A renovation project set to reinvigorate Llancaiach Fawr Manor House, in Mid Glamorgan, and provide an accurate representation of life in the 17th Century is well underway.
Premier Construction caught up with Diane Walker, the General Manager at Llancaiach Fawr, to find out more about the development.
The planning process for this scheme of work has been a lengthy one having begun eight years ago. The Llancaiach Fawr Manor House team wanted to ensure that all of the buildings history was being relayed to guests.
Prior to the renovation visitors were being informed about the gentry’s way of life and the servants working lives in the house, however the servants domestic lives were not covered and so the staff at Llancaiach Fawr were eager to educate guests about this aspect of the Manor House. Works began on the project in February 2014 and are expected to reach completion by October this year.
Diane Walker said:
“The building is quirky in its layout building and has a large number of intramural staircases which were the original way of getting around the house. These staircases weren’t ideal for people with mobility issues as they had to be guided around the house via very specific routes; there is also no access to the upper floors. Part of this project is to enable us to share the house with as many people as possible and so we are building an external staircase tower.
“This an extremely complex project as the building is Grade I Listed and so an awful lot of time has been spent working with CADW to decide how that tower could be erected. We had to negotiate with them the footprint of the staircase as we only had a very small space to fit it in.”
Diane went on to add that there were design issues with the staircase tower as the rest of the house was built in the mid-16th century in the natural stone of Glamorgan, pent sandstone. Therefore adding a new structure to the building posed challenges as the team did not want the structural additions to detract from the historical look and feel of the property.
The staircase tower has therefore been constructed in sympathy with the existing building and has been lime rendered using a rough cast render. The new windows have been made in oak but have been patterned to match the existing stone mullions. The ironmongery used for the new windows has also been replicated from the existing structures.
The project is also adjusting the fire escape which runs through all of the buildings floors in the north wing of the building. Diane added:
“The fire escape really destroys the setting of our 17th century interpretation. We are trying to show the house as it was in 1645 using live first person interpretation; our staff dress as servants, speak as if they are from the era and take guests around as if the Master is away. The building also has modern lights and heating, installed during a restoration project in the 1980’s, which again do not fit with our story. We wanted to use modern technology to create a 17th century interior so that it enhanced the visitor experience, made the house flow and allowed us to open up the attic space to show how the servants lived.”
Caroe & Partners Architects, based in Cardiff, are working alongside main contractors Taliesin Conservation in order to carry out the project. Mike Williams, Managing Director of Taliesin Conservation, said:
“We are conservation specialists and I personally have been working on conservation projects for 30 years. Taliesin are an integrated family run company based in Caerphilly so we are very lucky to be working locally on this project.”
The site has remained live during the works and so the public are still being guided around the house as works progress. Therefore the phasing of the development and the need for appropriate health and safety is paramount. Diane said Llancaiach Fawr have decided to keep the site open as they feel it is important to engage the public in the development and inform them about the principles of building conservation.
The value of the building works total £750,000 and the majority of that funding came from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Other financial contributors to the project include CADW, Caerphilly County Council and The Friends of Llancaiach Fawr Manor.
“This project will allow us to tell a much better story of life at the Manor, its community and household, as it was in the 17th century. We will be offering a much more accurate portrayal of life there and therefore visitors experience will be much more rounded.”