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WELSH SLATE HELPS HISTORIC COUNTRY MANSION WITH A NEW LEASE OF LIFE

1 December 2022

The reroof of listed Bank Hall uses like-for-like Welsh Slate.

A country mansion that was once one of Britain’s most at risk Grade II* listed buildings is enjoying a new lease of life, thanks in part to Welsh Slate.

Cwt-y-Bugail Dark Blue Grey roofing slates from the leading UK manufacturer have been used over 1,000m2 of roof at Bank Hall in Bretherton, Lancashire, which has been converted into luxury residential accommodation and exhibition spaces.

The Welsh slates were specified for the £5.6 million renovation on a like-for-like basis by architect Miles Pearson as the existing Welsh slates had been on the roof, in diminishing courses (as was the build method of the time), since the building was remodelled in the early 1830s.

“We chose the slate in conjunction with the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s team, who oversaw the project and felt a historic supplier was far more suitable than an overseas import,” said Miles.

The five-year project now comprises ten apartments and two houses within the hall. In addition, the central four-storey Prospect Tower, which is a regionally significant architectural feature, now houses educational and exhibition spaces open to the public for two days a week. The public also have access to the outer gardens and walled garden.

Specialist sub-contractor RL Lovatt took nine months to bring the reroof to full term. Their team had to use 1F bitumen underlay and custom lead boxes to cater for the resident bat population. All abutments used lead soakers/flashings with stainless steel valleys and land valleys and special conservation roof windows.

Contracts manager Andy Wilson said: “This project was quite the challenge due to time scales, the weather and the overall complexity of a job of this magnitude. Working with true Welsh Slate made all the difference - they are more durable, look fantastic and overall are much better to work with compared to the foreign imports that are widely used elsewhere. Lovatt’s were extremely happy with how this project turned out in the end.”

Lovatt’s was supplied with the Welsh slates by distributor UK Slate with whom they have worked for many years on a huge variety of projects.

Andy Wilson added: “Neil Purcell from UK Slate was instrumental in picking the correct slates for the job as he went to multiple meetings on site in regards to this and dropped a lot of samples off for the architectural team. His expertise in this was incredibly helpful to both the site teams and to ourselves.”

Bank Hall had been vacant and decaying steadily since 1971 and was the first building to feature on BBC Two’s “Restoration” TV series. Its restoration, thanks to a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £2.2 million, was delivered by Chorley Borough Council in partnership with the owners Heritage Trust North West, developers Urban Splash and Next Big Thing Developments, who specialise in difficult conservation building projects in the North West of England.

Architect Miles Pearson added: “Chorley planning and conservation were very proactive and welcomed the project. It’s gratifying for all stakeholders to know we saved the building.”

The earliest identifiable phase of the present building dates from the early 17th Century but the house was extensively remodelled in the early 1830s, in an early example of 19th Century Jacobean style, by the Kendal-based architect George Webster for the owner George Anthony Legh-Keck. The main entrance porch on the north side, a drawing room wing at the west end and extensive service accommodation were all added in this phase.

The Lilford family inherited the hall in 1860, but although they never fully occupied it, maintained it until the late 19th Century when they decided to rent it out. During the Second World War it was used by the military and then handed back to the Ilford estate and used by the estate managers until it became derelict.

In addition to the house, Bank Hall includes 15 acres of pleasure gardens, an orchard and a copse. These last two elements are the site of an enabling development of 23 homes which will begin construction in January 2023.

It is over 35 years since Save Britain’s Heritage drew attention to the plight of Bank Hall in their Buildings at Risk publication – Silent Mansions. The Bank Hall Action Group (now Friends of Bank Hall), formed in response to that, has compared its revival to a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Bank Hall was removed from the Buildings at Risk register in October 2022.


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