Context 161 - September 2019

26 C O N T E X T 1 6 1 : S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 9 Getting close to Victoria Mills Technology can be an invaluable tool in under- standing the historic environment and finding solutions for our buildings, particularly those at risk. The civil and structural engineer Gez Pegram, a director of Mason Clark Associates, gave a fascinating talk about the Grade II listed Victoria Mills in Grimsby, and the events that led to the urgent works and comprehensive restoration of the eight-storey grain store. Pegram’s account included various exam- ples of how new technology provided the project team with crucial information to save Grimsby’s landmark building. After a brief explanation of the site’s historic function as a late-19th century flour mill, he showed us the existing surroundings of the building, including the adjacent 1990s conversion into flats. The height of the building, up to 40 metres from ground level, presented a challenge in investigating the condition of its upper parts. Drones were useful to initially explore these, including inside the roof, where it was revealed that the ridge beams were slightly warped. ‘I am a great believer in getting close to the buildings I’m working on,’ Pegram said, so a mobile platform was used to investigate the building in greater detail. The poor condition of the building included issues such as the turrets peeling away from the building, leaning precariously and detached from their crossbeam bases, and a large green stain up the side of the building, which was determined from the mobile platform to be a five-inch gap of expanding foam. Another example of technology being utilised on the building was the installation of sensors to monitor any movement in the building. This was a key factor in the decision to evacuate the adjacent flats during a period of heavy winds which blew parts of the roof into the street.This decision obviously had some political implica- tions, which compelled North East Lincolnshire Council to undertake the urgent works. These comprised an extensive scaffolding programme; tie rods to pull the sides of the building together; restraint of the parapets; restoration of the turrets and their terracotta domes; and a new Welsh slate roof. In all this technology continued to play an important role. Pointcloud scanning was used to understand the structure and record the building. The project overall gave the building an additional 100 years of life, although a sustainable use still needs to be found. Claire Gayle Heritage at risk: who cares? Ben Robinson, principal advisor for heritage at risk at Historic England, gave an overview of the Heritage at Risk Campaign, reflecting on its successes over the past 20 years and setting out where he believes resources should be prioritised in the future. The purpose of the register was to provide a focal point, a way to help decide the priority for resources in ever-competitive environments. It did not provide solutions, but warned of ‘incipi- ent disasters’. The audience noted Robinson’s visible frustration that many entries, notably churches, were on the register due to a lack of basic maintenance. That said, the successes were considerable. More than two thirds of buildings or struc- tures on the original 1998 register were now secured. Many more were on the way to having a solutions. Torr Vale Mill in Derbyshire was given as a local example. Reflecting that the list often contained ‘basket cases’, Gez Pegram: getting close to the buildings Drone footage of Victoria Mills showing one of the terracotta turrets which was peeling away from the building (Photo: IronBird Aerial Cinematography, reproduced by permission of Engie)