The Castle

A 'warts & all' account of the transformation of a run-down pub in Bradford-On-Avon into a 'proper' Inn (food pub with rooms). Written by Alex Reilley & Pierre Woodford

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Some Physical Work

It's probably been a while for some of the guys or maybe not, but they were getting some exercise this week and it wasn't shifting more urinals. In fact we had the turf for the lawn delivered and it was down to all the boys to unload it and get it piled up ready to be laid (first and second photo). When it finally is laid the transformation is stunning, from what used to a wasteland (third photo) to an expanse of dirt (fourth photo) and finally a lush green lawn fit for a game of bowls & for our punters to enjoy on those warm sunny days, fingers crossed!(last photo). It's amazing to go through all the photos we have documenting the various stages and see the transformstion, so we will show a few more examples of before, during and after in time.

We're still on tender hooks regarding water & gas. Gas has a provisional date of 21st June, which is going to make opening on the 18th just a little bit impossible. We're hopeful that with enough nagging the date can be brought forward. Other than that (remarkably) the build is on schedule.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It's Looking Less Like A Building Site!!! (but only slightly)

Work really is motoring with the bar in the first stages of assembly, unfortunately the chippies have had to go away whilst the floor is being laid behind the bar but at least they are managing to get some of the shelving made off site (photo 1). The plasters have all but finished downstairs with only a few patches that need touching up after the kitchen extract guys made a few holes (they were non too popular!) and they have now started on the bedrooms. The decorators have even got some paint on the walls in what will be the snug area off to the right of the main entrance (photo 2). The panelling is also nearly completed with just a few touches here and there to get sorted out(photo 3) and the flag stone flooring still needs to go down in the bar area. Outside the turf needs laying (and soon if it stands a chance of making it) along with a different type of flag stone for our seating area (photo 4, is taken from what will be the way to the main entrance). We have even had to have an arched door made to fit the archway (last photo) into the snug as we were not allowed to square off the arch (listed building) and it looks the business and will look much better once it has been painted mahogany to match the woodwork.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

On the finish

With work progressing at a frantic pace the time has come to set a target date for the opening of the pub. After some fag packet calculations & a surprisingly positive conversation with the main contractor we decide to aim for: -

Monday 18th June 2007

There are some known, & undoubtedly some unknown, obstacles but it’s a date for everyone to work towards. We start praying hard to the services god that our gas & water will be connected on time. We’re up with preverbal without a paddle if they’re not!

Oh that first pint is going to taste mighty fine.

It's taking shape

Floors laid, walls plastered, windows in, skirting & panelling up, it's decorating next - when the 'takes an eternity to dry' plaster allows.

It's hernia's all round!

More whinging from the builders as our now famous urinals get lifted into place. Anyone would think they were heavy or something!

The things that make the news!

It's offical,the blog (& our urinals) are local news! Yesterday's Bath Chronicle: -

Date : 16.05.07

Pub loos have the reputation of being a bit grim.

But gents spending a penny at a newly renovated pub in Bradford on Avon will find their surroundings more dignified following the installation of antique urinals.

The Victorian porcelain loos have been installed at The Castle. In their heyday, they were considered the height of fashion.

Businessman Alex Reilley said he hoped that such attention to detail would pay off when the pub opened next month.

"We really liked the idea of having some proper urinals and they are a very grand piece of porcelain ware," he said.

"A lot of them have been ripped out and replaced by stainless steel, but we managed to track some down.

"When blokes come to use them, most will not give it a second thought and think it is part of the building that we inherited.

"There are so many things we could do to cut costs and corners, but this is more than creating a business.

"As perverse as it might sound, it is quite fun sourcing things like urinals."

The painstaking renovation work has been detailed on a blog - an internet diary - and Mr Reilley said this had proved popular.

Entries detail the hunt for 1850s American, saloon-style lampshades - and the panic caused when a specialist workman broke his leg playing football and couldn't start work as planned.

