Worden Old Hall by Heather Sutton

16th century Old Worden Hall near Leyland has stirred up interest in all quarters, from locals to historians and well known architectural archaeologists like Richard Morriss. But you only had to visit the site to understand that Old Worden Hall was equally fascinating for Maysand restoration team. With whole weekends spent researching the hall or ancient techniques like wattling and daubing, a framed picture of the building on his wall and hundreds of photos on his PC, for site manager Dick Wisbey, this was clearly more than a job it was a passion.

The Hall had been tucked away on BAE Royal Ordnance Factory site since it opened in 1938. After the factory closed, the Hall fell into disrepair and was put on the building at risk register by English Heritage. When the site was sold, the terms of the planned Buckshaw Village development included a £600,000+ restoration of the hall, for which Maysand was appointed main contractor, working with leading historical architects Donald Insall Associates.

Dick says the hall was in a dismal state: It was held up by support scaffolding, the back wall had fallen away and the first floor was unstable. Barely any floorboarding was salvageable and there were structural timber issues to resolve over half the restoration bill went on timber repairs alone.

Maysand’s brief was to replicate the original. But the way the replication was achieved is what counts, according to Dick: What came off, where possible, went back on, so the wattle was saved and repaired, and the daub removed and bagged for remixing and reuse.

All the materials had to be authentic even bricks that were to be covered with plaster to preserve the integrity of the building. It’s better to show an honest repair than to try and hide it because that way the building itself holds the key to its own history.
The team obviously did a great job: even before work was completed in August 2006, Maysand was getting rave reviews for its timber and brickwork. Simon Malam, the architect, and Mark Easton, Chorley Borough Council Area Planning Officer, were both really pleased with what we achieved, says Dick.

The Welsh Church by Heather Sutton

Maysand has restored plenty of ecclesiastical buildings over the years, but in the case of Liverpool’s Welsh Presbyterian Church the contract was less cosmetic surgery, more life saving operation.

Designed by George Ashdown Audsley and built between 1865 and 1867, the grade II listed building, known locally as Toxteth Cathedral and is thought to boast the second highest spire in Liverpool.

It had to be stabilised after a Dangerous Building Notice was served on the church’s current owners, a Nigerian-based religious organisation. It was already derelict but had more recently lost a large section of the roof to high winds and what remained was in imminent danger of collapse.

The Maysand team removed the remaining slates to be stored safely before covering the roof in plywood and visqueen to protect the interior from the elements. That done, new galvanised steel sections were bolted to the existing timbers to support the roof structure.

Steve Hartley, manager of the timber preservation division, explains: “The only safe way to get the steel in place was by lowering each section gently into position through the roof using a 90-tonne crane.”

Throughout the project Maysand worked closely with consultant structural engineer Curtins, where John Kelly has nothing but praise for the Maysand team: “We had worked together before, at Our Lady and St Nicholas’ Parish Church on Liverpool’s waterfront so I had every confidence in Maysand’s capabilities,” he says, adding, “The Maysand name is coming up again and again on prestigious heritage projects. Its reputation is growing, and with good reason.”

Sheffield City Hall by Heather Sutton

When Sheffield City Hall underwent a £13m refurbishment programme, Maysand took on the external masonry cleaning and repairs and a slightly trickier problem indoors.

The walls of the Oval and Memorial theatres inside the City Hall are finished with acoustic blocks which had been put in when the entertainment and arts venue was built in the late 1920s and early 30s.

Lee Wilkinson, contract supervisor on the project for Maysand, explains: “No one seems sure where these acoustic blocks were from, although they are rumoured to have been made by a Sheffield company. Wherever they came from they had obviously not been cleaned since the hall was opened in 1932, because the surface was completely black from years and years of nicotine staining and general grime.”

We used a special solution which we applied using airless sprays so that there was minimal water involved. Then we put down sawdust to catch the small amount of run off that resulted. When we had finished, you couldn’t recognise the place, really. The blocks looked amazing.”

Maysand also cleaned the limestone foyer, cleaned the exterior of the City Hall, did some patch pointing and minor masonry repairs externally, and removed any graffiti before applying a specialist anti-graffiti finish.

