Issue 39 March 2010
Next Branch meeting (with AGM) is on Thursday 25 th
March 2010 and will take place at Shrewsbury.
Details with the agenda.
ACTON SCOTT OPEN DAY - Sustainability in the
Historic Environment - 30th April 2010 – see flyer.
he’ll be a superb chairman. There are also many
things for which I want to thank my predecessor,
John Yates, but two stand out. First for his
administration of the metaphorical kicks that I
sometimes needed, as secretary, to get things done
and secondly (on a serious note) for the huge
intellectual rigour that he brought to the role. His
insight and ability to see the bigger picture has
served IHBC extremely well at all levels. Debbie has
juggled being a mom and secretary with admirable
aplomb and efficiency, whilst Jan has stepped
seamlessly into the role of treasurer with ease and
an impish sense of humour (thanks!). Charles is
unstinting as our branch rep – keep the endless e-
mails coming – whilst Roger is very conscientious in
education and I’m frustratingly jealous of his
sketching abilities. This leads last, but by a long
stretch no means least, to Peter whose patience with
my late submission of these missives knows few
bounds and whose skill with words results in what
must be the best branch newsletter in the IHBC. And
just to make sure I don’t miss anyone – thanks to
your predecessors too.
I’m about as successful as Mystic Meg in the art of
gazing into crystal balls but there are a few thoughts
I’d like to record just to see how things pan out over
the next few years.
As a public servant I’m frustrated, irritated
and angry that both of the major parties see the
public sector generally as a compliant and
convenient whipping boy for the unholy mess
created by
a) the politicians who seemed to believe and
b) the bankers who created for them the grand and
ultimately false illusion that making money for
money’s sake (rather than making money from
making goods and selling them for a profit) was a
sustainable way to create wealth.
That bubble having burst/exploded/
imploded, the predictions about public sector
finances over the next few years make for grim
reading. Only time will tell whether and how effective
will be the pleas that were made to directors and
politicians at the recent English Historic Towns
Forum presentations to maintain rather than cut
conservation services. I strongly suspect that the
suggestions for joint provision of services mooted,
but not favoured, several years ago at the focus
Dave Burton-Pye
I think it’s fair to say that this valedictory “Chairman’s
bit” is typed with a tinge of sadness since for me it
(potentially) marks the end of a personal era
spanning many years of active involvement with this
branch. I say this because I’ve always seen
“involvement” as more than simply attending the
meetings and both as secretary and chairman I think
it’s fair to say that, yes, I have been pretty active in
our affairs. So first and foremost can I say thank you
to all members of the branch and especially to those
who have
hosted meetings (sometimes at ridiculously
short notice)
organised visits to places and buildings (that
many people could never get to see)
arranged lunch (in some wonderful venues)
given presentations (and hence explained
the often fascinating backgrounds to the
places we have seen) and
contributed to our debates (thus helping to
make it such a good branch.)
Seen in those terms it’s actually been a
privilege not only to have been involved but also for
the opportunities that the role(s) have afforded to me
to act as IHBC representative at several regional
forums and events. I know I’m going to miss being at
the helm.
Inevitably I want to give particular thanks to
the branch officers for their unstinting support to me.
Philip has been an absolute rock as Vice Chairman
helping me out on many occasions, sometimes at
short notice, always without hesitation and I know
Newsletter 39 page 1
groups held in connection with “The Blue”* may yet
come to pass. If this is the case then there is clearly
merit in members being engaged in planning how
such provisions may work rather than being forced
into a position where new structures are imposed by
“outsiders” unfamiliar with how such services might
best operate. I’m also tempted to suggest that
sometimes as a profession we could work a bit
smarter – even though I have little time for such
management-speak. By way of example it seems to
make eminent sense when we’re out on an
application site visit to No 12 High Street to take the
extra five minutes needed to complete the Buildings
at Risk assessment for No 14 next door. This ain’t
rocket science, and when we frequently bemoan our
joint lot about development control casework I do
sometimes think we should stand back and take
stock of the systems we and/or “they” use to see
whether jointly we could agree some improvements.
*The Blue was, of course, the consultation
paper that preceded the ill fated National Heritage
Bill and the still awaited (at time of writing) PPS 15.
