St Bart’s Wilmslow by Heather Sutton

In the affluent town of Wilmslow in Cheshire, the grade 1-listed St Bartholomew’s church is a major tourist attraction for its history and architectural significance.

So, undertaking a major renovation programme meant assembling a committed and able team of professionals including restoration experts Maysand and architects George Holland Associates. In St Bart’s case, that team was obviously well chosen since the results were recognised in the RIBA Conservation Sector Review 2004.

The earliest record of a church on the same site is 1246, more than 750 years ago. Little of the early building survives but the crypt, which can be accessed from the chancel, dates from around 1300. The main part of the church is thought to have been a rebuild carried out between 1517 and 1537 though according to Raymond Richards, author andacknowledged expert on the subject, the lower section of the tower may date from the 15th century.

Despite the years, and Henry VIII’s Reformation, the church survived though, much to the chagrin of the purists, underwent restoration during the Victorian era in 1863 which destroyed much that was ancient.

However, the church council assembled the renovation team to tackle the first phase which involved high level reroofing to repair and relay the stone slates and carry out extensive stonework repairs to the upper parts of the tower. The roof had been the most pressing since members of the congregation were being treated to the odd shower when it rained.

According to Bryn Lisle, Maysand’s MD, the team obviously “did a good job”, since they were enlisted to work on Phase II which covered the south aisle in the latter part of 2004. Additional Maysand projects included repointing, timber repairs, gutter repairs, some internal cleaning of stonework, rebuilding boundary walls and creating a new pedestrian entrance to the boundary, as well as realigning gravestones which formed a public right of way.

As with all Maysand projects, the whole programme hinged on the use of traditional materials and methods, resisting the replacement of original fabric and upgrading only where appropriate.

The Poem by Heather Sutton

The Poem is a quaintly-named mausoleum in the beautiful setting of Bodnant Garden. It was built by Henry Davis Pochin, a wealthy industrial chemist and founder of the present garden, and although Henry has descendants that still own and live in Bodnant House, the garden was given over to the care of the National Trust by his grandson, the 2nd Lord Aberconway, in 1949.
Bodnant is in an exceptionally picturesque position on the east side of the Conwy valley, with magnificent views westwards towards Snowdonia.

The Poem, built in 1882, sits on an outcrop of rock at the end of the valley known as the Dell. Grade II-listed for architectural interest and with an unusually sumptuous interior, it was designed by architects W J Green of London; whilst the spectacular marble inside was sculpted by Samuel Barfield of Leicester. Pochin bought the estate in 1874, and set about remodelling the house and continuing to develop the garden established by previous owner, Colonel Forbes.

When Pochin died in 1895, the estate passed to his daughter, Lady Aberconway, who, along with her son Henry Duncan McLaren, continued the work that her father had initiated, in turn passing responsibility to Charles McLaren, the 3rd Lord Aberconway. The estate is now owned by his younger son, Michael McLaren QC, who also manages the 80-acre Bodnant Garden on behalf of the National Trust.

Maysand carried out a 20-week restoration of The Poem after being appointed by architects Brock Carmichael who have been overseeing National Trust projects for 17 years.

The Poem is a storeyed, square tower in neo-Norman style, constructed of local blue/grey limestone with yellow sandstone dressings. There is a lower level apse at the rear and a single storey boiler room to the North West elevation. The roof is slate, in a shallow pyramidal style with a parapet and octagonal turrets at each corner. Above the arched entrance with voussoirs supported on columns of red marble, is a sandstone band inscribed ‘The Poem’ in raised decorative lettering. Maysand’s task was to restore the exterior, which has suffered some erosion and distress due to weather and age, including masonry, the roof, decorative architectural features such as the raised lettering frieze, and an ornate, but dilapidated, dovecote.

We replaced the roof with new Penrhyn slate, and provided new lead lined gutters to the parapet to replace those removed and replaced with bitumen felt back in the 1960s. Maysand’s timber experts dealt with rot in the rafter feet and wall plates, splicing or replacing where necessary. Defective profiled sandstone and ashlar blocks was stripped out and replaced and a new sandstone frieze carved to replicate the lettering ‘The Poem’ exactly as the original. For that Maysand sourced Woodkirk stone from Yorkshire as the best available match for The Poem’s existing sandstone. The currently uninhabited dovecote was rebuilt in its entirety and reinstated above the boiler house.

