofs, windows and doors to make the building wind and weather tight.
We had built a scaffold internally the full height of the stone Keep. This was used to build the roof and then to repoint the masonry internally and make the window openings good to allow the new windows to fit the ancient openings.
The scaffold was then dropped and as it came down we inserted the floors to create the bedroom spaces.
We even found old blocked up windows and opened these to create more natural light. Robert and his joinery team installed the structural steel to the roof and then rebuilt rafters and joists to hold traditional sarking.
Tom Baillie and his team of roofers sourced second hand Scott’s slate and laid them to diminishing courses on top of breathable membrane.
Mark and the stonemasons cut blocks of St Bees red sandstone into ridge capping stones and Tom laid the extensive lead work to soakers, ridges, flashings and cappings. The main roof was the easy one! if you look up and behind the main spiral staircase tower you may see a slated curved wall and roof.
This structure is the link from the main spiral into the garret bedroom in the apex of the roof. The geometry of the timber structure was worked out and constructed by David Middlesworth, Robert’s co-director of Crown Traditional Craftsmen and slated by Tom. It does look great inside and out. We also had three conical tower roofs to build; The main spiral stair roof, the east spiral stair roof and the barmkin turret roof.
These were formed using conical steel and timber structures covered in sarking board that was wrapped around in two layers, not easy to keep a regular shape to allow Tom to slate the roofs in diminishing courses and capped them with oak balls wrapped in lead and a weather vane in the silhouette of the castle complete with Tinkey-Winkey pointing into the wind.
The main stair tower roof was made into a 360-degree viewing room with glazing wrapped around for a full view of the surrounds. Real ships’ portholes with stainless steel shafts allow ventilation in the height of summer.
A perfect place for a sundowner or a game of cards or just sitting quietly reading, below the constellation lit ceiling.
Mark and the masonry team had to open up a large slot in the east gable of the original Keep to create the openings for access from the Keep entrance hall to the kitchen and access from the drawing room to the first-floor bedroom. A complicated aspect which required many structural elements to keep walls connected. We were really pleased to find salvaged stone steps to lay from the entrance hall to the new kitchen and Mark worked his magic to make these, look like they had always been there.
The area for the new extension was overgrown and full of soil and detritus. As this might have been of archaeological interest, Rathmell Archaeology were on site throughout the process to look out for and record anything that might have been important. Only a small corner of the random rubble original floor and two stone steps of the east spiral stair remained and we were given permission to bring in the large quantity of concrete required to fill from the rock head to the underside of the floor insulation zone. While roofs were being constructed work began on the East wing that would contain the Dining / Kitchen, Cloakroom, new east spiral stair and first floor drawing room complete with balcony. Once the structural concrete floor was laid it was time to call in the green oak structural frame team from Carpenter Oak and Woodland.
The frame was constructed in their workshop and then taken apart again for transport to site. The frame arrived on two lorries along with a large crane. Four men and two days later and the frame was constructed using only mortise and tenon joints and oak pegs.
Fantastic to see the skills involved and great to have Bruce & Nicky there to hit some pegs home and for the topping out ceremony.
Robert and his team then went about creating the timber kit outside the oak frame, complete with window and door openings and installing the floor boards to the first-floor area. As part of the Oak delivery we had arranged for solid oak treads to be made to create the new east spiral stair.
Robert, David and the team had to insert timber framework to create the new tower which appears through the ruinated masonry of the original tower and then fix a steel pole to thread the solid oak treads to create the new stair. Not something that any of us had tried to do before but it is a triumph of ingenuity!
The entire east wing extension roof was constructed to hold a Sarna green roof system complete with insulation, waterproof membrane, irrigation mats and a Sedum matting. Not forgetting the Ewe and her three lambs who top off the roof. The first floor sitting room was then fitted out with large glazed screens to the East and South bringing in light and views over to Arran and the Clyde Estuary.
To the North we installed a cantilevered glass box to look down into the gorge and the burn below. The glazed box window allows you to stand within the thickness of the original stone walls of the castle to view the scene below.
With the addition of central heating and a log burning stove, the sitting room is a cosy and welcoming space to relax in and watch TV or sit and look out at the view of the garden and sea beyond, a balcony can be accessed through sliding glazed doors, the balcony projects on Green Oak and a toughened glass balustrade gives uninterrupted views.
The ground floor entrance hall has underfloor heating below an oak floor. The walls are plastered on the hard and painted, with one wall still showing the uncovered red sandstone with the large foundation stones showing in the room. Window ingoes were left uncovered and again the red sandstone has been carefully cleaned and pointed to maximise its effect. A wood burning stove makes this another cosy, quiet retreat with a mural painted ceiling and exposed oak beams.