I don’t have the intellect for philosophy but I
do sometimes wonder about the approach that we
take to conservation and how it compares to some of
our European neighbours. In parts this relates to my
oft-expounded theory that here we don’t truly value
“the heritage” for its intrinsic worth but simply see it
as something that tourists like to look at and hence
as a nation we see it only in terms of its monetary
value and how much it can earn. Elsewhere I believe
that it is appreciated as an intangible asset that
needs protection and preservation because it
constitutes a fundamental expression of their culture.
In some ways the British way can be seen
as an extension to the longstanding national
antipathy to heritage which characterised much post
war redevelopment. Here the devastation was seen
as an opportunity to sweep away the “slums” and
medieval town centres and create a brave new
world, whereas in parts of Europe it was seen as an
opportunity to recreate something historic and
cherished. The conservation area legislation first
found expression in the Civic Amenities Act and it is
ironic (and possibly strangely prophetic) that the
most unsuccessful element of heritage should have
been legislatively embraced along with local waste
disposal facilities. If you think conservation area
legislation is rubbish just remember what it was
linked to … !!
Wrapped up with this I also perceive another
difference. Here we seem to rely heavily on
“controls” and enforcement. In some ways this is
also linked to ownership of assets by corporations –
and of course the shafting of historic buildings by
absentee landlords alongside corporate shopfronts
and signage is an endemic disease. Abroad there
seems to be more widespread “ownership” and
public appreciation of the benefits of preserving and
enhancing character as opposed to controlling what
can and can’t and should or shouldn’t be done.
Having said all of which I’m not generally a
pessimistic person and working as a conservation
officer has been a pleasure on far, far more
occasions than it’s been a pain. I’m also still as
convinced now as I was after my first ever ACO
meeting in Much Wenlock that the personal
friendships and professional values that I gain from
attending branch meetings is one of the things that I
value most about the West Midland branch and for
that I thank all of you.
Royal Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park Corner, London.
Architect Lionel Pearson, sculptor Charles Sargeant
Jagger. 1921-25. Black patinated bronze against
Portland stone.
I was in London on business last autumn and had
time to wander about because of train times. This
bronze artillery driver is one of Jagger’s most
arresting creations.
Content in this number focuses on the two
very different experiences of our last Branch Meeting
in Wolverhampton. I have also included a piece that
forms part of my continuing series of ‘places of
interest’ in Pennsylvania USA.
The Editor
Day Theme :
2nd December 2009
The 2nd December Branch Meeting and activity took
place at Wolverhampton, organized on our behalf by
Jon Beasley of Wolverhampton City Council. The
morning branch meeting took place in a meeting
room at the reinstated and re-activated Molineux
Hotel. This was followed by presentations on the
Helifix commercial product (James Blaskett), and the
history of the rescue and re-use of the Molineux
Hotel (Nigel Brown and Sarah Butler). This was
followed by a tour of the building including the new
City Archive facilities. Lunch was provided on the
premises at Barr and Grosvenor Foundry, and was
followed by a tour of the premises including
demonstration of smelting, preparing moulds and
Newsletter 39 page 2
pouring into moulds. Special thanks here to Dominic
Grosvenor for lunch and the tour.
structural cracking be ignored. The cause should be
addressed as well. The Helifix system was simply
used to join the structure back together and reinstate
its integrity. The system does not involve jacking to
close cracks or re-true bowed sections of walling.
A classic case of cracking occurs when
UPVC glazing replaces the load-bearing timber of an
original two-storey bay window. The brickwork panel
above loses its original support and moves!
The system could be used for temporary
restraint. There was a recent case (to be screened
on TV in a ‘Grand Designs’ programme) in which
Helifix bar was used to tie together a Cotswold stone
barn whilst a steel frame was being inserted under it.
This steel frame would then carry the barn as a ‘roof’
and entrance vestibule to a new-construction below-
ground dwelling.
A version of the Helifix bar is available with a
screw thread, which can be used to re-connect
structural timbering.
2 nd December 2009
The meeting room was on the second floor at the
east end of the newly converted Molineux Hotel.
