A Little bit about me...

I'm a Structural Engineer, specialising in conservation, at Hurst Peirce + Malcolm in London. I don't wear tweeds, am not particularly "cultured" and I'm not that old, but I do care passionately about the conservation of old buildings. I am a Chartered Structural Engineer, a member of The SPAB (formerly on the founding committee of the reborn Berks, Bucks & Oxon Regional Group), a Friend of SAVE Britain's Heritage and have recently completed a PD Diploma in conservation at West Dean College, with a view to achieving CARE accreditation. I hope to give you regular updates on my trials and tribulations as well as some insight into projects I am involved with and things I believe in.

Be patient with me - I'm no writer and I'm normally up to my eyeballs at work........

All views expressed here are my own.

Hurst Peirce + Malcolm, Celtic House, 33 John's Mews, Holborn, London WC1N 2QL

07854 624692 - richardsalmon9@gmail.com

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Our Georgian Adventure - Part 1

*Awarded a Certificate of Recognition in the English Heritage 2012 Heritage Angel Awards*

Welcome to the Dunham Lodge Estate in central Norfolk, where we have recently completed a long programme of repair and refurbishment. I am particularly proud of this project having effectively been Lead Consultant, responsible not only for structural and civil engineering but also architecture and building/estate services.

The estate currently stands at 235 acres and comprises a classic Georgian manor house (known as Dunham Lodge - Grade II*) and Coach House (Grade II) along with 'Gothick' style Gatehouse and Gardener's Cottage (Grade II), a 'D'shaped Walled Garden (exactly 1 acre internally - Grade II) and a number of other agricultural buildings.

The estate was created by the purchase of 680 acres of agricultural land and parts of the adjoining Little Dunham village by Thomas Rogers Esq, (once Alderman of Norwich) in 1741, but building work on the Lodge did not start until 1783, following purchase of the estate by Edward Parry Esq, on his return from military service in Bengal. The Lodge was finished in 1785 with the remainder of buildings completed by the early 1800's.

Notable former owners include Sir Charles Mansfield Clarke, personal physician to Queen Adelaide, who was created 1st Baronet of Dunham Lodge for his services to the royal house and Major Ivor "Toby" Buxton, a noted colonial soldier who saw service in East Africa. The current owner, our private client, purchased the estate from the Barclay (banking) family in 2006, shortly after the death of the widow of Brigadier Peter Barclay. Poet William Cowper is recorded to have lived at Dunham Lodge for a short time with his female companion Mary Unwin.

Part 1 of this blog will cover works to the Lodge. Subsequent parts will look at the other buildings we have dealt with across the estate.

Lodge before

Lodge during

Lodge after
Looking at the before and after shots of the Lodge you might think we haven't done anything. Well, that is the point dear friends. Our brief was to fully assess the building for defects and carry out only necessary repairs to ensure structural integrity and weathertightness of the external building fabric. In order to make this as fluid a process as possible we made very early contact with the local Conservation Officer and quickly built a good working relationship.

Our survey work revealed the usual array of problems following a long period of poor maintenance - leaking roof gutters behind parapets and in valleys, rotting and draughty windows, crumbling rubbed brick arches, cracked and leaning brick parapets, totally inadequate drainage system etc - and so we started on a scheme with the philosophy of like-for-like repairs wherever possible.

Site work started in the spring of 2009 with specialist historic buildings contractor R&J Hogg, who did and exceptional job and were always happy to share their expertise to resolve various tricky issues.

I won't go into masses of detail (but do feel free to ask any detailed technical questions via comments or twitter) so have annotated a number of site photographs below:-

New sand-cast leadwork over the bay. Existing lead in very poor condition and not re-usable having been 'maintained' in the past using copious quantities of liquid bitumen. You will note that the bay brick parapet has also been rebuilt, due to the very poor brickwork used in its original construction having largely crumbled away.

Existing sheds in the rear walled garden were also refurbished. One of the four had collapsed and was rebuilt to match. Under the hardcore lies an original cobbled driveway which we are hoping to restore in the next phase.

