R0000235.jpg The inimitable Stephen Bull. The house next door was Charlie Chaplin's birthplace.

Stephen repairs, restores and revivifies old buildings, especially Georgian houses, using traditional materials and methods. Close grain larch, lime plaster with horsehair mixed in, shallow dense flat bricks, he gathers what he can from the buildings themselves, and scrupulously sources what he can't.

Stephen trained and worked as a graphic designer - we were working for the same company, publisher Mitchell Beazley, just a year or two apart. But his love of fastidiousness gradually found another outlet. I visited his latest restoration in Kennington.


R0000240.jpg Minerva. Original. Stephen borrowed the dots ringing her for the cornice design.

R0000241.jpg Subsidence is so severe, they have had to 'drop' the floor by 20cms.

R0000242.jpg You can the tilt in the stairs, corrected in the floor above.

R0000252.jpg The tilt of the house showing in the structural beams.

R0000253.jpg A clever exercise using a single length of pole (instead of expensive lasers) to measure the extent of tilt in the beams. Each piece of paper drops to exactly the same level.

R0000254.jpg The entire house rests on this half-brick. But it has for about 200 years...

R0000256.jpg Lovely wooden shutters. The men who did the woodwork on houses in the eighteenth century were often the same men building boats.

R0000257.jpg The reconstituted coving or cornice (to give it its classical name) has been cast on site.

R0000262.jpg Stephen showing how he designed the cornice from acanthus leaves, with a Prince of Wales feather at every end ... in reference to the palace of one of the Prince's of Wales only metres away.

R0000263.jpg Wooden cornice on top of the "dado", the lower level wooden panelling.

R0000264.jpg Dado. Floorboard carefully cut to same width as originals, in Siberian pine, to match the fine grain of eighteenth century pine ... the weather was far colder in the 1700s and trees grow more slowly in cold conditions with tighter rings, makes for stronger wood.


R0000266.jpg Original wallpaper. Sourced from a scrap. Being reprinted. (Too busy for my liking.)

R0000268.jpg Highly decorative cornice plus wallpaper.

R0000269.jpg Original fireplace bought on Ebay.


R0000273.jpg Verdant gardens, full of palms, roses, bay trees.

R0000275.jpg Investigating the consistency of the lime plaster.


R0000279.jpg Unlovely Kennington Road.

R0000280.jpg Georgian bricks. Far flatter and denser than "London bricks". (That is how one half of one can hold up an entire house!)


R0000283.jpg Stephen, some kind of self-made historian, architect, builder, house physician, shaman.

R0000284.jpg Original paint colours. (Yuk.)

R0000285.jpg Light streams in. Giant windows everywhere, far brighter than a modern house.




R0000297.jpg The house in question.

Quentin Newark
Sneezing lime plaster dust.