Roofing and flooring from Welsh Slate feature on the first major redevelopment of the northern end of York racecourse for a century.
They were specified by master planners Phelan Architects as a natural material to complement the listed buildings on the racecourse and because of their longevity, being guaranteed for 100 years but capable of performing for considerably longer.
The products from Welsh Slate, part of the Lagan Group, include 14,000 Penrhyn Heather Blue County-grade roof slates installed by Sothall Roofing on the stables which feature a 30˚ pitch roof, on the circular roof of the Winning Connections building, and on the 40˚ pitch roof weigh-in building with mitred hips and valleys and concealed gutters.
A total of 900m2 of 600mm x 300mm and 300mm x 300mm riven and gauged Cwt Y Bugail 12mm Welsh Slate flooring was also specified for the internal toilets and wet areas of the stables and weigh-in building and for the toilets and internal corridors on the champagne lawns and this was installed by the appointed York-based construction company Lindum.
These elements comprise £5 million of the £10 million redevelopment of the northern end of the racecourse which was laid out in the early 1900s to the designs of Walter Brierley. While there have been additions over the years this was the first comprehensive redevelopment of the Conservation Area since then.
For equine and racegoer safety, Phelan proposed moving the enclosure wall which gave a small additional area allowing them to relocate the pre-parade ring and provide new saddling boxes complete with dedicated wash-down yard and veterinary stocks box, and weigh-in building with fine-dining restaurant.
This in turn allowed for the re-ordering of the champagne lawns, with new bars, toilets and back-of-house space, improving both the view and utility of the original grandstand – the oldest sporting and only Grade II* listed stand still in use in the world.
Drawing on the materials of the racecourse, with a palette of brickwork, timber and the Welsh Slate, Phelan separated the equine buildings into clusters to express their different functions, while organising them in a stable yard arrangement built around the perimeter of the new larger, flatter pre-parade ring, to provide a familiar and calming environment for the horses.
The most significant building, and the largest, is the two-storey weigh-in building, on the eastern boundary. Here, the ground floor has been designed with a glazed cloister along its western side to afford views to the pre-parade ring and demonstrate some of the theatre of racing as the jockeys and officials conduct their business.
A timber construction differentiates the first floor while the Welsh Slate roof is broken down into individual volumes to reflect the internal organisation.
Working around the racing calendar, the 30-month project was completed by Lindum in two phases, with the main equine facilities opening first. In addition to the extensive works to the champagne lawn, the second phase incorporated a new owners’ and trainers’ entrance building and a new Moet pavilion with roof terrace.
Phelan Architects director Brendan Phelan said: “The Welsh Slate plays a significant part in tying in with existing facilities. It enhances the buildings. Its long life and natural material was important.”
James Brennan, head of marketing and sponsorship at the racecourse, said: “By breathing new life into the northern end of the course, while retaining its historic character, Phelan’s scheme has ensured we can continue to compete as a world-class sports venue, ensuring the horse, the horseman and the racegoer are each given the best possible experience.”