May 25th 2024


Fluted pilasters and termite damaged structural timber replaced at Government House in Antigua

The Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training Programme worked with Government House to undertake limited joinery repairs within the building, by working with experienced joinery tutors, Mr Dowdie and Mr Richards from the Harrison Centre- ABICE and 8 joinery students, all of whom were supported by Mark from M Womersleys and Victoria from the Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training Programme. The work provided heritage skills training that is important for young men and women in Antigua and helped maintain a historic building within the centre of St Johns. This repair work was necessary, after discovering extensive rot within a column supporting the tripartite arch within the dining room.


The works concentrated on the western column in the tripartite opening that divides the dining room, which had been more extensively eaten by termites than was first thought and which had left it and the arch in a dangerous condition. It was only supported by the four rotten decorative pilaster cover pieces and rotten and incomplete inner boxed surrounds. What was thought to be a damaged area within the central column on completing opening-up works was found to be rotten or missing over its full height. The two fluted pilaster sides and the plainer flanks decorated with planted-on delicate mouldings had also been eaten by termites and required complete replacement.

Following stabilisation of the columns, using a wooden framework, profiles were taken of the fluted pilasters, decorative side pieces, cornices, and skirtings and the four enclosing wooden pilasters were removed, after temporarily removing the skirtings and capital tops for refixing later. The missing column will be replaced with a new 6” square treated post, whose weight will be spread onto a 1” deep green heart timber over existing floorboards and the floor joist below.

After the new post was inserted new treated yellow pine decorative edges were be made in the joinery shop and fixed, with fine decorative trims to match the existing columns, ensuring the retention of the stepped detail which could previously accommodate screens and doors. Finally, the skirting and capitals were reset and wood filler used over all fixing points. Following completion, they will be painted with water-based paint to reduce knot staining.

May 25th 2024

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