Castle Cliffe started life as the imposing watergate of one of the largest English strongholds of the Welsh Marches, Hereford Castle.
John Speede’s map of 1610 shows Castle Cliffe as an integral part of the fortified wall which surrounded the castle bailey. At this time the house still functioned as the watergate to the castle, but the English Civil Wars of the 1650’s saw an end to this role. Documentation shows that by 1677 the castle was in ruins and the watergate referred to simply as the “dwelling house” or “Governor’s Lodge” – its first recorded use as a residence. A little over a hundred years later, in 1787 evidence of a further change of use appears in J. Symond’s drawing of the “Bridewell” (prison or local lock-up).
Restoration of the original oak beams converting the house back to residential use in the late 18th century, meant large south facing windows were added, the eastern basements were filled in and the present day rooms were laid out. Not to be outdone, the Victorians added yet more
windows and replaced a number of rotten floors. The 20th century obsession with curing damp problems meant that the house suffered hugely under the liberal application of modern plaster, cement and concrete, all totally inappropriate for use in a house of this age.
We slowly repaired and restored the damage using traditional building methods – haired lime plaster, new oak beams, lime wash and breathable paints. The primary concern is to allow thebuilding to “breathe”, which centres on the use of lime and its derivatives and ‘low-tech’ solutions to age-old problems.
Unlike modern building materials and paints, lime is porous, which allows the free passage of moisture in and out of the building, allowing it to find its own equilibrium. With good ventilation and plenty of regular heating, old buildings feel as dry and damp free as modern buildings feel, providing a warm and cosy atmosphere.