Phase One of the emergency works programme is now almost at an end. This work involved the complete replacement of the roof slates on the Bedlam wing of the building. Having opened up the roof a number of unforeseen issues were found with the roof timbers and structural support measures had to be introduced. The Chapel roof has also been completely removed and currently lies open but protected by the temporary roof that has been erected as part of the Phase 2 works. Again a number of issues were discovered with the Chapel roof which will be completely restored along with the internal ceiling and chandelier over the coming weeks. The Riding School, also included in the Phase One works has now been stripped of its slates with new slates currently being laid. Phase One works are due to be completed this Autumn.
Anyone visiting the site recently and over the coming year will clearly see the scale of the restoration works taking place, given the enormous scaffold that now completely engulfs the central part of the historic east front of the Mansion. The Phase Two contract being delivered by Robert Woodhead Ltd, forms the largest phase of the Treasury funded emergency works project and includes the replacement of roofs and repairs to high level stone work, statues and urns. The scaffold will be in place for 16 months with the roof top work visible to those on the roof top tours who will also see the restoration to the urns is taking place at ground level.
Though this year the project has been very much in its early stages, it has already presented multiple challenges to the team. As the house is a Grade I listed building, the scaffolding could not be attached to the building and so is secured to the ground with platipus anchors, which are drilled to the ground and are designed to splay out to prevent the scaffolding from lifting off the floor in heavy winds. Friction ties have been used to tie the scaffolding to the walls and extra strength given to the scaffolding structure through doubled up fittings.
The extremely heavy urns (approximately 600kg each) needed to be lifted down for restoration. Some of them were only being held by their own weight due to their timber pins rotting over time. Lifting them was challenging as the majority of the weight sits in the middle of each urn due to their shape. An innovative scaffold frame was constructed around each urn to secure them when lifting, as well as extra clips added to the surrounding scaffolding to allow the crane crew to clip on and off more easily. The crane crew were also able to remove the historic glass lanterns that require restoration but are incredibly heavy.
Our thanks go to all of the partners involved in this project but particularly to Historic England who provide tremendous guidance and support, our Architects Donald Insall Ltd and Site Manager Andy Stamford. As well as this very visible work, further improvement and planning to secure the future of our site is undertaken behind the scenes on a daily basis. Over the course of the year much work has been undertaken including the installation of improved fire detection, a detailed access and parking study, the submission of bids to extend the visitor offer including facilities in the gardens, and new community engagement programmes and events