When we first stripped back the plaster from the front of the kitchen chimney breast, we had no idea what to expect...this is what we found....a very large fireplace which had been filled in with blocks and bricks, and the original wooden beam was mostly missing. A small piece on the right hand side was all that was left of the beam.
The story goes that this beam caught fire one night while the family slept, and all of the ash was just sucked up the chimney, and when the family came down in the morning, there it was, gone! That was at about 60 years ago! Thank goodness there was no more harm done, it scares me to even think of what could have happened!
When our stonemason finally came to work on this, after all of the major external work that needed seeing to was finished, it became pretty clear that the old bricks were not in any condition to stay, years of concrete plaster on the outside, and heat from the inside had taken it's toll, they were just dust. Also the chinmey had to be rebuilt, so the face was mostly dismantled, and we have followed as closely as possible the shape of the old chimney and fireplace, using lime mortar and old clay brick.
We also sourced a large piece of oak, which grew in a curve, it is not just cut this shape, this is supposed to give it extra strength, like an arch. Time will tell!
We opened the fireplace back as far as we could, but there is another back to it, further in, this false back was put in with concrete, so at least 1920, maybe? We couldn't really go back further, because there is too much above it, resting on it. There is a fireplace over this one, in the floor above.
All of this brick is to be plastered again, with lime plaster, but the oak beam has been left proud, in order to leave it showing, and not plaster over it. The two ends need trimming back a bit though.
The plan is that we will put our wood burning Rayburn range cooker in this space, and probably another oven and hob for the summer months when the range is not lit. The kitchen is so tiny, that this space will work really, really hard. The area to the left will either house my fridge, or will be a big storage cupboard.
This is of course not finished, the top still needs to be built up above the beam, but so far we are loving the shape of it all.