All doors, facings, extension ceilings, beds, window seats and skirtings were made from storm fallen oak, elm or ewe. We gathered the timber and milled it on site, it was stored and then sent to a kiln for drying before it could be used. Marti Bespoke also built the ceiling panels within the new East extension from our milled oak. This had to be specially treated to conform to fire regulations which made life interesting for a while. The new front door was made from fallen oak from the grounds by Marti and he spent many an hour perfecting the design and crafting all the doors both internal and external from timber originally growing no more than 500 yards from the castle.
Mark constructed the door opening in new sandstone, he built the retaining walls and steps leading down to the new front door using sandstone from around the grounds and Caithness slab gathered from the immediate area.
Mark Campbell was the lead stonemason throughout the restoration. He and his team raked out all the mortar joints over the entire external and internal areas of the castle walls and then repointed with lime mortar. Mark replaced worn out masonry around the walls and installed window cills, lintels and in-goes along with many door reveals and both piends including the new doo cot.
However, Mark’s piece de resistance was the carving of stone into many interesting and unique features. We first realised Mark’s talent when he carved a replacement lion rampant for the Walkers’ front door steps after it had been hit by falling masonry during a storm, the lion is a work of art! He created all the gargoyles along the barmkin wall, Woffle and Ripper immortalised in stone along with an owl, Roe stag, horse and goat.
These were carved into the insitu corbel of the wall holding up the parapet. One false move and there could have been a collapse! He also carved the Recombooberation stone which caused him many sleepless nights in case his chisel slipped and he would have to start again. He also carved all the lettering above the main door and the Walkers’ initial stone. Almost his hardest carving was the coat of arms, not easy carving a Bee on top of a thistle all made harder when we chose a piece of red sandstone that had been lying around the site, it was full of small pebbles as it must have been quarried from the shoreline. This made carving really difficult for Mark but all worth it in the end.
While on the interiors Robert Turner, David Middlesworth, Davy and Adam all worked on the fit out. They built the structural roof and floors. David had a difficult time constructing the little curved link corridor between the main spiral stair and the garret bedroom. No drawing was good enough to represent the 3D design required which he carried out mostly in his head! Robert framed walls, shower and WC partitions, built window seats, beds, window and door facings in oak and elm. He fitted the ground floor timber floor and the kitchen and made mirrors, shelves and toilet roll holders, covers to hide pipes and mounted the mural ceiling, clad the viewpoint turret and made the fantastic fitted seat, lay new treads to the spiral stair and the ladder and banister to the viewpoint, amongst many other things ably assisted by David, Davy and Adam.
Along the barmkin wall you will see a small turret. This was originally used as a toilet but we had other ideas. We sourced an infra-red sauna from a local company – Inca, and the hemlock and aspen timber was procured and Robert formed the domed ceiling, David built the framework and fitted the wall cladding and seat. Adam then painstakingly installed the glass mosaic to the domed ceiling piece by piece! It was then lit and energised by Maxwell electrical, William and Mark also fitted a remote control that allows the sauna to be turned on within the castle so that you can obey the stained-glass instruction on the barmkin wall door and “Bare All” before running the wall into the warmth of the turret.
Adam became an integral member of the team, all the way from Poland, with many talents he plastered all the internal walls & ceilings. Including the plastered “on the hard” effects to make walls look like stone plastered and painted. He was the master of stone mastic and putty applications and the maker of paths around the castle and grounds.
Davy Pryde part of Robert and David’s team, took on the task of painting walls and ceilings, staining and oiling oak and elm facings and stairs and probably knows every inch of the castle, well done Davey! Maxwell Electrical fitted the extensive lighting and controls system throughout the castle to a design drawn up between Bruce, myself and Ruth Lindsay from Cotterells of Glasgow. The lighting produced creates atmosphere and is a must see at night when the castle is subtly lit externally.
Many others have been involved in the restoration –
William Fleming & Les Dean – Fleming Masonry Contractors
Andy Small – Plumbing
Stewart Curtis – CHES, Under floor heating, radiators and plumbing
David Osborne – Celsius Plumbing and Heating, fitting Thomas Crapper toilets and showers.
Hugh Wallace – Glendevon Energy biomass boiler room and plant room
Colin Stephenson – Stephenson stained glass
Peter Dykes – Baytree Interiors, carpets laid by Stephen Haveron
Peter Silk – Curtains and blinds
A&E Landscaping – Alan Cook, turfing laid to lawns, septic tank and soakaway and general landscaping.
A Dick & sons – Driveway surfacing
Carpenter Oak & Woodland – Green Oak Structural Frame
Grey & Dick – Glazed catilevered box
Forsyth Glazing – shower screens, shower doors and balcony glazing.
The Forge – Paul Salvadorie, blacksmith – weather vane and steel for ladder to view point.
A few good men…….
Awards and Recognition….
A warm thanks to Andrew Rankin for writing with us today and for giving us such a detailed insight into the ‘recombooberation’ of this castle. If you are interested to book the castle make sure you check it out on our website. If you have any questions you know you can always call us on 01738 451 610.
We hope you enjoyed this post, let us know what you think in the comments section below!