"People are fascinated by this sort of story - how businesses are set up, how much they cost - the blog is a bit Kitchen Nightmares meets Grand Designs," said Mr Reilley.

The Castle will be a boutique hotel and family pub with the emphasis placed on locally sourced and reasonably priced food.

"We are very fortunate that The Castle had a lot of character already and we wanted to add to that character," said Mr Reilley.

"We have taken on what is effectively a building that is very, very tired with the interior in a poor condition, and are going to create a great looking pub with a lot of attention to detail.

"Half of the pub is reasonably safe in terms of its interior and people won't walk in and feel out of their depth.

"In the other half we wanted to have a grandiose theme with some lovely flocked wallpaper.

"Our lampshades and a lot of antique wall lights we bought on ebay, and we have got a fantastic finished product."

The scaffold's down

You know your getting somewhere when the scaffolding starts to come down. With all the repointing finished & new windows installed the main entrance elevation overlooking the garden is exposed. There is still some stone work required at ground floor level & we are yet to replace the front door but this elevation is already looking stunning.

Next week will see the laying of the flagstone patio &, weather permitting, the new garden turf will also go down.

Friday, May 11, 2007

We're turning a corner!

What a week! Just when it seemed as if the build was never going to end we entered into that magical stage in a refurbishment of this scale where it all starts to come together. After weeks of deconstruction where now start to see reconstruction & the builders are suddenly working with more hyperactivity than a 5 year old on Christmas Day morning.

The plastering has started at such as place that you get the sense that if you stand still long enough you’ll get skimmed! The sparkies has actually started final fixing in the kitchen, where the white rock walls are up & the extract ducting is in place. The kitchen could be made ready in less than a week if need be but the rest of the build wouldn’t, plus we do have the major snag, & concern, about when our water & gas supplies will be upgraded. The gas in particular is always a fun process & requires a degree in patience & good humour if you’re going to get through the 10 point process.

All the new windows are in & the elm/pine floor is down. Most excitingly the bar is now being constructed using the Allied Irish mahogany bank counter we purchased a few months back & the lengths of panelling seem to fit so perfectly it’s as if it had been purposely made for the space.

All the progress suddenly alerts us to the fact we are going to open in June (probably) & suddenly the many tasks you can put off until just before opening need tackling, & there is the major issue of not having a head chef yet.

To boot the method for getting money from the bank is fantastically complicated – instead of just giving us the loan we’ve agreed with them we have to draw it down as jobs get ticked off. There also the issue of probably not having enough money so the pub will need to open first with the rooms being finished off a couple of months later. This should give us the opportunity to get some cash into the business to help towards getting the project finished. And just to compound matters our VAT quarter, when we can claim a sizable amount of VAT back doesn’t fall very favourable.

It’s squeaky bum time that’s for sure!

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Lime plasters aren't quite as rare as rocking horse shit but they are few & far between. After finding a lime plaster who could actually start sometime this year it came as a big blow today to discover 4 days before he's due to start that he's broken his leg in 2 places playing football last night! This is potentially a major snag as the process of lime plastering is very specialised not to mention lengthy & a delay on the plastering effect's the schedule for the whole build. We need to bust some serious moves to avert a crisis. Did I say we'll be opening in June...

A Few Of Nifty Purchases

We have been really lucky with some of the purchases we have made for the Castle, although they sometimes haven't gone down too well with the guys doing the job. One example is the Victorian urinals (first picture) that we got for the gents, they set us back a bit but then they look fab. The only problem was that they didn't have drainage so we would have to come up with a means of directing the flow as no matter how hard we tried we could not find any original glazed half pipe to go at the bottom of them. We managed to overcome this obstacle along with a means of having them separated enough to allow comfort whilst standing at them. Another good purchase was the front door, which featured earlier in the blog came with its original furnishings one item in particular was the original door lock mechanism which has been restored (second picture) and will set the door off magnificently. We have also got a couple of green marble lamp stands for the bar, which when adorned with our old western whore house esque lampshades will be really cool. These are just a small handful of buys, we have managed to get hold of some great portraits, chairs, tables and some gazelle heads.

