The first grant project of the Blakey Moor Townscape Heritage Initiative, Blackburn is now well under way. The old Ribblesdale Hotel was built just after 1900 and in more recent times was known as ‘Baroque’ owing to it’s corner dome. It’s really more of a blend of Jacobean and Elizabethan features in a busy style made popular by the Victorian architect of London’s Palace Theatre, Thomas Edward Collcutt (1840-1924), who also designed Blackburn Museum not so far away.
Despite the attention of lead thieves, the roof and structural work is now largely done and we are turning to the restoration of the decorative features, elements which express a whole range of traditional building crafts.
The two dormers are topped by panels of ornamental plaster pargetting set into the gables. This is a traditional rural craft popular in the east of England, though I have seen a surviving historic example in Lancashire. It was revived in Victorian times by the Arts & Crafts Movement.
Unfortunately, our two two panels have been crudely over-painted in gloss paint which has trapped in moisture and led to heavy deterioration of the plaster and its canvas backing. After some consideration, we have decided to go down the restoration route, rather than attempt a repair, and Blackburn master plasterer Karl Claydon has very kindly taken on the job of producing accurate replicas at short notice.
The contract administrator is Andrew Davies of Blackburn with Darwen Council and the main contractor is Rosslee Construction of Accrington.
Today, Accrington Townscape Heritage Initiative began conserving the town’s historic shops. This shop on Blackburn Road was built as a printers a few years after 1900 and now houses AYA, a firm of accountants.
As seen in the old photo, there was originally a sunblind which pulled out from behind the shop sign. The sign was rounded to accommodate the roller and the result cleverly emulates a classical pulvinated or ‘cushion’ frieze.
When the modern box sign was removed, we were delighted to find the timber frieze was still intact. It is beautifully joined to stone cushion friezes atop the pilasters at each end of the shop.
We exposed Edwardian paint layers which will be sampled before overpainting. By doing so on each THI project, we can build up a record of the various historic colours used on Accrington shops. The stone pilasters were overpainted brown followed by red and other colours. However, we could see smoke blackening beneath the brown paint indicating that the stone was not originally painted. We will therefore clean back to restore the original stone surface using Torc equipment.
Unfortunately, the underside of the cornice has almost completely eroded but there is just enough of the original moulding to create a template for new stone indents.
Other work includes further stone repair and a traditional styled replacement shop front.
The contract administrator is Craig Buck, IDC Architects, and the contractor is Rosslee Construction. Both are local Accrington firms.
Lee Wolf is treasurer and member secretary of the Edgar Wood Society. He’s a lover of Arts & Crafts architecture, archaeology and most things to do with the local heritage of Middleton. We met up to chat about a Heritage Lottery Fund bid for a photography and website project.