Roman Baths by Heather Sutton

The discovery of a Roman bathhouse under a £120 million retail development in Wigan was a great find for the historians — and a fascinating restoration project for Maysand.

The ‘hypocaust’, an underfloor heating system, was unearthed during excavations for the town’s Grand Arcade and is thought to have been part of a substantial bathhouse built by the Roman army.

The system would have heated the bathhouse’s rooms, by hot air from furnaces under the floor channelled up through hollow tiles set into the walls. The floor was supported by stacks of tiles called ‘pilae’ creating an underfloor cavity.

“Ian Miller, archaeologist with Oxford Archaeology North, says ‘It was a fanatastic find because it shows that Wigan was a Roman settlement of some importance, and it’s allowed us to re-assess the nature of the town during this period, which had previously been something of an mystery.

“We had anticipated finding some medieval remains at the site, but to discover a well-preserved Roman bath house was way beyond everyone’s expectations. It’s one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the North West this century!”

It was whilst working in the evaluation trenches prior to the development starting that Ian found the first clue: a Roman hearth. And as the full extent of the hypocaust was revealed, Ian produced detailed drawings and plans before everything was removed for safekeeping.

Maysand used these plans to restore the hypocaust to as near the original as possible. “Every stone and tile which could be salvaged was saved,” says Maysand’s Mick Fowles.

“Our job then was to source additional material to match the originals; commission new, hand made tiles and find a quarry that could offer an acceptable stone for the job. That done, we rebuilt the hypocaust using natural lime mortars.”

Andrew Duffy, project manager for developer Modus, says that the company had planned to set up display cases of artefacts from the site: “But the hypocaust was such a big find, we decided to restore it completely, using all the salvaged pieces, so that it becomes a feature of Wigan and a tangible piece of its history. For that we needed expert help from Maysand.”

Mick Fowles adds: “It’s an incredibly exciting project to be involved in. Whilst we were examining the Roman tiles we found finger prints — a thumbprint on one side and fingerprints underneath — probably from the time the tile was being made. We even found cat paw prints too! To see that kind of real life evidence in something so old was amazing.”

Chester City Walls by Heather Sutton

On 3 April 2008 a 30-metre section of the Roman walls in Chester collapsed close to the Eastgate Clock. What followed was a fascinating mix of archaeology, investigative work and engineering.

For, while the task of rebuilding one of the nation’s architectural and historical treasures fell to the Maysand, the overall project proved to be a real team effort.

“Clearly it was a prestigious job but also one that required a mix of disciplines to ensure the site could be retained for future generations. That’s why throughout the process it was crucial to foster and maintain a good dialogue between our team on site and the archaeologists, engineers and English Heritage,” says Maysand Managing Director Bryn Lisle.

“When it comes to ancient monuments like this there is no blueprint or plan to follow — instead you have to provide a bespoke restoration solution and that means working together. We knew, for example, that the collapse had given the archaeologists a once in a lifetime opportunity to see inside the ancient walls.”

The stabilisation work included installing props and anchors to support the internal face of the wall. Maysand also used the ‘Cintec’ anchor system. This was installed entirely within the fabric of the structure, leaving no visible change to the outward appearance, a feature particularly liked by heritage authorities. Cintec has previously been used in restoration work at both Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.

“The nature of the project required specialist skills. We re-used as much of the original masonry as possible. Every stone we took down had to be individually numbered and catalogued. Each had to go back in its right place. We also had inspectors abseiling down many other parts of the wall to survey the extent of the damage.”

Bryn adds: “It’s incredible to think that the same stones we handled have been touched by Roman hands!”

Chester’s Roman walls are the most complete circuit of walls in Britain, forming a remarkable 2-mile periphery around the city — hence the name ‘The Walled City’. Though the walls originate from Roman times they have experienced a rich history since including, Saxon and medieval rebuilding and extensions, Civil War conflict and Georgian elegance.

In 2011 Maysand’s work on the project was honoured when we picked up the Heritage Award at the Centre for Construction Innovation’s (CCI) North West Construction awards.