Windows on two sides gave wide views north and
east over the surrounding cityscape. Interestingly,
the windows were 100% new sliding sashes with
single-glazed crown-type glass. Nevertheless, heat
and sound insulation seemed to be good, as there
was no sound interference from the Wolverhampton
Ring Road running along the building frontage.
Finishes and fittings, apart from the windows
themselves and the panelling of the doors were
simple C21.
The north view illustrated how central
Wolverhampton sits on a high ridge. The ground
dropped away north over the orange-painted
steelwork of Wolverhampton Wanderers football
ground next door to rise again in another ridge at
Tettenhall. To the east, higher up the ridge along the
ring road, were the blocks of Wolverhampton
University .
2 nd December 2009
Nigel Brown, until recently working for
Wolverhampton City, gave a presentation on the
history of the Molineux Hotel.
It was first built as a house in 1725 on the
then outskirts of Wolverhampton, as a neighbour to
Giffard House (now to be found on the other side of
the Ring Road). Development history was complex,
with a series of interventions 1744-50 and in the
1770s-80s. John Molineux, a prosperous iron
master, acquired the house in 1750. He did so in
settlement of a debt owed him by the original
owners. The house came with some six acres of
quite rough land. The last Molineux owner moved out
in 1856 but did not sell immediately. The grounds
were opened to the public by him for the first time.
Oliver McGregor bought house and land in 1860. He
developed the land into a major public pleasure
ground, with a cycle and athletics tracks. The tracks
were a venue for international competitive cycling
events and attracted large crowds. The house
became a hotel and a further part of the land
became a football ground.
Wolverhampton Wanders Football Club
moved-in in 1889, with the Hotel becoming their
registered office.
The hotel changed hands several times and
eventually became a pub with a ballroom. Listing
(Grade II) took place in 1949. The pub was severed
from the town centre by the creation of a ring road,
and slum clearance took place around it. The Listing
was revised to II* in 1979 when Wolverhampton
Wanderers applied for consent to demolish – which
was refused. In 1979 the pub closed and the hotel
passed through several owners, none of whom gave
any repair or maintenance to a vandalized structure.
It speedily became a ‘building at risk’.
Wolverhampton City commissioned a
detailed building survey in 1984 and organized some
necessary supporting scaffolding as the front wall
threatened to part company.
The West Midlands Historic Building Trust
undertook a feasibility study, employing Donald Insall
and Partners Architects of Shrewsbury. The owner
declined to sell to the Trust. Wolverhampton City
followed up a series of Urgent Works Notices with a
full Repairs Notice, commissioned from Donald
Insalls as a follow-up to the WMHBT commission.
This Repairs Notice was fully costed, and
Wolverhampton City secured LBC for its
implementation. The Repairs Notice was not
View on to the Wolverhampton Ring Road from the
meeting room, traditional window technology of C21
James Blaskett of Helifix Ltd
2 nd December 2009
Helifix are a building materials manufacturing
company. They offer technical support and a design
service, and have about 50 ‘approved installers’ in
the UK. They are usually involved with cracked
masonry arising from structural movement, and aim
to provide ‘non disruptive repair solutions’ retaining
existing fabric. Their primary product is a spiral
(‘helical’) stainless steel bar supplied in a number of
dimensions to a standard 1m length.
The spiral rods are flexible and can move
with masonry. They are used invisibly to join up and
tie in sections of masonry. One technique is to use a
layer of bar to create a load-bearing ‘beam’. Joints
are machine-raked and bar inserted in a
cementitious grout. The joint is then repointed. The
process uses a modest amount of labour time and so
is cost-effective.
Despite being cementitious, the grout is
flexible and moves with the bar. Sometimes bar has
been used in 100% lime mortar but Helifix have been
unable to guarantee this practice for lack of formal
James Blaskett pointed out that the use of a
Helifix product did not mean that the cause of
Newsletter 39 page 3
complied-with, and the City entered purchase
negations with the owner under the duress of a CPO.
Agreement to purchase was reached in
principle during June 2003, the City securing a
funding package with the help of English Heritage
and Advantage West Midlands. An arson attack took
place on 14 th June 2009 and the interior was
substantially gutted, with the roof and clock tower
falling in. The owner served notice of his intention to
demolish forthwith.
