My favourite type of blog post: the ‘before’ and ‘after photos of a completed THI building project. In addition to this blog post, I have put more photos of this project on the THI Flickr pages.
On the left, before the works. On the right, after the works
It’s a happy coincidence that one of the latest projects of the THI, 27 Eccleston Street (Melissa’s Nails and Spa), is next door to one of the earliest: 29-31 Eccleston Street (Millican Opticians). Blog posts about the Millican Opticians project are here and here.
Before and after: 27 Eccleston Street – Melissa’s Nails and Spa – and its THI-funded neighbour at 29 Eccleston Street – Millican Opticians.
When the works started in April, I posted a blog detailing the history of 27 Eccleston Street here, detailing its transformation from a late Georgian house with a later watchmaker’s workshop on the back to seemingly being on the cusp of becoming a small department store in the 1920s, which is when the shopfront and one of the internal staircases dates from.
The biggest parts of the restoration work were carried out just to keep the building standing. In the twentieth century the front wall had been damp for a very long time (perhaps decades) to the extent that the timber internal lintels over the windows were rotten. In addition the whole wall was bulging outwards, with one of the cills and lintels of the windows cracked clean through. Someone also got busy with cement in the past, encasing one of the stone window cills in a thick layer of cement, repointing all of the brickwork in a sand-cement mortar and even covering the faces of some of the bricks with a layer of cement.
Thanks to the advice of a Conservation-Accredited Structural Engineer, rather than carry out extensive rebuilding of Georgian brickwork or tear out a 1920s shopfront to allow substantial structural works, we simply added five new sturdy ties through the front elevation and 12 enormous L-shaped steel straps (three in the corner of each room on the front elevation. This had the effect of tying the brickwork of the front elevation back into the first and second floors and into the side walls of the building. In other words, the wall won’t be going anywhere soon.
Above: Sorry for the blurry photo – here are three of the enormous steel L-shaped brackets that have been installed to tie the brickwork of the Eccleston Street face of the building into the side walls. Below: two of the cast iron wall ties that help to bond the front elevation to the floor structure inside. These particular wall ties are now hidden behind the new shop sign, but two more can be seen higher up the wall.
The building’s cement legacy was undone by complete repointing (in lime mortar) and replacing the bricks with cement faces. The cills and lintel that were beyond repair were replaced with new sandstone from St Bees Quarry in Cumbria, which is on the same geological band of red sandstone as Prescot.
At the back it was a case of entirely repointing in lime mortar, renewing lintels and replacing all of the windows (including in bricked up openings).
Before and after at the back of the building. The two storey part on the right appears to have been built as a watchmaker’s workshop in the nineteenth century. The existing brickwork has been repointed and repaired and news windows and doors installed. We have comprehensively repaired and restored the building, preparing upper floors for its next life as a three bed flat.
Filing Off the Excess
Unlike all but one of the other THI Buildings, in this case we had the vast majority of a 1920s timber and polished granite shopfront, so it was more a case of revealing what was already there and carrying out minor repairs and decoration. A lot of the ‘reveal’ was simply removing the external rollershutter and replacing the large modern sign.
The shopfront after and before restoration. Believe it or not, most of the actual fabric of the shopfront (windows, glass, granite) is the same in both photos: we have simply revealed what was already there with the minimum necessary repair and reinstatement.
We did, however, have to reinstate a new fascia sign across the top of the shopfront and a new polished granite stallriser on the left hand side. Old photos revealed that the signage lacked the big moulded cornice or frilly details you might find on a late Victorian or Edwardian shopfront, so we kept it simple.
The shopfront in the 1920s and in 2019.
The Final Polish
The last pieces of work were the new front windows, the new granite, sprucing up the shopfront and adding new signage. The vast majority of the shopfront window frames and door are from the 1920s – we have just replaced the odd piece of timber here and there.
Taking the shop windows back to their original height has really opened up the frontage and makes the shop look much more inviting and lighter inside.
Although the building’s structural condition threw up a few surprises, this has been a really rewarding repair and restoration project, as we have tried to stay true to the building’s early nineteenth century and early twentieth century heritage.
The interior of the upper floors of the building are now ready to be converted to a three bedroom flat, complete with repaired roof, new rainwater goods and replacement doors and windows. This will be done by the building owner without a THI grant, as time and resources have limited our involvement to the building’s exterior. I have it on good authority that at time of writing, these other contractors have started the conversion works inside.
The architect for the THI-funded works was Steve Geary at Ainsley Gommon Architects, the Quantity Surveyor was Bryan Hyde at Cunliffes and the works carried out by Aura Conservation, managed by Peter Jamieson. The windows, doors and shopfront joinery were by Manorside Joinery.