St Mary’s Nantwich by Heather Sutton

Architect: Anthony Blacklay and Associate

Main Contractor: Maysand

St Mary’s Church, Nantwich is widely acknowledged to be one of the finest medieval churches in England. It’s certainly one of the great architectural treasures of Cheshire attracting some 50,000 visitors a year.

The church is cruciform in shape with a large octagonal tower built in red sandstone.  The church boasts a rare 14th Century stone pulpit and chancel with “lierne” vaulting, intricately carved stone crocketed gables, and highly decorative buttresses and pinnacles.

The 9-month project included external façade work to the west elevation, including the replacement of crocketed pinnacles, and south clerestory Maysand also completed cleaning of the façade using low –medium pressured water to remove superficial dirt, taking extra care not to damage the soft carvings, and fit matching stainless tell.

The other element of the project involved internal work. This included fitting disabled access to the south porch and electrically operated glass doors, as well disabled lift access and restoration to the south porch’s historic geometric clay tiles floor tiles.

Successful restoration projects often require a partnership approach between the architect and the craftsmen. Maysand’s work on the Grade I listed St Mary’s Church in Nantwich is lasting memorial to that alliance. Tragically, the church architect Anthony Blacklay died during the course of the project, but even when he was seriously ill he ensured the job was handed over safely. His wishes were carried out and the result is a lasting tribute to all involved.

“All the masonry work had to match the existing Mottled Hollington sandstone and pointing was made with a compatible lime mortar mix, as a result of a mortar analysis test.  Repointing was also completed using hand held non-mechanical masonry tools,” says Mick Fowles Maysand’s Masonry Surveyor.

“Because St Mary’s is such a landmark it was clearly a very prestigious and interesting project for Maysand. But what makes this particular job unique was the fact that the thinking behind  how the stone would be repaired had to be worked out on the scaffold. It was  a fascinating tribute to the architect Anthony Blacklay.”

Greek Orthodox Liverpool by Heather Sutton

Maysand carried out repairs to the exterior at one of Liverpool’s landmark churches.

The Greek Orthodox Church of St Nicholas on Berkley Street, is one of four original Greek parishes in Britain.

The church, designed in a wonderful Byzantine style, was built in 1870. The work included renewing 3,500 handmade bricks. “It was an honour to be able to work on wonderful piece of architecture,” says Maysand contracts co-ordinator Lee Wilkinson.

“One of the challenges we faced was the fact we needed to match the colour as precisely as possible with the original brickwork. In the end we had to have bricks specially made for the project by a company in Yorkshire.

Works also included repairs to the roof and redecoration of the cast iron windows and guttering and drainpipes. The contract was worth £280,000.

The restoration project was managed by Sheen Project Managers of Liverpool.

Port of Liverpool by Heather Sutton

Maysand used its expertise sought early on, after being appointed to the project by in-house contractor George Downing Construction, when its first task was to help refine the schedule of works.

MD Bryn Lisle explains: “We carry out this kind of work on historic structures regularly, so we were able to get involved with practical advice. We carried out a clean pressure, nebulous water spray which gently agitates the limestone to wash away any grime on the surface. And we worked on the whole of the exterior so we used electric pumps to deliver the 500 gallons per hour needed to supply the cleaning units at the right pressure.”

As well as the cleaning team, a repointing gang, several teams of stonemasons and a repair crew who  re-pinned the stone with stainless steel in isolated areas, worked on the project.

Work on the Grade II* listed building, originally built for the Mersey Docks and Harbour Co, lasted for 12 months.

John Walsh, Project Manager for Downing, was more than happy with Maysand: “It was the first time we worked together but Maysand proved that our confidence in its capabilities was well founded. Performance levels were good and it is clearly a very professional operation, he comments.”

Blackpool Tower by Heather Sutton

Client

Blackpool Council

Main Contractor

Parkinson Ltd

Architect

Francis Roberts Architects, 1 Ribblesdale Place, Preston, PR1 3NA

Project value: £250,000.

Overview

Blackpool Tower (official name: Tower Buildings) was listed as Grade I in October 1973.