A County Court injunction was obtained and
served 3.30pm-7.00pm on a Friday afternoon. The
tottering building shell was heavily scaffolded.
Purchase went ahead and a professional team was
appointed by the City. Stage One of repair and
consolidation work was completed in August 2004,
the contractors being Sapcote.
The City undertook an option appraisal
2004/05 and determined that the most suitable use
was to house the City Archive Department. An
application was made to Heritage Lottery Fund for
Stage Two of the scheme – completion of
reinstatement with conversion-extension to the new
use. This involved the creation of a new west wing
as a contemporary style archive store to the full BS
standard. Stage Two (contractors Linford) was
completed in 2009 and the Archive Department
The total scheme cost was £7.5m. Two
particularly significant factors were the commitment
shown by the City Council and the considerable
public support given to the City’s initiative. As the
City’s Project Manager Nigel Brown spent seven
years on seeing the scheme through.
2 nd December 2009
Corner of Rococo Room
Sarah Butler of Donald Insall Associates described
Stage Two of the scheme with special reference to
the reinstatement of the most important single
interior – the ‘Rococo Room’ with its elaborate
Italian plasterers worked in a number of
mansions in the West Midlands during the mid C17.
Similarities of style can be seen at Hagley Hall and
elsewhere. Careful analysis of the surviving
decorative plasterwork in the Rococo Room had
identified the work of two individual craftsmen.
However, it is not easily possible to put names to
them, though some suggestions have been made.
Much plasterwork survived the fire owing to
the fact that the room had been previously scaffolded
internally. Some plaster had been removed and
stored previously, and other sections were recovered
during the post-fire clearance.
Trumpers were the chosen subcontractors
for the reinstatement. One of the key decisions was
to strip and clean layers of paint to reveal the
delicacy of the original work. Poultices were rejected
after tests as requiring too much washing afterwards
to remove the chemicals. The chosen method was a
high pressure steam jet with hand tools.
Some of the original lathing was rotten and
had to be replaced with a Hessian backing and
adhesives to provide the necessary ‘keying’.
Sections already detached were conserved
and re-assembled off site, and replica panels to
replace missing portions were also created off-site.
These were installed on site with careful ‘feathering
Molineux Hotel as completed. New archive store to
Archive store - detail
Colour analysis of scanty original surviving
finishes took place as part of Stage two, revealing
the existence of a kind of Prussian blue and two
quite different shades of white. These informed the
– Rococo Room
Newsletter 39 page 4
final colouring scheme rather than actually dictating
In the 1920s the Rococo Room fireplace and
surround were removed and installed in the Golden
Eagle pub. These were recovered from the Golden
Eagle and carefully conserved, paint stripping
revealing delicate Rococo wood carving. Finally, they
were re-integrated.
The completed Rococo Room is used as a
special function room in connection with events.
Viewing the public search room
The archive store was accommodated in the
all-new West wing extension. Fitting out was very
austere, with painted finishes, but featured careful
climate control and a gas fire suppression system.
Archive shelves ran on tracks and could be
electrically controlled to open up alleyways to
retrieve the chosen storage box. All storage boxes
were acid-free and had a 24-hour water resistance
capability. Detectors included a very sensitive smoke
detector capable of sensing the slightest traces of
smoke an initiating a series of ‘fire-preparative’
actions and sound warnings.
Inside the Archive Store
The ground floor featured a conservation
studio at the rear, with a secondary-glazed Venetian
window and a separate climate control system. The
studio could be accessed directly from a rear yard
capable of taking vehicles.
Rococo Room – doorcase, panel and cornice detail
– Inspection
2 nd December 2009
The main stair was more a replica than a repair,
though surviving original sections had been used
wherever possible. This ran the full height of the
building and provided the principal public access,
being backed up by a visitor lift nearby.
The conversion scheme had kept the
originals floor levels, with the result that the back
rooms were much higher up than those in the front.
There was also ramping where the main block
merged with the period section of the west wing.
Generally speaking, door and window details
replicated the original, but walls, ceilings, fittings and
floor finishes were contemporary.
Because of problems involved with disabled
access, it had been necessary to create a duplicate
public card index for disabled users.
The main public search room occupied much
of the former ball room, with fittings and the service
counter in a contemporary style.
