Hidden secrets going back 500 years have been exposed during major repairs to a Tudor pub which is said to be haunted.
Painstaking repairs to The Castle Inn at Hurst, opposite St Nicholas Church, started more than a year ago and should finish by the end of March. The final bill will be many £10,000s.
Landlord and lady Matt and Helen Brown plan a grand re-opening when Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
The pub, said to have hosted Charles II, cricketing legend WG Grace and even two ghosts, is owned by Church House Charity.
Charity treasurer Philip Payne of Winnersh has written a fascinating account of the repairs just published on the Hurst Village Society website: www.hvs.org.uk/castle-inn-refurbishment
Philip gave Wokingham.Today a guide to key events: “Our builder started ‘straightforward’ window frame repairs only to discover the white render on the pub’s front had pulled away. Rainwater had got in and caused damage.
“With the pub closed except for takeaways during the lockdown, the render was taken off to assess the damage.”
Passers-by liked the new look with no render, and the Tudor beams and ancient bricks exposed.
But urgent work was needed.
“A lot of the wooden beams were rotten or badly eaten by beetle larvae and needed to be refaced in oak with hidden metal strapping to strengthen” said Philip.
“The brick infill between the beams suffered from brick decay quite badly with over 30% needing to be replaced.”
Strict conservation rules meant original material had to kept or repaired where ever possible – and it all had to go back in exactly the same place
At least six different sizes and shapes of bricks had been used.
Rotten bricks had to be replaced by ones of the same size and colour. Wokingham Borough Council’s listings officer had to approve the work drawings and materials before repairs started.
The beams and bricks cannot be left exposed. It’s hoped this month to cover them with at least two coats of protective, traditional lime slurry and then lime wash. Using lime instead of cement means the covering will breathe and avoid water build up.
The bricks’ wash will be white, with the beams slightly darker and the outline of both still visible. Painting beams black, a Victorian custom, is not in keeping with the pub’s history.
A main horizontal beam in the snug bar supported the first floor for 100 years, was in a potentially perilous state. It was discovered the beam was resting on a window frame instead of a sturdy upright.
A steel support was built inside the room. It frames the window, and is cleverly disguised with wood decorated to match the room.
An old doorway, discovered on the far right of the pub, looking at it, has been reinstated for emergency use or to help customer flow.
The main bar ceiling which fell down when wallpaper covering was removed will be replaced.
The bar’s famous example of “wattle and daub” wall construction is being repaired.
The builder is John Mitchell of Mitchell and Sons, Old Basing, involved with the building for 10 years.
Philip added: “The aim of the work is to protect this beautiful building for another 100 years, so customers can continue to enjoy eating and drinking in its historic surroundings. During the work we learnt a lot about the building. Any ghostly inhabitants kept very much out of the way!”
Church House Charity, separate from St Nicholas Church, uses its funds to pay for church repairs and for church outreach work. It also owns and maintains the Grade II listed pub.
The Castle is still in action – providing takeaway food on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. BBQ pork ribs, burgers, fish and chips and pizzas are available.
Full details are at www.castlehurst.co.uk