Wythenshawe Hall - winner of the RIBA North West Conservation Award

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

 

RIBA North West Conservation Award - The Restoration of Wythenshawe Hall

Five years following the heart-breaking arson attack in March 2016, Wythenshawe Hall has now been awarded the RIBA North West Conservation Award in recognition of the huge conservation project carried out to preserve this 16th-century property.

The history of this Grade II* listed building dates to the 1540s as the original home to one of Cheshire noble families. Although with limited examples of these 16th-century timber-framed buildings still around in Britain today (especially to this extravagance), the restoration of Wythenshawe Hall was critical to conserving the history it represents.

Farcroft was brought in as specialist restorers to preserve as much timberwork as possible, replacing the ruined segments of timber with historically accurate methodology to replicate that of the original build. Although before we were able to commence with the restoration, we had to thoroughly survey how much of the timber had survived the tragic blaze.

Concluded from our survey, there was a fortunate amount of panelling and flooring to have survived the fire but not intact. The panelling that had survived was further examined for the depth of the damage to determine if the scorch marks were just purely on the surface of the wood or required reinforcing before finishing. Adapting our methods to the damage we were able to return the original finish to the timber.

Similar to the surviving panels, the timber floors required to be refinished in a very careful but intensive manner. Sanding the floor as little as minimal as possible to a layer of the wood that was undamaged and even. Finishing with traditional yet protective polishes to conserve the timber against footwear.

For the timberwork with irreversible damage, the woodworking skills of our craftsmen were called upon to replicate the damaged segments. Referencing to pre-incident photography along with the surviving panels, our team was able to establish the original measurements & design. Additionally sourcing a present day timber that matched the structure & grain of the original wood.

Executing a majority of the timberwork onsite, it was most productive to complete the woodwork in this approach. Although it wasn’t the case for all the timberwork. For the sections of original carved woodwork that were too severely damage to restore, our team hand-carved these segments in the comfort of our studio. In the well-equipped & secure location of our head studio, our restorers carved authentic replicas of the damaged pieces such as the timber ceiling rose for the first floor hall.

Overall, considering the significance of the woodwork was to restore the charm of the timber-framed architecture, our restorers recreated & achieved a wonderfully historic finish. Preserving the aged timber and matching the woodwork of the new segments to simulate the history of the surviving wood.

Understanding that the timberwork was just part of the effort to restore this magnificent building, the sense of reward we share with all the other specialists who were involved is truly heart warming to have been appreciated. From Wythenshawe Hall winning the RIBA award and National Civic Trust AABC Conservation Award just earlier this year, we at Farcroft are honoured to have been involved in the conservation of such a magnificent property of English history.

Below are some progress photos taken by our team during the project, displaying examples of the work done to the panelling, flooring & wood carved décor.