Last year when we returned to Nelson we set about renovating our old 1914 villa. The master bedroom was a priority: it still had its original sarking and scrim on the walls, which had to be replaced with wallboard; there was an ugly art deco fireplace (its chimney had been sealed off long ago); a couple of shallow, poorly designed wardrobes; the list went on.
Our builders were great, fast and very quality conscious. I was working next door in my office when I heard excited shouts from Harry, the foreman. Behind the art deco fireplace, they had uncovered a wonderful old cast iron fireplace in remarkably good condition. Here’s the scene minutes after the discovery:
A few minutes work exposed a tiled hearth:
Harry, being a well-brought-up builder from the old world (The Netherlands) immediately sat down, sketched the hearth and assigned numbers to each tile. They were in great nick. Here’s a closer look at the larger ones, which have quite a deep relief:
A bit of research gave me the description of the fireplace: an Edwardian register grate with tiled cheeks and hearth, popular around 1880 – 1900.
Trouble is, we already have a lovely cast iron fireplace, almost as nice as this one. It too has its chimney sealed off (and coal fires are shortly to be banned in our area anyway). So we’ll have to sell it, unfortunately. It would have been nice to keep it with the house.
BTW – in that first photograph just look at the amount of rimu used in the old house! (Rimu is a high quality native timber which these days is milled under very strict conditions. The supply has dried up, it has become a very expensive wood used for furniture and recycled rimu is now very popular, nail holes and all.) At the time this house was built, it was used for everything.