s The Rostrum, Unique from Garden in Stapleford, Cambridgeshire owned by Bill French #shedoftheyear
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All photos are copyright of the sheddie Bill French
  • The Rostrum
  • Bill French
  • Garden in Stapleford, Cambridgeshire

Category: | Unique

The Rostrum

My shed is a rare example of an Auctioneer's Rostrum, probably 80 to 90 years old. It was used for decades at the Cambridge Cattle Market to allow the auctioneer to have a good view of both the lots for sale and who was bidding. The lectern would have been used to receive the blows from his gavel. The 'runner' stood beside him and a clerk would have been inside the shed making out the bills of sale etc. Two windows in the side wall and glass in the door provided sufficient light for the clerk to work. Two iron eyes on the side of the rostrum were probably used to fix the sign giving the lot number of the stock currently being sold. The rostrum was originally mounted on wheels, the front wheel being articulated so that it could be towed around the sale rings as needed. At one time it was used to house the person checking the contents of carts leaving the sale ground. The marks of a cart that came too close can still be seen in the woodwork. The current use of the Rostrum is as a garden shed housing my beekeeping equipment, garden tools, golf clubs, winter stored apples and potatoes, tents etc. The platform and lectern allow instructions to be delivered to the gardener (my wife!). In front of the rostrum is a refreshment area for the tired gardener and me. As well as providing excellent and dry storage conditions our grandchildren find it an ideal hiding place in their games of hide-and-seek. The space under the rostrum is used for storing canes, drain clearing rods and miscellaneous timber. The cat also uses it as a dry refuge when not interfering with garden operations! The water from the roof is collected in a butt which helps to top up the pond periodically. A bird box is fixed under the eaves on the shady side.

The Rostrum was saved from the sale ground just before the ground was sold for building. The transaction followed persistent approaches by my wife to the auctioneers who eventually submitted! The Rostrum was very dilapidated and a good part of the base frame was rotten. We dismantled the Rostrum and reconstructed it in our garden using as much of the original wood as possible and using the same fixing methods, e.g. wooden dowels at the joints. I obtained a supply of timber to replace the rotten parts from a local rugby ground which was disposing of old wooden seating. This was well seasoned and of a comparable age. The base was mounted on engineering brick piers capped with lead sheeting to eliminate damp. A gutter and downpipe system was fitted and that has undoubtedly protected the base from rot. Much of the wood was soaked with preservative before being sealed and painted. The inside of the Rostrum was stained with preservative. I attach some images which show the Rostrum as it is now, some images of its heyday and the state of disrepair when I collected it 10 years ago. A. The Rostrum today, 10 years after restoration. B. The Rostrum today, 10 years after restoration. C. The Rostrum today, 10 years after restoration. D. The Rostrum today, 10 years after restoration, detail of base. E. The Rostrum in its Heyday in 1970s F. The Rostrum in its Heyday in 1970s G. The Rostrum sad and lonely in 2000 H. The Rostrum sad and lonely in 2000 J. The Rostrum sad and lonely in 2000 K. The Rostrum during reconstruction 2001 L. The Rostrum on completion 2001

Year first entered 2011

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