We have finally had a sufficient gap in bookings to allow us to tackle the fire in the Main Hall. We know that the fire bricks were all broken and loose and that bit of masonry had been know to come down the chimney when it was cleaned, so we decided to pull it all out to see what the situation was really like. I had always suspected that the fireplace was not original, but I was rather surprised to find evidence of 3 generations of open fire, and then a much larger arched top opening. Oddly as well is the fact that this fireplace opening is offset to the current fire surround. You can just make out on the picture below that the brickwork on the very left was added after the main chimney breast was built. I can only assume that there was a change in the plans as Hargate Hall was being built.

Once all the old fire bricks were removed examined the flue and decided that the best thing was to get it lined, which was duly done. The next step was to fit the new stove. We had decided on a semi-automatic wood pellet stove. We can set a desired room temperature, programme in the hours of operation and it does the rest – well we still have to add more pellets each day and clear the ash out every so often.

Once the stove was in place we had to have a good clean up – soot and brick dust do make a bit of a mess! Since apparently we are no longer allowed to send children up the chimney to clean it, we got our youngest to help with the cleaning at ground level.

We then had to fill in what we had taken out to make everything look symmetrical again. We did this with fire board, but have done it in such a way that it is all removal quite easily.

The next step was where things got more difficult. Choosing the tiles to use. We ended up going round several tile shops one Saturday afternoon and only in 1 shop did we find anything that we really liked. Armed with the reference number of our chosen tile we went to the checkout. Sadly we were then told that they were special order only and could take 2 weeks to arrive. As usual we needed them by the next day as we had a group coming in the day after that. We decided that the only way forward was to buy some plain white tiles and some blue acrylic paint and do them ourselves. Again this was a task that sounded much easier than it was in reality. One of our friends who has been helping us with the fireplace (and many other jobs over the last few years) thought he may have some old tiles lying around. He did and they were perfect.

We then got the local metal fabricators to weld up some iron work to frame and edge the tiles. This was then fitted to the fire board and then we tiled. The last job was to spray the metal edging black, and then we could sit back and relax and admire a job well done.