Wrest Park Orangery Skillingtons have recently won by competitive tender the Main Contract for the repair of the Orangery at Wrest Park, Bedfordshire, for English Heritage. The Orangery was designed by the architect James Clephan in a French 18th century style for the De Grey family in about 1836. The facade is of ornate stucco in an early form of cement, using a combination of mouldings formed in situ and cast elements. The repairs are not only to the stucco but also to the roof (including the glass), the interior, and with the return to working order of the great north doors – where a whole bay opens up on huge hinges. This was designed to allow the wheeling in and out of orange trees, and is believed not to have been opened for around 50 years. The contract will be completed with complete internal and external redecoration, with a planned hand over date of December 2010.
We have for some years been operating out of two premises in Grantham, Baxter’s Yard – which was formerly a town joiners’ workshop – and a modern light industrial unit. Running backwards and forwards has never been ideal, and we have been short of space for some time, so when an adjacent industrial unit became available we leapt at the chance to take on a long-term lease. The new unit needs fitting out for offices and workshops, which will take the rest of this year to reach any kind of conclusion, but once done we will have around 7500 sq ft of secure indoor space as well as a secure outdoor compound all on one site. We will be expanding our stone processing capability and creating a new ‘wet’ mortar and plaster mixing area here as well! When things are further advanced we will have to change our postal address from the current Baxter’s Yard one, which we have had for some 15 years now – and rather liked! Watch this space.
Skillingtons win major plastering contract in Cumbria We are delighted to have won a sub-contract with Patton Construction for the repair and renewal of historic plasterwork at Lowther Castle near Penrith in Cumbria. Lowther Castle is the seat of the Lowthers, Earls of Lonsdale, with the 17th century house being remodelled from 1806 by the architect Robert Smirke. The plasterwork was mainly by Bernasconi of London. The Castle was stripped and unroofed in the 1950s, although the Stables were left largely intact. Much of our work will be in the making good of plasterwork here as the Stables are converted to an Exhibition and Visitor Centre, Cafe, Shop and units to let. Part of this is the conservation of the gothic vaulting to the Sculpture Gallery, which links to the Castle ruins. We are also going to be repairing the external render. We are currently analysing this, which appears to be an early or proto Portland Cement material, neatly applied and lined out to imitate ashlar.
St John’s Church Hackney & Others Skillingtons are currently due to commence an autumn and winter programme of monument conservation at All Saint’s, Alrewas; St Michael’s, Broome; St Andrew’s Langford; St Margaret’s, Sotterley and St John’s, Hackney. We first looked at the Urswyck Chapel at St John’s; Hackney in 2003 and subsequently presented a report for the Parish with our recommendation for their conservation. St John’s suffered from a significant fire in 1955 and at this time the monuments were restored. Sadly the techniques involved in the restoration of the monuments and the Urswyck Chapel itself have had adverse affects upon them especially that of the floor mounted monument to Christopher Urswyck d.1522 which was entirely repainted in oil paint. Part of the conservation of this monument will be the careful removal of this paint layer to reveal the stone and any original polychrome.