A stunning Victorian conservatory at Wentworth Castle in Stainborough near Barnsley, one of the finest examples of its kind anywhere, has been painstakingly and faithfully restored to its former glory.
William Anelay Ltd, a building firm established in 1747, was charged with the task of delivering a complex 12 month project, in conjunction with architects Buttress Fuller Alsop Williams. The project involved the complete restoration of the conservatory and the construction of an adjoining new build extension with visitor area, shop and cafe facilities.
The project has been commended in The English Heritage Angel Awards 2014 for ‘Best Rescue of Any Other Heritage Site.’
The 300 square metre conservatory was constructed in 1885 by Crompton and Fawkes of Chelmsford and is thought to be the first to incorporate electric lighting. It had fallen into a dangerously bad state of disrepair and had become overgrown with vegetation.
William Anelay worked closely with Shepley Engineering of Barnsley to dismantle and catalogue the complete structure and carefully restore each of the hundreds of wrought iron glazing bars before infillng with new glazing, sited within a 2mm seating, supplied by Bootle Glass on Merseyside.
Anelay Project Manager Dave Akitt explained:
“This was an incredibly challenging process. It was akin to an enormous Mecanno jigsaw puzzle. Inch-perfect precision was required to reassemble the conservatory effectively and sympathetically. Were any of the beams just a few millimetres out, then we would have had to start from scratch.
“One key aspect of the complexity lay in the way the conservatory was originally constructed with the 28 circular hollow columns also serving as rainwater down pipes. In order to protect these Shepley coated the inside with bitumen paint.
“That is why Shepley restored or replaced every single part of the structure and then reassembled it in full in their large workshop facility.
“The start of works involved the clearing of vegetation inside the conservatory prior to Shepley arriving on site and carefully scheduling and dismantling the structure.
“The ground was excavated to form a flat terrace, level with the original floor of the conservatory, with the original masonry walls being cleaned and repaired as necessary.
“Now reconstructed, the conservatory has access into what was originally a potting shed. This forms part of the new build extension that includes toilets, kitchen, plant room and an interpretation area.
“The new build aspect of the project is of timber construction with cedar cladding and a green and patent glazed roof. Both the conservatory and the extension were fitted with new mechanical and electrical services throughout,” added Dave.
The rear of the conservatory features new terracing and soft landscaping with hard landscaping around the new and restored structures to improve visitor access and parking areas.
Horners Tiling Specialist Ltd was on site for nine weeks repairing the existing tiling in the conservatory as well as laying tiles in the new build area. The tiles were sourced from Original Style and in total 9000 triangles were fitted within the conservatory.
Mickey Horner, Director of the firm, commented:
“It was important for us to be involved with this scheme as it was an unusual project and not one that comes along often. The conservatory had been derelict for a number of years and it was a prestigious building so it was great to be a part of its regeneration.”
The firm specialise in wall and floor tiling in all the commercial, leisure and domestic sectors.
Set in the rolling countryside of South Yorkshire, the grade I Listed Wentworth Castle is currently home to the Northern College for Residential and Community Education and was propelled into the national consciousness as a runner up in the 2003 BBC Restoration series hosted by Griff Rhys Jones. Previous work also saw Wentworth shortlisted in the Country Life Restoration of the Century award back in 2010.
Over the past decade a major programme of work has taken place, with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, the Country Houses Foundation, the European Regional Development Fund and the venue’s own Trust with William Anelay involved in a number of phases of the building restoration work.
Claire Herring, Director of Wentworth Castle Heritage Trust commented, “Great team work made this project possible, involving funders and our volunteers as well as the experience and skill of the craftsmen who brought the conservatory back to life. It was a real labour of love.”
Anelay Chairman Charles Anelay concluded: “This is undoubtedly one of the most challenging projects we have undertaken in recent times. There was no room for manoeuvre when it came to accuracy and it called for very close liaison with all of those organisations involved.”