A Salvaged Door Knocker

On our street about half of the houses have their original solid wood 4 panel doors with face motif door knockers. The other half have what I recently learnt are called ‘Carolina doors‘ with six panels and an arched window. (You can see the two different doors here when I posted a photo of our holiday wreath). I can only assume that when all of the houses were owned by the one landlord, he decided at some stage to replace all of the more damaged doors on the street with a job lot of these Carolina doors.

In any case, it is our eventual plan to replace the front door with something like the original ones… so I’ve been keeping my eye open for both a wood door with the same profile, and a cast iron knocker that would be true to the original (shown in the image of the green door).

At our summer street party last year, one of my neighbours told me that the face on the knocker was the Roman god Mercury and that she found one on ebay for her front door as they tend to come up for sale from time to time. A six month long ebay watch later,  and two eventually came up for sale!  One was fully refurbished and selling for £70, and one for £35 which needed cleaning up. Well, as you all know by now, I like both a deal and a project, so I bought the one needing a clean up.

And a few more historical notes about our door knocker:

  • The ebay listing noted that this particular knocker is listed in the Kendrick Catalogue of 1876: Decorative Household Metalware – which is right around when our house was built.
  • Mercury is the god ‘of shopkeepers and merchants, travellers and transporters of goods, and thieves and tricksters‘ according to Encyclopaedia Brittanica.
  • Mercury is often portrayed wearing winged sandals, or in the case of our door knocker, a winged hat.



When fences come down…

…People start to talk to each other more…

Last week the fence between our two properties came down and works started on our neighbour’s side extension… and we’ve certainly been talking with them a lot more than we used to!  We originally wanted to build our side extensions at the same time to make a bit of a cost saving (approximately 10-15% apparently), and also to minimise disruption to each other, but we aren’t quite ready to undertake Phase 5: The Side Extension this year.

We have however designed our shared party wall together with a few additional features, (that we are paying for now) so that it suits our purposes later. Little extras that we have included now are:

  • The addition of a concrete footing for our future steel post to sit on.
  • The creation of a notch in the wall for the column mentioned above so it can sit neatly within the wall depth rather than project out of it.
  • Construction of the party wall to its full length now. (Our neighbour’s extension is the permitted development 6.0m long, whereas ours is the full 7.0m). This will minimise the risk of differential settlement and cracking in the wall if the sections were built at different times.
  • Increasing the depth of the foundation by an extra 300mm so that it suits our lowered floor level. (Our neighbours are not dropping their floor level, we are doing this so that we can get a tiny WC under the staircase that works for Alex who is 6′-4″)

Even though its just a small part of Phase 5 – its exciting to be in the middle of a construction site again and see things progress.  These photo show the approx 1m deep excavation along the boundary where the concrete foundation will go.



A serious spring hair cut

As you can see from the above before and after photos, our cedar tree has now been quite dramatically pruned! They took off a little more than I was expecting, but apparently these trees grow 12-18″ a year – so it will become a little more conical again over the course of the year. It took me a day to get used to our tree’s new shape as it was such a big change, but I’m growing to like it. It seems at least more in scale with the rest of the garden, and the gardener did a tidy job.

You will notice that the wonky half dead cedar at the back wall has also been removed…

Now we just need to wait for spring for the gaps to grow in, and so I can think about what to do next… Hmmm…


A snowy walk through Ruskin Park

I couldn’t obviously resist the opportunity to take a walk last week, (and some photos!) of the snow covered Ruskin Park sparkling in the sunshine….

What plants look like covered in snow is not something we really need to think about when planning a garden in London as it so rarely happens. However,  if I lived in a colder climate I’d certainly consider planting some grasses and palms so that they can grab onto little tufts of snow and create these wonderful patterns.




Cedar Tree Care

You may remember that last spring we lifted the base of our large cedar tree to free up some space in the flower beds beneath it (tree 1 above), and to stop it overhanging our lawn so closely.  We also freed the slightly wonky cedar tree at the end of our garden (tree 5 above) from some overly enthusiastic vines.

This year we are planning some more significant tree works.

Tree 1 – The main largest Cedar tree is just too big now to prune ourselves, so we are getting the professionals in to take 5 feet off the top and have its sides trimmed. You can’t trim more than a third of the green growth off as otherwise the tree will die, so it will only get a light trimming but that should help it from dominating and over shadowing our garden too much.

Tree 2 – We are going to relocate this tree, if possible, to the location of tree 4.

Tree 3 – This little tree is totally bare on one side because the large cedar tree (1) was growing up next to it.  We don’t think its really contributing to the garden so we are going to have it removed so we can grow nice flowers of some sort in its place.

Tree 4 – This tree got somewhat damaged when the neighbours had their scaffolding up and has sort of split into three branches.

Tree 5 –  Our wonky cedar tree never really recovered from the vine and has a dead bald patch on one side. We have therefore decided to remove it. Not only is it right up against the boundary where the roots could possibly interfere with our neighbour’s building, but it isn’t a particularly attractive tree to be right on the main axis of the garden.


Bringing an early breath of Spring indoors

Every year I like to grow a few spring bulbs indoors to cheer things up on those grey February days. (See my mini daffodils from last year here) Once these hyacinths had bloomed on our kitchen window sill, I moved them into the ‘Grand Hall’ in the centre of our house where they filled the hall with their lovely scent.

Once they have expired, I will take them and plant them in the garden so they can bloom again next year.