In December, H+R carried out a damp and timber condition survey for the National Trust at Beningbrough Hall, a Grade I-listed mansion near York which currently serves as a museum for contemporary and historic art. The client had concerns that there was an active deathwatch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) infestation in the oak roof structures, but investigations by H+R found that the issue was largely historical and of relatively minor significance. The client was also in the process of improving fire compartmentalisation and H+R provided additional consultation on how this could be practically achieved, whilst ensuring that each roof void was adequately ventilated and that the passage of any roosting bats was uninterrupted. We also advised on the management of dampness and efflorescent salts at basement level, where our recommendations included the removal of influential moisture sources by means of drainage and the promotion of evaporative moisture loss at the base of walls by removal of non-original finishes, thus avoiding expensive and ultimately unsuitable chemical injection damp-proof courses or electro-osmotic treatments
H+R were appointed by Newcastle City Council in January to provide specialist consultancy services to the project team during ongoing restoration works to Grade I-listed Grainger Market in the city centre. When built in 1835 it was the largest covered market in Britain. Works by Esh Build include the restoration of the 100m long glazed arcade roof. Chronic water penetration had been occurring at the arcade’s brick gables for a number of years, and H+R advised on the condition of brickwork and embedded timbers and made recommendations on finishes and drying measures required. The three-storey gables were largely supported by timber beams at first floor level, and H+R investigated their condition and made recommendations to ensure that they could continue to bear the brickwork above. We also conducted a Rothound survey of the complex to search for decay in the market’s timber columns
Continuing our work in the cultural sector, in January H+R completed condition surveys of timber roof and floor structures and timber window frames at the former Oldham Library and Art Gallery, which is being re-purposed as Oldham Heritage and Arts Centre (OHAC). This will see the renovation of the Grade II-listed building and its transformation into a multi-purpose facility housing the Borough’s archives, museum and art gallery. Built in 1883 the imposing building is clad in rusticated rubble coarsed stone but all walls were actually constructed of reinforced shuttered concrete with ‘jack arch’ fireproof floors
In late February, H+R undertook a detailed damp and timber decay investigation of the Port House in Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders. Built in 1899 for the Co-operative Society, the former store displays an early use of ‘curtain walling’ and is appropriately Category-A listed. In response to its addition to the national at-risk register, Jedburgh Community Trust acquired the building in 2010 and have recently appointed LDN Architects and Elliot & Company Consulting Engineers Ltd to lead the project, both of whom H+R have a long working relationship with. Following a history of inadequate maintenance, it was of no surprise to find numerous instances of localised timber decay, primarily caused by dry rot (Serpula lacrymans) and common furniture beetle (Anobium punctatum). Instead of concentrating efforts on building water tightness, previous interventions had relied heavily on applying pesticides to timbers and injecting fungicide into the masonry. Fortunately, H+R recommendations avoid the need for any costly chemical remedial treatments. Whilst undertaking the survey Jedburgh’s annual ‘Jethart Hand Ba’ game was in full swing. The game, which can be traced back to at least 1704, involves two teams (‘Uppies’ and ‘Doonies’) scrummaging over a ball with the intention of getting it into their opponents’ goal to the north or south of the town. Tradition has it that the first ever game was played with an Englishman’s head. Fortunately, the locals adopted our English surveyor as a ‘Doonie’, having first arrived in Jedburgh via the A68 to the south. A close call!