Downstairs The Boys Are Busy

The work downstairs has progressed well with the batons going up in the kitchen (first picture), the walls being plaster boarded ready for the White Rock (hygienic wall covering) to be added (second picture) and the ceiling has been plastered and painted, all we need now is the kitchen equipment and extract. The stud work has gone up for the ladies and disabled toilets (third picture) and a new window put in. As it used to be the old store room the walls were taken down and completely rebuilt, with a new roof going on with better insulation and build quality. We've found some great reclaimed Georgian doors for the cubicles as with most of the fittings for downstairs we have used several reclamation yards and ebay has been quite useful as well. We have been able to use the reclaimed elm and pine floor boards from upstairs on the floor, we have dated them for prosperity and also because we were told to (fourth and fifth pictures). We found some lovely old pine boards that we are going to use for panelling to break up the walls and also to tie the rooms in with the main bar area as it retains some of the original wood panelling surrounding the fire place.

The Bedrooms (with en-suites)

The rooms look a little cluttered, you can hardly expect them to be spotless whilst work progresses. Even with window frames, insulation and doors being kept in them the stud work has been put up for the en-suites (first, second and third pictures) it really gives a sense of scale and enables us to picture the layout of the individual rooms finally rather than referring to plans. The first fixings are in for the plumbing and electrical work so the plumbers and sparkies can now concentrate on the ground floor to get things up and running in time, although at the moment we are still waiting for a new gas supply and meter along with a new larger water supply which can take time and could possibly hold things up. We have the beds ordered already along with the fabrics, carpets, lighting and mirrors (pictures to appear at a later date). We just need to sort out a few wardrobes and desks.

Exterior Work

The painters and the stone mason have been cracking on with their relevant jobs. The painters have been applying an under coat to all the new sash windows which have been fabricated to match the old ones taken out and have put the first coat of paint on the Mount Pleasant side of the building which is a soft green colour Antique Verde and will look even better when the door is painted black and the window frames painted White Tie (first picture). Meanwhile the stone mason has practically finished re-pointing the stone work and has a few stones to replace which haven't worn so well over the past couple hundred of years or so (second picture). Which leaves the mason to tidy up a couple of our open fireplaces inside and to replace the pillars at the front entrance with newly mined solid pieces and to repair the cornice above the entrance (third picture). We are also having the coach lamp at the front entrance replicated as the original was all but a bit of rust held together with cobwebs and ancient paint.

The Gardens

We are fortunate to have two well sized gardens, one that will be for use by the public and another private garden to the rear. The front garden is in the process of being cleared, the old turf taken up and any straggling weeds and small trees taken away to tidy things up (first and second pictures). The garden will be returfed soon to give it a chance to take hold and develop before we open hopefully in mid June. There are going to be wrought iron railings running along the length of the wall by Masons Lane which are being stripped, treated and painted. On the inside of where the railigs are going we have planted some cherry blossoms that will sit in the new lawn and when developed will create a nice bit of shade for the southerly facing garden. At the end of the garden we have a couple of crab apples and a green gage (fantastic for chutneys), whilst on the fenced side there is going to be a rosemary hedge. The main garden will have a large area of lawn for customers to relax on in the warmer months and a paved area with tables and chairs for drinking and dining out side. There will also be a service hatch facing into the garden so customers do not have to stray to far from the sun. The rear private garden (third and fourth pictures) is going to be turned into a herb garden with a section of it being used for an asparagus patch which I am led to believe will produce an abundant crop within four years - yes only four years to wait for home grown asparagus! We may even be able to plant a few other bits and bobs - I think we may need somebody green fingered!

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