Historic building’s facelift in keeping with past

A SIX-week restoration project to the exterior of one of Suffolk’s most historic buildings has started this week.

The National Trust will use traditional East Anglian techniques when it gives Lavenham’s timber-framed Guildhall a fresh lime coating to protect the building from the elements.

Many visitors to the historic village will be surprised to see the timber frames painted white but as Jane Gosling, of the trust, explained, this is how they were traditionally designed to look.

She said: “The wooden frame of the Guildhall was designed to be seen when it was built, and the oak would have naturally weathered to a lovely silvery, grey colour.

“The practice of painting timbers black only became popular as a Victorian fashion but this has influenced the way timber-framed buildings have looked ever since.

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“Unfortunately, this technique of painting the timbers prevents the wood from breathing and can cause it to rot.”

The trust is working with Cubitt Theobald, from Long Melford, to give the Guidhall its once-every-five-years makeover, using a lime wash made from putty and water which acts as a preservative on the wood.

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The work will be carried out in stages, including restoration work to the roof and chimneys, to avoid covering the entire building with scaffolding.

Dan Thomas, the trust’s building surveyor in charge of the project, said the work would begin by brushing away any excess lime and making repairs.

“It is dirty work cleaning off previous layers of lime ready for a new coat, but as any decorator knows, the preparation is almost the most important part of the job,” he said.

The Guildhall will remain open from 11am to 5pm every day while the work is carried out.

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