Development of tourism in Blackpool

The Tower, situated on The Promenade, was completed in 1894. At this time, Blackpool was probably the largest resort in the country. It could accommodate 250,000 holidaymakers and welcomed an estimated three million visitors each year, many staying for a week.

It had become easier and cheaper to reach Blackpool from the industrial towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire after railways were built in the 1840s. The traditional ‘wakes weeks’ had become secular holidays as cotton mills closed for a week every year to service and repair machinery. Each town’s mills closed for a different week, allowing Blackpool to manage a steady and reliable stream of visitors over the summer, assisted by the railway companies’ special excursion trains.

Electricity

Much of Blackpool’s growth and character stems from its pioneering use of electricity. In 1879, it was the first town in the world to have electric street lighting; large parts of the promenade were wired and accompanying pageants were developed. An illustrated guide boasted in 1899: ‘The whole of the Tower and premises is lighted with electricity, supplied by the Company’s private installation.’ Today, Blackpool is at its busiest during the Illuminations period, from September to November, when the Tower is covered with 10,000 light bulbs.

Funding

The initial idea for the Tower came from the London-based Standard Contract and Debenture Corporation (SCDC) with little local interest. Only one of the five directors of the Blackpool Tower Company was local (the mayor, John Bickerstaffe), and only 40 of the 204 founding shareholders.

Funding difficulties meant that the Tower project began to founder but it was saved by Bickerstaffe and the support of Blackpool’s working class visitors who stumped up investment capital. Bickerstaffe negotiated forcefully with SCDC and sold many of his own interests to pay for extra shares; 3,000 visitors (Rochdale spinners, Blackburn weavers, Oldham machinists and many others) subscribed to shares after being asked on the street.

Textile workers’ support was acknowledged explicitly by Bickerstaffe. When asked by a young journalist what the Tower was built on, he replied, ‘bales o’ cotton, lad, bales o’ cotton’, and this response quickly entered Lancashire folklore.

When the Tower opened in 1894, 500 special excursion trains arrived from the Lancashire textile towns and 70,000 people queued to enter. Catching sight of the Tower from the train came to be the first sign of being on holiday, its oriental ‘crown’ symbolising entry into another world, away from work.

Design

The Tower was built between 1891 and 1894 by contractors Heenan and Froude to the designs of Lancashire architects Maxwell and Tuke and engineer R.J.G. Reade. It took 2,500 tonnes of iron, 93 tonnes of cast steel and 5 million Accrington bricks (a hard engineering brick famed for its strength and also used in the Empire State Building). Built in open steel girders, the Tower is 100 feet wide at the base, tapering to 30 feet under the main gallery (which is enclosed in glass). There are three open galleries above, surmounted by an open girder ogee-shaped cap and a flagstaff whose top is 518 feet 9 inches from the ground.

Unlike the Eiffel Tower, its Parisian inspiration, Blackpool Tower does not stand alone, and is surrounded by a brick-faced quadrilateral block of three unequal storeys. Inside, there is exotic decoration in iron, bespoke Burmantofts terracotta glazed panels and opulent low-relief tiles. Notable areas are the Circus, the Ballroom, and the Roof Gardens.

The Circus is set at basement level between the legs of the Tower. It was originally Chinese in style (some of which remains) and then redesigned in a Moorish-Islamic style (probably by the renowned Victorian theatrical architect and designer, Frank Matcham). It features multiple and interlaced arches, fretted windows, stylised scallops and patterned tiles. It was the largest and most extravagant circus in the world. It had a unique flooding mechanism which allowed the arena to be filled with 40,000 gallons of water in a matter of minutes (and used for swimming and aquatic displays), then drained just as quickly. Today’s show still features this grand water finale.

The Ballroom was originally a promenade and concert room but was enlarged and reconstructed in 1899. It is decorated in the exuberant, lavish style of the Paris Opera by Frank Matcham, executed by De Jong. This was restored in 1956 by Andrew Mazzei, after fire damage. Rising from the first floor level, the ballroom has galleries on two levels on the north, west and south sides, and a curved and moulded proscenium on the east. Mouldings and painted panels on the columns display the names of famous composers. The vaulted ceiling features Baroque paintings and an oval skylight.

