The story behind our Victorian fireplace

When we first bought our house, we were quite disappointed that someone had taken out all of the original fireplaces.

Yep, ALL of them.

While we discovered an old chimney breast in one of the bedrooms (Luke took a hammer to the wall – not even kidding), there was no sign of one downstairs. It’s always felt to us like something was missing.

Putting a decorative fireplace in has been on our wishlist for a while. But when the lounge was finally finished and ready to be furnished, it was with mixed emotions that I listened to Luke tell me about an old, slightly beaten up Victorian fireplace he’d found – that we could have for free.

Nevertheless, we agreed it was worth checking out.

Incredulously, someone in the area was trying to get rid of the inner part of a fireplace that dates back to the 1880s. The only catch was that it needed a LOT of work.

We’d had a stud wall put in to mimic a chimney breast already, and this treasure was just the right size for that space so, we decided to give it a bit of a clean and see whether it was a goer or not.

To our delight, when we finally cleaned back to the original tiles, we realised they were almost an exact match to the colour of our walls. It almost felt too good to be true.

Fast forward a few months, and this is what it looks like now.

We’re SO SO happy!

So, in stages, here’s how we did it:

  1. We cleaned off the black paint from the tiles using good old fashioned elbow grease (with a little Flash and a wire brush where needed).
  2. Using a wire brush on the metal frame, we then scraped off any flaky bit of paint or rust to leave a smoother surface.
  3. When we were happy with that, we painted the metal frame and grate using Hammerite. This took several coats to get the coverage we needed.
  4. Source missing parts!
    All that was missing to restore this piece to glory was to find a pine surround (sourced online), a fireplace hood (Victorian style – also sourced online) and a stone hearth. For the latter, we visited a local stonemasons called Artists in Stone. They were wonderful. At the beginning, we weren’t really sure what sort of finish we wanted – or could afford – and they provided brilliant advice on style, finishes and the all important measuring, which we did ourselves. The hearth was the most expensive part, so please don’t underestimate the importance of actually speaking to someone before you part with your cash!
  5. Fitting.
    We’re very lucky to have some talented tradesmen in the family – from carpenters to builders – and they managed to fit the fireplace beautifully.

We’re always banging on about old features and why they should be kept – and we really hope this can serve as a good example of what can be done when you decide to restore something that’s old and neglected.

It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.

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