An overview of my work placement at William Anelay Ltd.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014


In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration
~ Ansel Adams

My time at William Anelay’s is coming to an end and I can say that the three weeks have literally flown past. The huge variety of projects that I had the opportunity to visit shared light onto every possible area in the heritage conservation field and I can honestly say that during the couple of weeks that I spent with the project and site managers as well as the architects and quantity surveyors gave more knowledge about the reality of the heritage sector than any module at the university. I know that the knowledge that I gained during the placement was just the first paragraph of the introduction on how to give new life to old buildings and I am ready to go on exploring!

I am sincerely thankful to all the people at William Anelay Ltd who were willing to show me around and answer my sometimes never ending list of questions. Especially, I would like to express my gratitude to Ellen Palmer who helped to organise all the site visits and provided me with background information about each project and Charles Anelay who agreed to take me on this placement.

Thank you for the amazing 3 weeks!

There and back again

Save the best for last? My last site visit was to Castle Drogo
(Drewsteignton, Devon, England) 

“The story of the people who created the castle has been our inspiration and the fabric of the building is taking centre stage”
 ~ Tim Cambourne, National Trust Project Manager for Castle Drogo  

Castle Drogo was the last castle to be built in England. The castle, entirely built of granite was designed by architect Sir Edward Lutyens and features battlements, a fortified entrance tower, and a portcullis to create a medieval appearance. The castle is essentially a stately home with a blend of styles from the medieval and Tudor periods. A twentieth century "castle" was built by Sir Edward Lutyens between 1910-30. The property was given to the National Trust in 1974. It is a Grade I listed building.

The castle has suffered major structural problems ever since completion which have now resulted in serious leaks and water penetration throughout the building. The £11m five-year programme of repairs is supposed to return the Castle into its former glory. The project to preserve the castle will include the renovation of the massive flat-roof structure using cutting-edge materials to make it permanently watertight. Similar conservation work took place to the chapel roof six years ago and the chapel has not leaked since. It will be conservation on a grand scale, taking five years to complete. In order to install the new roof system, 2355 granite blocks weighing 680 tonnes will have to be removed and then returned. Some 900 windows containing over 13,000 panes of glass will be refurbished to stop them leaking and over 60,000 meters of pointing will need to be replaced.

Each stone is individually dismantled (top left), its location documented (top right) and then stored so that it could be put into its original place after the weatherproofing has been completed.

Site visit
The trip down to the south did take a while, but the scene that opened in front of me was well worth the long drive. Actually, to be completely honest, the scene that opened in front of me when I was approaching the castle was not the castle itself, but a big white tent that was covering the structure. Just the scope of the scaffolding itself took me a while to grasp and assured me that it was no ordinary conservation project.

Another very interesting aspect was how the conservation project does not close the building for the general public, but rather welcomes to join in and observe as the works advance. The viewing platform on top of the scaffolding offers a breath- taking view of the Conservation project with a capital C. Also, I was very pleased to discover that the conservation as well as other doings of the Castle are documented in a blog that I now scroll through from time to time. http://castledrogonationaltrust.wordpress.com/

And if the scope of the conservation work did not take your breath away then the surrounding landscapes definitely will!

Invisible conservation

Site visit to Middleport Pottery 

“We are restoring the site in a way that saves and celebrates its wonderful heritage, but also develops it in a way that means it can be used by residents and visitors today.” 
~ Ros Kerslake, the chief executive of The Prince’s Regeneration Trust 

In 1862 William Leigh and Frederick Rathbone Burgess took over Central Pottery in the heart of Burslem, calling their new business Burgess & Leigh Ltd. Eventually the founders’ surnames would be combined to form the brand name Burleigh. In 1889 they moved to their state of the art, purpose built site beside the Trent and Mersey Canal at Burslem. Middleport Pottery was described as ‘The Model Pottery of the Staffordshire Pottery Industry’ when it was first built. It was designed to make all production processes more efficient and to improve conditions for the workforce.

By 2011 Middleport Pottery was at serious risk of closure because of the very poor state of repair of the buildings. This would have seen the loss of jobs and substantial buildings of historic significance would have been left to further degenerate. But in the same year The Prince’s Regeneration Trust stepped in to buy and save the site and began a £9 million project to regenerate and revitalise it.  
(http://princes-regeneration.org/middleport-pottery/history )

The major buildings at Middleport are undergoing repair and renewal so they can continue to house Burleigh pottery production (e.g. Victorian sash windows will be repaired and re-glazed, and new conservation roof lights will also be installed). The currently redundant floor space will be refurbished for use as new workshops, and publically accessible facilities will be created, including a gallery, café, and activity space that will deliver an education programme for local schools, students and others with particular interests in art, design, heritage, craft and technology.