One of the biggest challenges was access to The Poem, since all materials had to be transported across two fields via dumper truck and a 4-wheel drive quad bike.

“It was not a huge or necessarily technically challenging project, but The Poem has some quirky architectural features, and, as a National Trust property, is, deservedly, a national treasure to be preserved for our heritage” says Maysand’s Bryn Lisle.

Dunham Massey by Heather Sutton

A real measure of Maysand’s reputation for top quality conservation work is being chosen for high profile projects like that at Dunham Massey, a flagship National Trust property in the North West.

An early Georgian red brick structure built on top of an original Tudor core, the current house dates back to the days when George Booth, the 2nd Earl of Warrington, inherited Dunham in 1694. At the time, the estate was heavily in debt but Booth dedicated much of his life to restoring the fortunes of the place and it stayed in the Booth family until 1976 when both house and estate were bequeathed to the National Trust.

The 30-room house was extensively reworked in the early 20th century and is regarded as one of Britain’s most sumptuous Edwardian interiors, housing exceptional collections of furniture, paintings and silver.

“The project took just under a year, and was challenging in the sheer scale of work involved, but we’re very proud to have been a part of it,” says Bryn Lisle, MD of Maysand, who worked with renowned conservation architect Andrew Wiles of Wiles Maguire to renew and re-lead all the box gutters, re-lead the roof and re-roof the main house.

Before work began, a complex scaffold was erected over the whole building, with a temporary roof to weather proof the site and protect the interior whilst the work was going on. The £581,000 project took exactly 54 weeks and finished bang on schedule, to the delight of everyone involved.

Stephen McGlade, senior building surveyor with the National Trust, was impressed with Maysand’s approach: “I found the team to be extremely helpful and very focused on the work. They were diligent and worked incredibly hard to complete the project in the timeframe. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with Maysand again.”

Rugby Test by Heather Sutton

Maysand’s technical talent came up with an innovative and quite probably unique solution to replace the cornice of a Victorian, grade II-listed, 3-storey building in Rugby.

The original had become dislodged and though the new cornice was to be a fake, it still had to look like the real thing. Engineers Bunyan Meyer and Partners called in Maysand and, as ever, the creative team rose to the challenge.

Maysand’s Mick Fowles explains: “The project had to meet the approval of Rugby’s conservation officer and also the stringent criteria laid down by the engineers. Construction needed to be structurally sound to a high standard; the cornice was to be lightweight but strong enough to take a person’s weight and we had to use traditional methods and materials in keeping with the existing building. Finally, the construction had to be water tight and able to take the fixing of a lead covering.”

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“We put forward a number of options including GRP (glass reinforced plastic) and pre-cast units which were discounted. Eventually we came up with what we believe is a unique solution. Certainly in all my years in this industry I haven’t ever come across it before”, adds Mick.

Maysand’s inspired solution involved building a brick parapet on site and adding a stainless steel lightweight frame to form the shape of the cornice. The frame was then finished with an applied and modelled lime and cement stucco looking to all the world as near as possible to the original cornice.

Rob Parker-Gulliford, Conservation Officer at Rugby Borough Council, was delighted according to Mick: “He said he was pleased that there were still trained and skilled craftsmen who took such great pride in their work.”

Lions Den by Heather Sutton

The Lions’ Den in Oldham’s Alexander Park has been restored to its former glory, thanks to Maysand’s multi-talented team.

An ornate and colourful stone and cast iron shelter guarded by two stone lions, it is thought to have been built before the First World War and was a well known landmark along a path known in the 1930s as the Mayor’s Walk where people used to promenade at weekends.

Years of neglect and vandalism had taken its toll until Maysand was called in to take on the restoration. “It was a sad sight and totally unrecognisable as anything other than steps and a bit of stone wall,” explains Bryn Lisle, Maysand’s managing director, so it was a substantial undertaking.

We ran tests on the remaining stone, then had and source a best possible match. Eventually we found a second hand Pennine sandstone which was perfect for the job.

New quoins and copings were installed using Stoke Hall stone from Derbyshire. And Maysand re-pointed the whole structure using traditional lime mortar developed to replicate the colour and texture of the original. The roof was re-slated using specially quarried blue Welsh Pen Rhyn slate – again as used originally.

Now the Lions’ Den is once again the pride of Oldham and for Maysand that makes it particularly significant: “Being involved in something which means so much to our own community here in Oldham gave us an enormous sense of achievement.” adds Bryn.

