Sigginstown Castle

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Tower During Construction

The Tower will stay medieval, but we want to get a roof and floors in it.
Our goal is to get a roof on by summer 2019

A Green Oak Idea is Born

Doing the tower roof and floors in green oak was Ed Byrne's idea.  He had done this for a castle in Slieve Rue about 20 years ago. At first we resisted, telling he we could not afford oak. Ed gently insisted that if we had it cut from trees at nearly the cost of firewood and worked it ourselves, it would be appropriate and cost-effective. We roped in a few more people into the journey of green oak, which will be documented separately.

The Tower before Construction

We have posted a number of photos of the tower before construction. Inside will be the most dramatic change, from an empty shell open to the sky, to a structure with roof and floors, hopefully drying out in a couple of years!

Archeology comes first

We decided to tackle most of the archeology up front so that we could continue building as needed with periodic monitoring. The floor above the vault had been tested in 2016 with nothing found. David Sweetman monitored the clearing of dirt above the vault. The earlier clay floor was found in the corner where Larry is kneeling. We used it to determine the level beyond which we did not clear. We had to be careful not to disturb the remaining mortar in the vault as we did not want more water to come through to below! The floor was covered with multiple plastic tarps to protect it from the weather.

Archeology & The Pit of Despair

Inside the vault there was a lot of rubble stone, our collected stuff in storage, bits of tile, mortar. Beneath this there was clay, clay, clay. A test pit had been done in 206 with only a clay pipe stem found. The The plans called for excavation to 400mm, about 16". We did not realize until we started how much higher the tower was from the house - about 18" higher! So the concept of having the same floor levels throughout house and tower had to be revised. When we dug down to the 400mm level in the center of the room it was found that the threshold and interior wall were not supported all the way down.

After conferring with David Sweetman and our engineer, it was decided to take down the floor to a shallower level, about 8" or 200mm below the Hobbit door threshold. We did not want to destabilize any walls and taking out the clay through the one tiny door was grueling work, hence the "Pit of Despair"!  Each bucket of clay weighed about 20 lbs and we had to take out about 300 buckets!

Scaffolding goes up

In order to safely work on the tower and get a roof on, we purchased galvanized scaffolding that would not rust in the sea air. Since we knew we would need it for several areas of the castle over a few years, this was the most cost effective approach. David Dwyer of Summit Scaffolding took on our project as an interesting diversion from normal modern construction. The combination of internal and external scaffolding allows us to haul up materials first to the upper level above the vault and then to the top of the tower.

Safe Access at the Top!

Despite owning the castle for three years, we had never been out to the watchtower because of our healthy respect (fear) of heights!  Now with a triple safety rail firmly anchored and a platform at the top, we can work on the parapets in preparation for a roof in summer 2019 (we hope!) The watchtower is in decent condition but has a missing large stone inside, and some of the mortar was gone from key areas so we did initial structural repairs to keep it safe.

Bracing the Upper Embrasures

Before sod removal could occur, there was some concern about the stability of the uppermost embrasures, or arches.  In our test patch of sod removal, we found more dirt than mortar on top. That combined with a difficult view from below made us take the more conservative route of bracing the upper embrasures plus one below. This required more scaffolding, as we had not planned to put a platform at each level, rather work our way down after the roof was on.  David Dwyer of Summit Scaffolding came back and gave use a platform to the next level. 

Fintan Carroll built the braces which will stay in place until the masonry above is repaired and probably the roof is put on.

Tower Stairs Before Repair

Our stairs in the tower were in pretty good shape overall, but intentional damage had been done to the first few steps by a prior owner. This is common when towers are used as areas for livestock and prevent them from climbing the stairs.  There is a local story of a donkey at the top of the tower!

Unfortunately this also makes the stairs really hard to climb for humans too. This photo shows the steps lighted because if you forget them in the dark it could be the end of you! Luckily no such mishaps occurred, and we always warned people to be careful.

Tower Steps After Repair

The steps have now been repaired using stones reclaimed from outside the tower. We found a couple of useful pieces from cleaning the ditch. The stones were fixed with St. Astier NHL 3.5 lime mortar with Inish sand from Wexford.  This photo shows all the mortar in very bright lighting. You can see the layers of rubble stone carefully laid under the larger stone on top of each stair.

LECA Lime-crete Floor

After the archeology was done in the tower, we decided to do the limecrete floor. First we prepared it by filling the Pit of Despair (see above) with gravel. Then we covered the survive with geotextile.  

LECA Lime-crete Floor continued

The floor is primarily insulation and prevents the damp from rising. Since we were going to be away from the set for a couple of months we had time to let it dry undisturbed. In this photo Paddy is tamping down the lime and LECA mix which looks a lot like grey popcorn! The floor is the subfloor layer upon which a finished floor of either tile or slate will be laid. We would like to use some underfloor heating mats to help raise the temperature one or two degrees and drive out the damp.  We will do the same on the upper floor.