Reprinted from Newsletter 143, dated 2015 July

Lorry crash transforms Benedict Street by revealing walls of Abbey stone Jim Nagel

With render removed to reveal the Abbey stone from which they are built, the houses at 43 and 45 Benedict Street gain character. The two properties at far right could well be a century younger. An inscription over the door of 49 says 1798. On the left of the photo, the larger and comparatively recent Alma Flats building (41) sorely needs some tender loving care.

When a not-quite-awake reversing lorry struck the wall of 45 Benedict Street early one morning last winter and dislodged some of its rendering, it prompted a striking improvement to the neighbourhood.

  The owner of the cottage, Rik Cook, decided to complete the job and removed the entire two-inch layer of cement from the front of the house, revealing Abbey stone underneath. Next door at 43, Dave Nurse followed suit. The new-old look of the 17th-century cottages has brought new life to the streetscape.

  “Why was it ever rendered back in the 1950s or 60s?” Rik asks. “It was a real joy doing that job at the front, and it gives you confidence to do the rest.” First he wants to reroute the cables that mar the frontage, and then a bigger job: he has planning permission to replace some shoddy work at the back of the house with a two-bedroom extension befitting the original cottage.

  The de-rendering revealed original lintels of petrified oak, so solid that Rik broke three drill bits in attempting to install curtains. He has ordered special Danish oil to treat the old timbers.

  At the moment he is in the process of refurbishing the front door, which will be sage green to complement the colour of the newly revealed old stone.

Work in progress: It started when a lorry accidentally knocked drab pebbledash off the right of 45 Benedict Street (with white door), whereupon the owner and his neighbour at 43 stripped it all off to show the Abbey stone of their 17th-century cottages.

  “Let the walls breathe,” is Rik Cook’s mantra. The modern cement that previous owners had put on internal walls caused them to be damp; he replaced it with traditional lime. The wall above the fireplace is decorated with classic Italian marmorino plaster — a mix of crushed marble and lime putty that can be given many textures and colours. He does this and other types of paint and polished plaster — travertine, coccio, velluto, pearlescent and so on — as a business (

  Dave Nurse, a mechanic at Rapson’s garage just along the road, has lived at 43 Benedict Street for 30 years; his wife Sue has been there even longer. Rik Cook bought number 45 at the end of 2011. In the past he ran the Market House Inn for 12 years and the Tor Leisure Centre for 13.

  The Conservation Society committee wrote to both neighbours to congratulate them on their welcome enhancement of Glastonbury’s Conservation Area.

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