Surveyors search for Civil War scorch marks and musket ball holes at Tudor school building

By Ben Miller | 12 May 2014

Musket balls, scorch marks and graffiti from relatives of Disney and Darwin could all be revealed beneath a set of ancient roof tiles

A photo of a man in high-visibility clothing opening a window on a Tudor wood building
John Everitt from the Heritage Lottery Fund, peers through a window in the Tudor roof of the Old Magnus Building© Doug Jackson
Conservators are surveying the damage caused to the grammar school which educated a relative of Walt Disney after peeling back the tiles covering ancient beams at a building which survived the brutal sieges of the 17th century Civil War.

Built in Newark in 1529, the Grade II-listed Old Magnus Building is entering a “crucial” stage in its transformation as part of a £5.4 million plan to create the new Civil War Centre.

A photo of the wooden beams of an old Tudor house
© Doug Jackson
A massive ornate chimney stack, built during the reign of Henry VIII, has been measured by analysts for the first time in a development where the floors, walls and ceilings of a Tudor hall, Georgian townhouse and Victorian schoolroom have required delicate assessing.

“Exposing the beams will allow us to make repairs, but it also gives us chance to look for signs of Civil War damage such as scorch marks from grenados and musket ball holes,” says Michael Constantine, the Business Manager for the Centre, which will be the first museum dedicated to the conflict when it opens at the start of 2015.

“As work progresses we are also unravelling more about the building's history. We know that one sixth of all Newark's buildings were destroyed during three sieges in the 1640s.

“With scaffolding encasing the building to a height of 70 feet and a giant temporary roof fitted to protect against the rain, this is a key point in the restoration.”

Young apprentices are among the team honing rarely-used craft skills to protect features including graffiti left by schoolboys in the dormitories more than 400 years ago. One of the scrawls, R Disney, was engraved in 1608, while another, W Darwin, is thought to be the handiwork of a cousin of the evolutionist.

A photo of a brick building covered in scaffolding
© Doug Jackson
“Where re-pointing is required a lime mortar mix is being used similar to that employed 500 years ago, while timeless carpentry and brickwork skills are also being extensively used,” says Conservation Manager Simon Butler.

“What is remarkable about the Old Magnus Buildings is just how well the Tudor part is constructed. The foundations go much deeper than the later additions – we've been highly impressed by the skill of our 16th century predecessors.

“This is an exciting project for us and, as with all our conservation projects, we are using traditional skills throughout.

“Our experienced craftspeople are helping to pass on their specialist skills to our apprentices, making sure techniques that in some cases have been used since Tudor times are not lost.”

Tiles in good condition will be reused from the roof, with English oak helping to repair the beams. New floors, a remodelled staircase, modern galleries and visitor facilities will also be created as part of a venue supported by a £3.5 million Heritage Lottery grant.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

A photo of various beams around a house
© Doug Jackson
A photo of a brick building with ladders and repair stuff around it
© Doug Jackson
More from Culture24's Archaeology section:

Tudor wall could hold Walt Disney link in scrawled schoolboy graffiti and coats of arms

National Civil War Centre ring to reveal Royalist and Parliamentary Civil War divisions
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