THE ASSEMBLY ROOMS

Refurbishment of the Rooms - continued

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In order to repair the frame it was necessary to remove much of the plaster covering the walls. The framing in The Hewitt HallThis allowed a comprehensive analysis of the existing framework, particularly around the north front. It became apparent that the building originally had an open portico supported on four circular wooden columns in the positions now occupied by the rendered pilasters. The portico was enclosed at the beginning of the 19th century to form two small service rooms, each with a fireplace. The individual staves of the columnsCeiling Joists were reused as ceiling joists and still exist in the ceiling of the cloakroom and disabled toilet. The main entrance was where the new glazed draught lobby doors are sited and stairs to the balcony were in the corner of the new cloakroom. These stairs must have been very narrow to fit in the space but as none of the parts have survived, the form can only be guessed.

The Roof StructureThe roof structure is also an unusual form based on a braced collar truss with cambered collars and arch braces designed to accommodate an arched plaster ceiling. Unfortunately, a combination of a shallow pitch and notching the roof structure to accommodate the ceiling weakened the roof trusses and early in the building's history the roof structure began to spread. Fragments of plaster in the roof space show that the roof truss had sagged at the least 400mm., at which point the ceiling had to be re-plastered. It is thought that the iron ties were added to the roof at this time. The builders seem to have been aware that the trusses were vulnerable to spreading and had Wall Bracesattempted to counter this by introducing large diagonal braces topped with ornate corbel brackets in the side rooms. Unfortunately they omitted to tie the soleplates of the braces to the soleplates of the main hall and as the main hall walls bowed they pushed the soleplates of the side rooms up and out. These braces still exist and are located within the south wall of the Mallett room and the north wall of the Reading room.

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