Repair and Restoration

Heslington Hall, York

Client: The University of York (Estates Department)

Heslington Hall is the flagship building of the University of York's original campus, serving as the original teaching facility when the University opened in 1963. The Hall originally dates back to the 16th century but underwent extensive alteration in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a Grade II* Listed building and is within the Heslington Conservation Area.

A surviving feature from the original building is the remarkable pendant stucco ceiling and, following specialist inspections, it was established that significant work was required to conserve the ceiling in its present form.

Although the structure was generally sound, there were concerns that the plaster ceiling, comprising thirty eight pendants, was not securely fixed to the structure. In addition, historic beetle damage had destroyed a significant area of the laths and compromised some of the wooden posts around which the pendants were formed. Historic repairs to cracks in the plaster ceiling were also found to be of poor quality, with some areas only held on by paint layers.

Before any work could be carried out it was essential to understand the interface between the structure and the plasterwork and the way in which the pendants were formed. Carefully considered and planned intrusive investigations led to the development of a conservation policy for the works which would ensure maximum benefit from minimal intrusion.

Following careful selection of both the main contractor and specialist conservation plasterers, work commenced with the stripping out of the floor above and the reinforcement of the timber structure. Additional strapping was installed to secure joists to beams and existing metal reinforcement treated with rust inhibitor. Areas of laths, damaged by woodworm were stripped back and stainless steel trays were secured to joists and covered with plaster to support the plaster ceiling below. Working from both below and above the ceiling, the pendants were secured to the joists. Finally, cracks in the plaster ceiling were cut out and repaired using traditional plaster mixes and the entire ceiling was then decorated. Throughout the project, every element of the works was carefully documented and recorded by the project team.

The exposure of the structure of the ceiling allowed a University of York PhD student to carry out a full survey of the timbers in the ceiling, resulting in many interesting questions being raised about the source of the reused timber and the possibility of a previous building on the site.

The project received a York Design Award under the John Shannon Conservation category.

Architecture | Creative Conservation | Heritage

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