Note the height of the new lead parapet gutters here. Increased rainfall intensity over recent years has modified step height requirements in the LSA standard details. As you can see we only just got it in under the coping in this corner!

Refurbished original dated lead rainwater head with new lead overflow. Although the client has a good maintenance regime in place, he felt he needed a failsafe device!

Inner slopes of lower roof on completion. Note handmade lead vents needed as a result of creating cold roof space having added sheepswool insulation to ceiling. (Nothing allowed on outer slopes other than our own very clever 'invisible' eaves vent detail). Unfortunately, you will note, the chimneys are cement rendered but this has been left as trial removal caused excessive damage to bricks behind.

Restored rubbed brick arch back in place. As many original bricks as possible were reused. Replacements sourced from Peter Minter at Bulmer Brick & Tile Co. Some dropped arches could only be attributed to thermal movement and therefore a limited number of stainless steel rods in lime grout were installed in bed joints over these openings. All works done in 1:2 lime putty mortar except when it was getting very late in the year when we allowed a small amount of Metastar to be added.

The problem of some existing arches. Many were severely crumbled (partly due to original poor quality) and could not be saved. Others had sagged or rotated and were simply pinned and wedged back in place where possible.

The "unseen" elevation. Survey work showed the bay was not an original feature. We cannot be sure but we also believe the lower section is not contemporary with the higher section.

Structural roof repairs - Like-for-like timber used where possible. Dense slow-grown swedish whitewood used for structural repairs to existing baltic softwood structure, sourced from the Holkham Estate.

New timber sections scarfed onto end of primary trusses. Steel plates used only where necessary due to high loadings involved and the desire to minimise loss of existing historic timber.

Dragon beam, hip rafter and wall plates - All like-for-like repairs.

Stone indent repairs to existing limestone entrance steps. Iron balustrading also flame cleaned and repainted with new tipping work as required. Side walls of steps were of severely spalled brickwork however evidence of previous renders were found so we re-rendered in lime as a protective measure.

New lead covered infill to upper roof. Existing inverted roof was a maintenance nightmare as split into 3 small areas by chimneys. Done at the suggestion of the Conservation Officer on this occasion!

The luxurious window repair workshop! 90% of existing windows were saved. The Conservation Officer sanctioned the use of the 'Windowcare' resin repair system in order to minimise the loss of historic timber (in the case of these windows some very fine Danzig redwood frames and glazing bars).

Ecological requirements meant we had to allow bats ongoing access to the roof space. You can just see the handmade lead access hole and bat 'ladder' here.
Existing combination of collapsed septic tank and trench arches proved unrepairable. We therefore relined the existing drains where necessary and installed a new 'biodisc' foul treatment kit, and maintained the storm water system to outfall into the balancing pond linked to the existing field drainage system.
The Lodge is now ready and waiting for the upcoming program of internal redecoration (once the client has filled his piggy bank again!) This phase will incorporate consideration of possible alternative heating systems (currently oil boiler & rads).


  1. Fascinating! Really enjoyed that and looking forward to more posts. :) Ann Patey

  2. Fascinating blog about a fascinating topic. Really well done. Your writing is great - don't apologize! And the photos are clear and really enlightening. Thanks for a site I'll come back to often.

  3. Thank you both for your kind comments. Will try to keep updates regular

  4. Its really big project and I would like to congratulate for that one....!

  5. Thank you. We had a lot of fun with it!

  6. I really appreciate to you for this nice writing.Thanks for sharing with us.

  7. good post,I am glad to visit your website.. This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality and it is very useful one and gives in depth information.
    Roof repairs poole

  8. Hello, Great article, what is the preferred mot hod of saving and weather proofing a brick wall that is spalling and wicking driving rain?

    Regards David

    1. Hi David, thanks for your comment.
      Re brickwork, difficult to be definitive without seeing it, but if the bricks are currently spalling, are they bedded and/or pointed in cement mortar? Is it old or recent brickwork?
      I would tend to avoid any sort of applied sealant as these tend to trap moisture in rather than keeping it out.
      When a wall is working properly, any moisture "wicked" up would be held then evaporate in better weather.
      Perhaps you could send a couple of photos to the email address above?

      Best Regards.