Hanging Bridge Manchester by Heather Sutton

Maysand developed an ingenious technique more appropriate to the operating theatre to help save one of city centre Manchester’s oldest structures, The Hanging Bridge. When cracks were discovered in the bridge, Manchester City Council called in the experts. Following a series of surveys by Buro Happold engineer Barry Cockerham, Maysand was chosen to devise an emergency repair plan along with the engineers and English Heritage representatives.

Lying directly beneath Hanging Bridge Chambers near the Cathedral, Hanging Bridge itself was hidden from view for centuries but revealed when the chambers were redeveloped as the Cathedral’s Visitor Centre. Grade 1 listed bridge in Manchester city centre which dates back to medieval times.

The project was a fascinating cameo of the Maysand approach. First we sealed the joints and voids around the damaged stones by squeezing in clay. Then, using a hypodermic syringe, injected a special mix of lime grout through the clay into the voids behind. We opened up holes to check the grout flow and allow the air to escape before replugging them with clay to stop the grout running out.

After 48 hours the clay was removed leaving the grout firmly in place and the stonework securely repaired. In another process, a partly fractured voussoir was pinned or skew stitched with stainless steel dowels before the fracture was filled using the same grout injection process. Not only was it an ingenious solution, it was a painstaking operation involving having to work upside down from a Michelangelo-like position.

All the work was carried out by hand so as not to damage or scratch any masonry; even with acrow props we had to use protective hessian to safeguard the stone surface and they could only add support to the stone, not put the structure under any pressure.

Sheffield Town Hall Clock Tower by Heather Sutton

Client

Sheffield City Council

Main Contractor

Maysand Ltd

Architect

Architects Team, Capital Delivery, Sheffield City Council

Project value: £86,000.

Overview

Sheffield’s fourth Town Hall is situated on Pinstone Street in the centre of the city. It was designed by E. W Mountford, a London architect, and begun in 1890. It was opened by Queen Victoria on 21 May 1897 and is Grade 1 listed.

It has long been thought that the exterior walls were built with ‘Stoke’ stone from the Stoke Hall Quarry near Grindleford, Derbyshire. During this work, however, it was discovered that the stone actually came from a long-disused quarry at Walkley, to the north of Sheffield city centre.

The clock tower stands at the north corner of the Town Hall, set back slightly in deference to the main façade. It is 64m (210ft) high and, appropriately for Sheffield, is topped with a 2.13m statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metalworking. The four clock dials are 2.5m in diameter.

Although the Town Hall clock was originally designed to be capable of working with bells they were never installed. In 2002, though, an electronic bell sound system was added to provide an hourly strike and Westminster-style quarter chimes.

The project

The clock tower has been very exposed to the weather for over 100 years and its condition had deteriorated in recent years.

Considerable thought was given to safe access to the tower. It is in a very central location with events taking place and members of the public going about their business directly below. In addition, political leaders are working within yards inside the Town Hall. There was no room for mistakes. A very specialised scaffold was designed which appeared from some angles to be floating in mid-air. The initial gantry scaffold erected at ground floor level went up on 13 April 2013. The scaffold was then erected up the face of the tower and cantilevered around the high level balconies ready for the masonry work to start after the Easter holidays.

Specialist repair was required. The original ironwork which had corroded within the structure was exposed and treated and indent repairs were carried out to the ornate carved capitals. Other masonry was repaired and repointed as necessary. In addition, new rainwater pipes, asphalt floors and gutters were installed.

Suitable fine sandstone providing a good match with the original stone was sourced from local suppliers based in Chesterfield.

The reaction

Paul Bangert of Sheffield City Council’s Capital Delivery Architects Team said:

“Maysand’s whole work was superb, to be honest. As the scaffold issues were being sorted out they showed a lot of patience. After that, they just did the work. In their style, they went straight through it.

“Although the scaffold issue meant we lost a bit of time, Maysand pulled back in construction time and finished on time and within budget. It was a job well done. Technically, they did exactly what was required. The way they quickly obtained materials when they exposed the corroded ironwork shows experience and confidence. If we had gone a non-specialist route I could have seen problems.

“I have total confidence in them and their quality work. I’m always happy to use Maysand. They are very skilled at what they do.”

Maysand’s Managing Director, Bryn Lisle, commented:

“We spent a considerable amount of time working with the Council, planning the works before we started on site and selecting the right sub-contractors to form a solid project team. This was reflected in the way the job was administered and completed. The project was a credit to all involved.”