Context 161 - September 2019

34 C O N T E X T 1 6 1 : S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 9 of the shop fronts with more appealing designs. She said that it was always important to look out for opportunities for improvement. Indeed, she acknowledged that, in the immediate aftermath of a flood, it was not easy to consider better- ment, but this is exactly the time when it should be considered: if it is not considered right after, then it generally would never be. One issue that was not often given much consideration was the damage caused by floating objects in the water. Damage could also include broken windows, and road damage caused by underground water. The historic shop fronts survived the flood much better than the modern ones. Persistence can pay off. In this case, it took a lot of time and effort to get the shop owners on board, and insurers would not pay for the better- ment, so £100,000 of external grant funding was also required. It needed a great deal of effort by the local council and other parties. An exhibition was set up which included sketches of proposals to encourage stakeholders to get involved. Some shop owners had to be persuaded to participate and to consider a shop front of a different design. Most of the damage to historic buildings hap- pened in the immediate aftermath of the flood: initial reactions were to rip out and dispose of what were perceived to be damaged materials, even though these might be historic or signifi- cant and, once dried out, perfectly functional. The presence of the local authority, particularly conservation officers, in the immediate after- math was vital to ensure that recovery took shape appropriately. Ian Pritchard Phoenix at Stoke Rochford Hall The final case study of the day school, enti- tled ‘The Phoenix Case’, truly represented the embodiment of a phoenix rising from the ashes. The talk, by David Cattell of Rodney Melville + Partners, related to Stoke Rochford Hall, a Grade I listed building six miles south of Grantham. Christopher Turner (also noted for his model farms in the area) commissioned the building in 1841 and it was designed by archi- tect William Burn (1789–1870). The gardens, designed by Burn and WA Nessfield, are on the register of historic parks and gardens (Grade II*). In 2005 a fire which broke out in the second floor clock turret quickly spread through the building, destroying all but one of the principal rooms.There was a huge loss not only of heritage but also of the conference business of the owners at the time.This threatened the long-term future of the hall. Once the building had been made safe, deci- sions needed to be made about the remit of the repair works. A full-scale restoration on a like- for-like basis was estimated to cost £20 million, and the building was significantly underinsured. It was therefore proposed, following discussions with English Heritage (as it was) and the local authority conservation officer, that the scope of the restoration would be scaled down so that only the principal ground floor reception rooms would be reinstated like-for-like, and the first and second floors could be adapted for more modern use as bedrooms for the conferenc- ing facility. This is what Cattell referred to as ‘opportunity brought by disaster’, looking at tragedy with positive eyes (or an architect’s eyes) as a chance to upgrade the upstairs rooms to suit contemporary standards. Because the overall philosophy of the interven- tion was to conserve as much historic fabric as possible, Cattell explained how remaining beams needed to be structurally tested.To avoid remov- ing any parts, this was done in situ by loading them with a temporary platform, emulating future possible weights. Some of the beams proved to be sound and were conserved. The talk also conveyed the significance of historical resources as being highly valuable in restoration. Burn’s drawings, found at the Lincolnshire Archives, allowed for several parts of the original building to be understood. Recreating the detail which gave the original building its fine character was also possible thanks to archival information. Together with the surviving fragments, enough information was provided to replicate, for instance, the fantastic decorative ceilings in the main rooms, undertaken by Stevenson’s of Norwich, and the library’s oak panelling. The project was subject to an unexpectedly tight budget of £12 million. Estefanía Macchi (Gus Astley Award winner) and Kerry Walmsley David Cattell: disaster can bring opportunity