The Roof Gardens, now a children’s play area, have glass roofs supported on slim columns with stiff-Ieaf capitals and semi-circular roof braces with arabesque open work.

The massive staircase in red terracotta, rising from the main entrance on west side, survives intact.

The project

The Tower had sustained damage through weathering, neglect and substantial changes to the facade. In the 1960s, some of the arches had been made into kiosks and a veranda/glass canopy had been put across the front of the Tower. This had been done by cutting a metre-wide channel across the arches, knocking off any projections such as keystones and leading edges, and welding to the exposed steel. The fanlights had been badly damaged or panelled. Black bitumen paint had been applied liberally. It presented a substantial challenge and had to be done in sections as Blackpool Tower continued as a working tourist attraction.

Maysand was the subcontractor with responsibility for refurbishing and restoring the terracotta facade and cast iron rainwater pipes.

Maysand works included:

  • replacement of defective terracotta and brickwork
  • carrying out isolated areas of restoration repairs to the ornate spandrel panels
  • raking out and re-pointing works to masonry
  • cleaning down of the facade using a combination of Joss Torc and Doff cleaning systems
  • replacing defective rain water goods with new cast iron.

Maysand’s added value

  • Ability to work in sections (rather than on the project as a whole) behind decorative hoarding cloaking the scaffolding so that the Tower could continue to operate as a tourist attraction.
  • Management of very limited site storage with ‘just-in-time’ deliveries onto the scaffold to be fitted immediately into the façade.
  • Management of new challenges and additions to the work programme as the restoration work exposed new damage.
  • Successful technical problem-solving.
  • Lengthy planning and liaison with manufacturer of new terracotta pieces.
  • Checking of all new terracotta pieces (which took 24 weeks to make).

Shepherds Wheel by Heather Sutton

A rare gem from Britain’s industrial past has been given a new lease of life thanks to Maysand. An historic waterwheel, believed to date back to the 16th Century, has re-opened as a working museum in Autumn 2011 after being lovingly restored to its former glory.

Based in Endcliffe Park in Sheffield, Shepherd Wheel is a scheduled monument of huge historical importance because it is the last surviving example of its type in the UK.

The renovation project comprised four key phases and we were entrusted with looking after phase two, which involved restoring the main building housing the wheel.

Paul Bangert, Contract Administrator for the Architects’ Practice at Sheffield City Council, said: “Shepherd Wheel is a very small building but from a heritage point of view, it’s extremely important.

“This is the only remaining example of early domestic scale industrial heritage in Sheffield and this particular design is unique.

“With that in mind, we needed to enlist the services of a specialist contractor that understood the historical importance of such a site. The kind of work involved in a project of this nature requires a light touch so we could not risk putting this job in the hands of a standard contractor.

“After a five-way pitch, we decided to go with Maysand and I cannot praise them highly enough for the work they havecarried out. The standard of the workmanship has been first class and we have found them to be an excellent company to work with.

“We recently had a visit from a scheduled monument inspector, who are notoriously very particular. However, Maysand were perfect in the way they handled it, talking him through the project in very practical terms. When he went away, he was very happy because he clearly knows good quality workmanship when he sees it.”

Some of the work we carried out at the site included repairs to the roof, doors and window frames, creating a new viewing area, treating all of the timberwork, underpinning to the front of the building, and painting, using traditional lime paints.

Site foreman David Beese said: “It was quite a challenging project to be involved in. The building dates back to the 16th Century so we have worked very closely with the architects, historians and archaeologists to ensure everything is in keeping with how it should be.”

Historians believe Shepherd Wheel dates back more than 400 years. Until 1930, the wheel, which is 5.5 metres high and 2 metres wide and is made of cast and wrought iron, elm and oak and bronze, was used to power two grinding workshops, which made blades from Sheffield steel. After local historical societies campaigned for its restoration, the site was re-opened as a museum in 1962.

However it closed again in 1997 and was then placed under the management of Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust 12 months later.