Site visit
When I arrived on the site of Middleport Pottery, I have to be honest, it was a conservation programme like none of the previous ones that I had visited in the last week. Here, the central idea and principle was to retain all layers of history and not restore the building into a pristine state, but rather let the industrial side of it- the chaos and layers of history be seen for everyone. I think that such an honest approach was the perfect way to go about the conservation works, because it displayed the pottery in its rawness and integral state. Of course the structural integrity of the buildings and the bottle kiln was restored, but the smaller architectural elements that portrayed the history of the pottery were left untouched. For example, the various decorative layers of wall paint were not scrubbed down and smoothed out but instead, the multiple layers were displayed and left untouched. When I was walking around the site with the site manager Will Prew, it was very hard to detect where any sort of conservation work had been done due to its respectful and honest approach towards the original fabric of the buildings.

A very good example of the honest approach toward the conservation of the Middelport Pottery by using only traditional methods is the conservation of the pottery’s bottle kiln: 

Remove, repair, replace.

Liverpool Town Hall (High Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, England) 

"An outstanding and complete example of late Georgian decoration" 
~ the authors of the Buildings of England series
(Pollard and Pevsner 2006, 291)

Liverpool’s Georgian Town Hall dates from 1749 and was designed by John Wood the Elder of Bath. Its exterior decorative frieze which can be viewed from the ground depicts emblems of British international trade in Africa including depictions which refer to the trade in slave where Liverpool gained much of its wealth. An extension to the north designed by James Wyatt was added in 1785. Following a fire in 1795 the hall was largely rebuilt and a dome designed by Wyatt was built. Part of the building was damaged in the Liverpool Blitz of 1941; this restored after the end of the Second World War. Further restoration was carried out between 1993 and 1995 (http://liverpoolcityhalls.co.uk/town-hall/about/history-of-the-town-hall/)

Start date: 03 March 2014
Completion date: 14 September 2014
Duration: 28 weeks

The project involved the careful cleaning of the elevations as well as the replacement of some of the deteriorated masonry to bring an important Georgian architectural landmark back to its former glory. The works only included the external envelope of the building and not the interiors. The deterioration on the elevations was due to many factors: expansion and contraction due to freeze and thaw cycles, using an incorrectly formulated repair mortar for repointing, previously incorrectly installed masonry units and moisture trapped behind masonry. All these deterioration factors had left the stone elevations in a bad state. In addition, the whole exterior of the pollutants and staining had covered the original sandy colour with a blackish hue.

Site visit:
On my site visit, I met with Garry Shea, who is the Site Manager of this project. He is also a professional stonemason and knew every sculpture and carving on the elevations and was able to share the different phases of the project as well as the issues that had come up during the works. One of the interesting things about this particular job was that all the repairs were done with stone and the works did not involve any kind of mortar repairs. In turn, this meant that all the deteriorated areas and stones had been marked, measured, the old stone carved out and replaced with a new one. Although the to- do list might not sound that long, the amount of stone replacements on the elevations was quite staggering and quickly gave a very good idea of the huge scope of the project. In addition to the replacement of stones, the elevations needed to be cleaned of staining and pollutants.

This was an interesting project to see as it showed that although the work that had to be done was very much repetitive, it still would take a considerable amount of time due to the careful and honest conservation techniques that will eventually reveal the original colours of the building. 

Expect the unexpected

Site visit to Sheffield Cathderal (The Cathedral Church of St Peter and St Paul, Sheffield, located in the city centre on Church Street) 

“Fingers crossed there are not too many more surprises in store.” 
~ John Hutton, Site Manager 

Originally a parish church, it was elevated to cathedral status when the diocese was created in 1914. Sheffield Cathedral is one of five Grade I listed buildings in the city. The east end of the current church is the oldest. In the east wall of the sanctuary there are stones from the 13th-century church. Dating from the 15th century are the sanctuary and chancel. The chancel roof likely dates to the 16th century and is a hammerbeam roof with gilded angels. In the 1880s further reconstruction and rebuilding removed the galleries, moved the organ to the north transept to clear the chancel, and changed the pews to the current oak pews. The north and south transepts and west end were extended: 
  1. Sir Charles Nicholson's design in the 1900s called for a radical realignment of the church axis by 90 degrees. However, funds and World Wars forced the designs to change. Those changes were implemented throughout the 20th century. The bulk of the changes have affected the northern part of the cathedral, which was extensively expanded. The main entrance of the church is at the expanded west end, added in 1966 when the church was rededicated. 
  2. The lantern tower was an earlier addition to improve light but its glass was replaced by an abstract design designed by Amber Hiscott in 1998–99.

