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Peter Madeley – when the roof fell down

Peter Madeley

Peter was a senior surveyor for Wiltshire County Council from 1974 until he retired in 2010. His role involved major and minor repairs to Council owned property including many schools, police buildings and the Assize Court.

Court ceiling falls down

So, the caretaker would often call me in if he had a problem, but I remember one project in particular – he came in one morning and found a large chunk of one of the court room ceilings had fallen, completely collapsed – we decided in the end to take the whole ceiling down. And I think one of the things that struck me was how dirty the building was, and I think it was because the building came through the period of coal fires and in a town that would have been lots of coal fires and all of that dirt would have gone into the roof space and came down on top of the ceiling. But it was an old lath and plaster ceiling, very much the form of construction in those days and the plaster was very thick, it must have been about an inch and a half thick, and it was built up in usually three or more layers. And the first coat was called the pricking coat and the plaster was pushed through the laths and formed little hooks and I think what had happened there had been a roof leak and when the plaster had dried out the hooks disintegrated and just left the plaster to collapse on the floor. We had to scaffold the whole court room which is, they are enormous spaces, and they took the whole ceiling down and put it back again in modern construction. Which was in those days, we were not quite so conservation minded. I think if were doing that job today we would probably try and put it back to the original construction.

Recorded with Linda Redden, Bath Spa University.

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