Made largely from cob and stone and located in a prominent situation on the Shebbear village square in Devon, Tyrella House is now a private residence and is currently undergoing renovation.

Over the years as a retail outlet, the building has undergone many changes.
The current owners are in the middle of a 'leisurely' project to replace modern materials with appropriate lime plasters etc. If you would like to know more about the work please E-mail

Shop to lounge
Kitchen renovation
Built circa late 17c in the square of the Devon Village of Shebbear, Tyrella House one time grocers, dentist, butchers etc.
Tyrella House Shebbear Devon

This is an image from a postcard believed to have been taken in 1906. This is currently, the oldest image we have of Tyrella House. In the foreground the village pump can be made out and immediately behind it is the main shop window.

The door to the left is into the shopkeepers accommodation, this may have lead into a cross passage. The door to the right being the entrance to the shop itself.

Please note that none of the building work has, or will impact on the quiet enjoyment of your stay in Shebbear. We are very careful to ensure any work is carried out is either quiet or when we have no guests.


Tyrella House was the main village shop for Shebbear for many years.

We bought it in the summer of 1999 and the shop had been closed for about 8 years.

We do not have any photos of the inside prior to this date.

Shebbear village shop 1999
In 1999 Shebbear shop area still had the old shelving. The ceilings had dropped as the timbers suffered from worm and Death Watch Beetle, hence the supporting posts in the image above. We are not sure if there were any supporting walls taken out from this section, there was at least one, perhaps two removed from this image backwards. The fluorescent light is attached to wood that hides an RSJ that had been bolted to a structural timber..
Tyrella House, cob partition wall with lath

The shop fittings removed along with cement plaster and chicken wire.

Some of the cob infill had come out as the original lath was in a poor condition.


Cob house lath walls and reed roll lath. Part lime plastered.
Time warp on to after the lounge has been finished and here we have reed roll used as lath on the stairs wall. This is much cheaper than traditional lath and a lot fast to apply.

The plaster is an experiment using cork as part of the aggregate to give greater thermal and acoustic insulation.
Reed roll lath with cork based lime plaster

The reverse side of the reed lath is shown here.

The cork gives the plaster its' grey appearance.

Modern build up for a traditional building solid floor

The floor is now ready to be dug out. Above shows the approach made.

Since laying the lounge floor we realised that there is a better way to create a warm and dry floor. If you are not looking for as environmentally friendly buildup as possible, then the Kingspan/Xtratherm route is efficient.

What makes this floor work for a traditional building with no damp course and cavity in the walls is the use of the Geocell Foam Glass hard-core:

  • lambda value = 0.08w/mK - very good thermal performance for a hard-core
  • good compressive strength - so structurally sound
  • effective capillary break - prevents ground water moisture being drawn up into the building

All three of these qualities make for excellent reasons to use this material in this situation. There are lots of other uses and reasons to use this, but I am no longer a salesman so I won't go into more details here.

Muddy floor digging out of an old building

As the above image demonstrates, it is vital to get the design of the floor correct in order to keep the building free from damaging moisture.

Geocell 2m3 bag

The Geocell is very lightweight. This 2m3 bag weighs just 300kg, so it was a one man job of tipping it over into the front door and unloading it.

unloading Geocell bag
The breathable membrane in place, the lightweight hard-core can be levelled to about 1/3rd higher than the final desired level.

compacting Geocell foamed glass, lightweight , insulating hardcore

The Geocell hard-core now needs to be compacted with the wacker plate.

100mm of Xtratherm, a petrochemical based insulation is laid on top of the Geocell, with cork board as an insulation to reduce heat loss around the perimeter. Xtratherm could have been used around the perimeter too but as the room has 80% internal walls, heat loss is less of an issue.

All ready for the mortar to cover the heating pipes.

Lyn does the clever stuff and gets the mix perfect.
A dryish cement mix with fibres is laid around the under floor heating (UFH) pipes.

The slate may look random, but the evidence is here to see that it is laid to a plan. The adhesive used was natural hydraulic lime (NHL), so that if the slate ever needs to be removed, it will come up easier and might be recycled.

Dave and I select the best timbers from those removed from the lounge ceiling to create a partition wall in the hall to give us a large cupboard to store motorcycle gear and recycling.

The top timber used for the partition is over a couple of hundred years old as a minimum and had been dry stored for years. We bought it and stored it in the garden for about ten years to give it the correct patina. It was then cut to length and then shaped to follow the contours of the very shapely ceiling with a chainsaw.

Dave here shows the importance of using a spirit level on a very old vernacular building.

Cutting and fitting the larch lath is time consuming.
The character of the new entrance hall is starting to show now.

The afternoon light looked atmospheric shining through the lath gaps as viewed from inside the newly created cupboard.
Still inside the cupboard and fully lathed, it seemed appropriate for a gratuitous black and white image.
Lime putty mortar with natural and artificial fibres
It's now time for the haired lime putty plaster to be prepared. The above shows a mix with a variety of fibres, natural horse hair and fibre glass. It needs to be a very good spread and lots of it to hold the lime in place, more so for the ceiling. If it fails, the plaster can be up to around 50kg each m2 and that can cause a bit of a mess if it lands on a head.
Haired lime plastering onto a lath ceiling in a Devon cottage
Push firmly and move at 45 degrees to the direction of the lath. The lime needs to be pliable enough to go through the lath and form a key the other side but firm enough to retain that bond and not deform whilst it hardens and cures. It is very difficult to be certain you are getting this right when it isn't possible to see the other side, so practice and experience is essential.

Scratched coat of haired lime plaster on the far wall, awaiting an unhaired float coat.

A haired coat seen on the reverse of the lath on the left. The top laths mortar could have been pushed a little firmer but for a wall, that should be fine.

The more a lime is 'knocked up' (agitated) the stickier it becomes. This is a good test. If the plaster won't stick to your hawk, it won't stick to your wall or ceiling either.
Completed entrance hall with walls and ceiling painted with clay paint
Picture hung to break up the white wall with afternoon sunlight flooding in.
We are pleased to report that the floor build-up is working perfectly. Absolutley no dampness in evidence and once the under floor heating is activated, the floor warms quickly and retains heat for a long time.