Eminent Listed Buildings Repairs In Canterbury

Eminent Listed Buildings Repairs In Canterbury

Restoration of The Old Weavers House in St Peter's Street, Canterbury
Restoration of The Old Weavers House in St Peter's Street, Canterbury
September 2023

The Old Weavers is an iconic collection of three timber-framed Grade II Listed Buildings in the centre of the City of Canterbury, by the Great River Stour.

Number 1, 2, and 3 St Peter's Street date back to 1450-1500 and have been used as a workshop, laundry, pub, and various commercial ventures since. With its eight gables, a medieval ducking stool, and numerous projecting bays, The Old Weavers is an exceptional expression of the city’s architectural heritage. The historically-important buildings, currently let to two restaurateurs on long leases, had fallen into disrepair in recent years, principally due to damage to the water goods. Their very poor condition eventually led to potential public danger. The landlord, Banbury Estates Ltd - a long-standing client of Andrew Clague – pressed to commission repairs. 

James Clague Architects were instructed to prepare a draft specification for the repairs of No.2 and 3 and compile a list of observations detailing the causes of the damage, and to address and expand upon the existing Schedule of Dilapidation. Part of the works involved carefully removing rotted timber sections, while leaving sound pieces in place, in order to preserve as much of the buildings’ original fabric as possible. This required precision craftsmanship to achieve.

After thoroughly assessing the buildings, priority was given to urgent and structural defects. The project posed multiple challenges, such as accessing areas like corner posts, joists, and the primary structure of the buildings. This was very difficult, especially as they front the River Stour on one side. Therefore, the repairs required different approaches.

The repairs we oversaw were tricky but were vital to ensure these historic architectural buildings remain as one of the definitions of Canterbury’s heritage.

Choosing James Clague Architects To Specify And Oversee The Listed Buildings Restoration

Thanks, in no small part, to Andrew's exceptional understanding of how this building came together and its historical importance, Banbury Estates Ltd chose James Clague Architects to lead this notable restoration project. 

We produced the initial specifications, which were refined by the tenant’s surveyor. We then liaised with the surveyor to carry out the works, and James Clague Architects oversaw the repairs. 

The Listed Building Repair Works – Key Elements of Repair

Our specifications allowed the client to restore the buildings to their former splendor, while sensibly preserving as much of their original fabric as possible.

Rainwater Disposal System Restoration

The rainwater disposal system in the front elevation was compromised and was prone to leaking. Over the years, this caused rot in the primary and secondary frame members over the two-storey elevation to St. Peter’s Street and to the river frontage. To solve this issue, we specified adding new leadwork valley gutters, increasing the outlets diameter, renewing all fittings in cast iron, and building a new weir to shed any overflow water outside the building. Rainwater now smoothly flows from the roof down to the street or river, away from the precious historic framing.

Falling Prominent Sign

A prominent sign on the riverfront was falling from the side of the buildings, threatening to fall into the High Street. We devised repairs to the structure so that the sign could be firmly re-fixed to the wall. Although the repair was rather straightforward, it significantly enhanced the exterior of the buildings, making them look cared for and well-loved.

Decay Of The Timber-framed Structure And Framing

The damaged rainwater disposal system caused extensive rot in the primary oak frame.

To address this, we advised the best solution was to remove the plaster to expose the primary framing member, renew the principal frame posts, and scarf onto the remaining solid sections. This allowed us to improve the condition of the primary frame members, which, as we found out, hid behind a secondary Victorian screen of sand, cement pebbledash, and mock timbers. 

The repairs were very tricky, as the builders (Bekbuild Kent Ltd) had to carefully remove rotted timber pieces and leave solid pieces in place to preserve as much of the original fabric as possible. This was of utmost importance from a conservation point of view, so we ensured the works were carried out diligently.

Load-Distribution Issues

The first floor of the restaurant at no.2 The Old Weavers was springy in nature due to interventions carried out before James Clague Architects were appointed as architects for the repair work. In the recent past, a new post had been added to the first-floor beam, transferring some load from the roof above and over stressing it. Moreover, a new window, with a thin oak lintel above, had been introduced in place of the original frame post. The lintel was failing and further loading the first-floor beam, which bore upon it.  To solve the issues, we specified the addition of two thin round steel posts under the beam, through the window, and strengthening the beam. The loads are now equally distributed and the first floor of the restaurant is as solid as it should be.

Over-stressing Of The Projecting First Floor Joists 

Many years ago, the previous owners of The Old Weavers added a shopfront to no. 2. Unfortunately, the bressummer beam was supported by projecting first floor joists, which were worm infested, causing the bressummer to fail. The weak bressummer beam, combined with the rainwater leaks, caused rot and over-stressing of the projecting first floor joists. To address this problem, we proposed to renew three of the projecting joists strengthening the original bressummer - a clever and functional method of support which helped minimise the loss of the building’s original fabric.

The Repairs

The uncovering and repairing was done to an exceptional standard. In particular, the corner posts at No.2, inserted above the shop window, were very skilfully constructed by Bekbuild Ltd.

Hartley Developments South East Ltd proficiently carried out the repair works at No. 1 St Peter’s Street. The works succeeded in restoring these prominent historic buildings to their original glory.

The Client’s Feedback

Our thorough investigation and sensible specifications allowed us to remove minimal amounts of original fabric with negligible impact on the character of these remarkable Grade II* Listed Buildings. 

The Old Weavers is now in far better order and continues to be an integral part of Canterbury’s iconic medieval streets.The client and landlord are very pleased with the end result. 

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