Out of the Conservation Studio door
Main public reception desk was in the
entrance hall. A corridor behind it gave access to the
public lift. A glazed screen with contemporary
engraved art on Wolverhampton themes separated
the corridor from the reception area.
The two main period rooms were on the
ground floor to the right of the reception area. The
Newsletter 39 page 5
Oak Room was in the front of the building. Walls
were wood-panelled, with a series of Corinthian
pilasters. About one-third of the original panelling
had proved to be re-usable. A closet interior had
been left unrepaired to illustrate construction details.
This room was of a Baroque character, and seemed
to represent perhaps the one surviving interior of the
original 1725 house. Wolverhampton Archives
‘Guide’ says that the Oak Room is used as a coffee
lounge by visitors.
Corner of the Oak Room
Finally, the Rococo Room occupied a rear
corner, with glazing – with Venetian windows – on
two sides. The ceiling had been executed in a warm
white while the walls in a much colder white with a
pale blue background. The overall effect was of great
sophistication, though the room was modest in scale.
The Archives ‘Guide’ says it is used for meetings and
educational, theatrical and musical events. A licence
for civil marriage ceremonies is currently being
Return elevation, Archive store
Then, the exterior! The main historic
frontages, with the clock turret, have been reinstated
‘as was’. Whatever necessary rebuilding and
repointing has been done so delicately as to be only
detectable from very close up. The new,
contemporary Archives Store has been boldly
modelled in brick with stone dressings, with an attic
storey standing on plain pilasters which rise from a
battered plinth. At the rear, the store responds to a
curve in the site boundary in a series of ‘corners’,
each one with its own stone plinth detail.
2 nd December 2009
The foundry has a modest street frontage in C19 and
C20 brickwork, with industrial windows to match. The
front range contains most of the ‘office’ and
‘reception’ functions, with the actual nitty-gritty taking
place in a series of shops attached to the rear, most
with lightweight steel trusses suggesting C20 dating.
Pebble pattern, forecourt
There is a simple front garden with small,
symmetrical beds. A very nice feature is inlaid pebble
decoration in three colours.
The completed scheme gives the building a long
term public use that provides very adequate public
accessibility. There did not seem to be any wasted
Barr & Grosvenor – from the Street
The basic ‘bread and butter’ of the Barr and
Grosvenor operation is cast iron weights. To
supplement this the present management offer a
wide range of services to do with the replication and
repair of historic metalwork. Including ‘cold stitching’
and welding. The front ground floor ‘museum’ room
offers examples and pictures of a wide range of
commissions and contracts. Not least the casting of
Newsletter 39 page 6
a new ‘Flying Scotsman’ chimney for the National
Railway Museum!
Barr and Grosvenor point out that pattern-
making and casting on a one-off basis is costly. As
they have a library of patterns, it is often best to
adapt a scheme to use what they already have. Of
course, where a precise replica is essential, then a
new pattern has to be made. A local self-employed
pattern maker provides their patterns. Though not
always. A pattern for a rope-effect casting was
actually provided by a section of real rope! The first
floor pattern store exhibited a remarkable range of
Traditional sand-casting is used, though the
sand now used has chemical augmentation that
enables it to hold a shape more easily than a wholly
traditional sand mix. An upper mould is placed on top
of a lower mould and the two joined with an
adhesive. A filler hole or holes are pushed through
the sand. Then the upper mould is weighed down on
to the lower with a set of cast-iron weights.
It had been arranged that the IHBC visit take
place on a pouring day. Scrap is melted in an
electrically-heated crucible at one end of the foundry.
When at the right temperature it is poured into a
container suspended from an overhead monorail.
Two men in protective clothing then walk the
container along the monorail – which has ‘points’
operated by pull-chains – to the moulds. At the
moulds, one man holds the container steady whilst
the other turns a wheel which tilts the container. A
stream of yellow molten iron then pours into the
mould filler hole. Sometimes there are sparks.
Smoke rises from the sand mould. Where a mould is
not located by the monorail, two men receive the
molten iron from the monorail container into a bucket
with a long rod on either side. Working carefully
together, they carry the bucket and tilt it in unison to
pour into the mould.
The weights on the upper mould are placed
to prevent it from lifting as the molten iron is poured.