Start date: February 2013
Completion date: April 2014
Duration: 55 weeks


In September 2010 it was announced that the cathedral would be applying for a £980,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant to fund a £1.25 million scheme to make the building more attractive to visitors. The Gateway Project will renew the interior of the Cathedral. It has two main elements:
The Centenary Project: new heating, flooring and seating in the main body of the Cathedral (the nave) and levelling of the floor to make the building more accessible to wheelchair users that includes refurbishment of the Cathedral interior
The Place for All People Project: a new accessible and welcoming main entrance, with gathering and display spaces; new lighting; new signage and interpretation resources; training for staff and volunteers; learning activities for children and adults.
Site visit
I arrived on the site on a Friday morning on the 4th of April and met up with the site manager John Hutton and the project manager. We walked around on the site which looked 95% ready, but when I started asking about the different phases of the project it came out that there were a lot of hidden and unexpected surprises during the last 52 weeks. But working with old and historic buildings constructed in different phases and rebuilt several times surprises are part of the equation. One of Murphy’s Laws’ says: You can't expect the unexpected, otherwise there would be no need for the word unexpected. “ However, I think that for people working in the heritage sector and with historic buildings, predicting the unexpected is pretty much part of the day- to- day job. And Sheffield Cathedral was no exception to that. By that I do not mean the obvious issues of working within a busy city center where accessibility can be an issue but challenges that can put such an experienced heritage construction company as William Anelay to a test:

Unexpectancy no. 1
Part of the works included digging up the floor of the nave and instating a new heating system. However, it came out during the works that the 1960s slabs (300mm) were at some parts placed on the 1930s floor. However, the tests carried out before the actual works begun hit some of the rare areas where there was no earlier slab. This meant the removal of the floor took 3 weeks longer than expected.

Unexpectancy no. 2
It became apparent that roof- supporting columns in the nave of the cathedral had very little foundation below them. With loose soil and stone below the column and machinery working in the area, there was a risk of roof collapse. Machinery movements were stopped for a week as a precautionary measure and eventually the floor received a layer of concrete.

These two surprises meant that the all the floating time for the schedule of works had been used up and left the project on a very tight schedule. Despite these surprises, the refurbishment project was completed on time much to the happiness of the local community who had now the opportunity to carry out Easter events in a freshly refurbished Cathedral.

Judges Lodging

Site visit to Judges Lodging
(2 Lendal St, York) 

“We have had six months exploration work, trying to get into every nook and cranny. We wanted to find out how the building worked and operated. We want people to see the building as it was originally meant. We’re bringing together its history and its future.” 
~ Sorcha Drakeford, operations director at the Judges Lodgings

The Judges Lodgings is a Grade I listed townhouse which was used by judges when they attended the sessions of the Assize Courts which were held four times each year in York. The building was erected between 1711 and 1726 on land that formerly belonged to St. Wilfred's Church (York) (that was demolished between 1550 and 1587). It is rumoured that the kitchen floor and the oven shelves of the original house were made up from ancient tombstones - it is said that freshly baked bread would often come out of the oven with inscriptions such as ‘Rest in Peace’! (one of the urban legends of York?)

The house is a very early example of the classical style which was to become popular throughout the eighteenth century. Festoons of fruit emphasise the unusual stone door surround, which is framed by a Venetian style arch. The keystone of the arch is carved with a bearded mask representing Aesculapius, the Greek demi-god of medicine. The architect is unknown, but may have been Lord Burlington, who designed and built the Assembly Rooms in 1730 and possibly the Mansion House between 1725 and 1730, both close to the Judges' Lodgings.

Contract commencement date: 18 March 2013
Contract completion date: 1 July 2014
Contract period: 80 weeks

The project includes internal and external alterations including demolition of a modern rear extension and construction of a new extension. The refurbishment will add an extra eight rooms to the hotel, bringing the total to 22, as well as expanding the cellar bar and dining area into the upper first floor of the building, and creating additional outdoor terraces. The hotel has been closed for 5 months (22 weeks) to carry out the refurbishment works. The contract period is an unusually short one and does not allow very much space for maneuvering, meaning that the completion programme needs to be rather specific and detailed in order to allow the completion of the works on time.

Site visit
The site is interesting both archaeologically and architecturally which also meant that a lot of effort and planning needed to be put into how the schedule of works would be implemented in reality. For example, one of the issues was the question of transport and logistics. In addition to the central location in the city, the site itself provided quite narrow access and raised the question of how to get the materials and plants to lay new foundations for the construction of the new extension in the small backyard of the hotel. During my site visit, not only the foundations, but the envelope of the new extension was all ready and was waiting for doors and windows to be put in.

Another interesting fact about the project was the fact that it had 32 sub- contractors in total. This is no doubt a challenge for the project manager to literally manage the progress of each sub- contractor and make sure that everything will be finished on time.

The office

I spent the next two days in the Heritage House (on Murton Way, Osbaldwick, York YO19 5UW), which is the company's central office. I sat in on a weekly contracts meeting and got a very good overview of the company’s history, values and visions and how it successfully manages the current 30-40 projects as well as familiarised myself with the everyday workings of the office and it’s different departments.

One thing that I learned was that William Anelay Ltd. has a lot of in- house trades and employs experienced contract management personnel while some projects are sub- contracted as well. The company specialises in traditional techniques and have their own team of over 100 craftsmen masons, joiners, lead workers, roofers and bricklayers along with apprentices, so that age old skills can be passed on to a new generation. In addition, the company is very committed to the apprenticeship process to ensure that heritage construction skills are taught and retained.
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