The Foundry area has a floor with seems to
be rammed earth topped with redundant casting
sand. Suitably inert to cope with the inevitable
spillage when moulds are being filled.
collisions. These were an extraordinary blend of
castings and blacksmith work in an intricate and
exotic Gothick style. Since Lancelot (‘Capability’)
Brown had laid out and designed much of the Tong
Castle estate, these must have been designed in his
Another item of ‘work in progress’ was a
pattern for a large industrial ‘grid’ window. These are
tricky to cast as the profiles are small and delicate,
and pouring has to take place simultaneously at
several fillers to enable the molten metal to flow
through all of the mould.
The Barr and Grosvenor message is that
repairing and reinstating period metalwork is not a
problem. The expertise still exists, and they can
supply it.
Their premises themselves are a kind of
‘time warp’. Nothing seems to have been changed
for years. The open steps to the first floor have
treads that show their 100 years’ wear!
Moulds awaiting pouring
Pouring into a mould
Pouring from the furnace
During our visit, metal was being turned on
lathes in the machine shop. Weights were being
ground and buffed to a finished shape in another
shop. And, in a room at the front, weights were being
fine-tuned on a special machine to ensure their
complete accuracy.
Barr and Grosvenor were currently working
on a substantial commission from Hereford
Cathedral, refurbishing and repairing a massive set
of railings, gates and their piers.
Also on display were the Grade II Listed
gates from Tong Castle, displaced from an industrial
site in Wolverhampton through repeated lorry
Detail – Tong Castle gates
Newsletter 39 page 7
Further south along the through route, two
chapels faced each other, an asymmetrical
Methodist Church and a more formal, rather
Italianate Baptist Church. Both were timber framed
and planked. The road by the chapels was lined by
large detached houses in big plots.
Worn steps to first floor
Tunkhannock Viaduct, Nicholson – distant view
In the display room
Pennsylvania, USA
The Editor
I visited Nicholson in Wyoming County,
Pennsylvania, during my January 2010 stay in the
Tunkhannock Viaduct
When I got there, I discovered why a visit
had been recommended to me. Nicholson is
landmarked – a big way! The townlet stands in the
valley of the Tunkhannock river in the Allegheny
Mountains. The valley is crossed at a high level by a
huge reinforced concrete viaduct. The Delaware,
Lackawanna and Western Railroad decided to ‘cut
off a corner’. To do so, the viaduct was built 1919-25.
Presumably designed by G E Ray, the Railroad chief
engineer, the structure stands 249 feet high and is
1,675 yards long. Wide-span semi-circular arches
finished in a creamy-grey concrete support
continuous rows of much smaller round arches.
When the light shines through, viewed from a
distance, the viaduct is shown to be a filigree of
concrete. Even so, close up, the dimensions of the
members, both piers and arches, is truly massive. A
bronze plaque affixed to the pier next to the road
gives the basic details, and it is backed up by a more
modern interpretation panel.
Nicholson itself is laid out on a ‘T’ plan, with
the through route running north up to and under the
viaduct and the Main Street itself is at right angles
parallel to the viaduct. The Main Street proved to
quite shabby – an aspect of the USA rather
unexpected – but also demonstrated, through the
presence of more than one antique shop, that it was
a place that received tourists in the season.
Most buildings were timber framed ship
shiplap plank cladding. A local feature was a first
floor balcony projecting over the sidewalk.
pier and arch detail
Newsletter 39 page 8
Main Street, Nicholson
Nicholson, Methodist Church
Main Street, typical first floor balcony
Town and Viaduct
Your Editor welcomes, for the next Edition of the
Newsletter (No 40), to go out in June 2010, the
Personal news of moves, retirements, arrivals;
Copies of announcements and press releases;
Case Studies;
Articles on Law and Techniques;
Book Reviews.
Material for inclusion in No 40 should,
preferably, arrive not later than the end of May 2010.
Please contact your Newsletter Editor:
Peter Arnold, 16 Elmbank Road, Walsall WS5 4EL;
01922 644219;
Main Street, another traditional building
Nicholson, Baptist Church
Molineux Hotel, Wolverhampton, Forecourt garden
Newsletter 39 page 9