Chetham’s Site Visit, 18th October 2017

On Wednesday 18th October, IHBC Branch Members joined Greater Manchester COG for a visit to Chetham’s Library. Architects Stephenson Studio and contractors Stone Edge have been repairing and refurbishing the precinct wall, which has been revealed by the demolition of the Palatine building. Victorian damage to the sandstone wall was unexpectedly extensive, and a substantial new wall has been constructed. This is faced with Lazenby red sandstone, and pointed with a hydraulic lime mortar using Nosterfield  and Waddington Fell sand.

Mark Fletcher (pictured) of Matrix Archaeology and Norman Redhead of GMAAS explained some of the archaeology that has been carried out over several decades in the area. It is hoped that future landscaping work might include excavating the paleo-channel which is bridged by the precinct wall, running parallel to the better-known hanging ditch to the south.

The Palatine building (pictured) was carefully deconstructed, revealing a cast iron frame with brick jack arches associated with a warehouse use, tying in with early maps showing a stabling at the rear. Fairly shortly after construction, the building was converted to a hotel, with decorative plaster ceilings concealing the structure. The south end of the Palatine has been left standing, giving more flexibility for the future of the attached Chetham’s western gatehouse. Note the painted hood-moulds on the upper floors! The branch thanks Norman Redhead for organising and our hosts Chetham’s Library and the construction team.

Contributed by Crispin Edwards, Historic England



IHBC Council Plus Meeting (May 2017)


On Thursday 18th May, the North West Branch was represented at the national Council Plus meeting in Birmingham by Mike Robinson (structural engineer), Michael Asselmeyer (architect) and Lee Meadowcroft (structural engineer).

Mike commented “I enjoyed the day very much, its not often you get to meet in a custard factory! The presentations were good and I was encouraged by the focus on apprenticeships. As a relatively new member it was good to hear the wide range of initiatives and works being done by the IHBC particularly in respect to rural issues and retrofitting existing buildings.”

Michael who also attended a similar meeting in December 2016, said “I found the meeting very useful and interesting, and enjoyed the presentations, talks and discussions with other members. Various speakers reiterated that the Institute would very much welcome wider participation and therefore encourages its membership to engage and to use the Council Plus meetings as a platform. Whether as a Trusstee, a Panel Member or a member of any of the future Special Interest Groups (SIG’s), the IHBC does not intend to throw a one-size-fits-all net over each member, but would be very happy to listen and look at the possible contributon of any interested and enthusiastic individual and consider providing support where the Institute clearly benefits from the proposal. I can only thoroughly recommend that those who haven’t done so yet join in at one of the future meetings and share their heritage expertise with fellow professionals. The platform is there. Its really up to make best use of it.”

For further information on the Council Plus Meetings, please speak with Crispin Edwards (, our National Representative for the IHBC North West Branch.




Site Visit to Wythenshawe Hall, Manchester

Earlier in the year, IHBC members joined Greater Manchester Conservation Officers Group (GMCOG) at Wythenshawe Hall in Manchester. Those who attended the excellent Greater Manchester Fire Service / Institution of Fire Engineers training session on fire protection and heritage properties in November 2016 may recall that it was then used as an example where a drone-mounted infra-red camera enabled fire-fighters to target hotspots beneath the slates and prevent the further spread of fire, after a disastrous arson attack back in May 2016. This highlighted the vulnerability of empty buildings, a subject of Historic England’s recent joint guidance with the five NW services.

Further information on this can be found here: .

Historic England’s Peter Barlow has worked closely with Manchester City Council in the ensuing year, and in particularly HE’s conservation department were able to accurately date much of the damaged glass, enabling prioritisation for conservation. Different aspects of the project were explained by Michael Plane, project manager for the Council and Jane Entwistle of Thomason’s structural engineers (both pictured). Neal Charlton of Buttress Architects and Chris Wilde of Salford University’s Centre for Applied Archaeology. Full sets of the very hefty specification documentation were also on hand. Much value was gained by gathering a very wide-ranging team very early on, in some cases while the fire was still burning, and beginning discussions on priorities and approaches tor repair immediately. More damage was caused by rainfall after the fire before a covering could be erected, than by the water used to put out the fire. The worst fire damage occurred in the porch which acted like a chimney, and the roof space, but repairs are also needed to plaster ceilings and stained glass (as pictured) and a gable wall which is now no longer capable of performing its structural function and will be retained with a new structure adjacent to it to carry the loads. Luckily, wall paintings have survived relatively well (pictured), designed to make timber framing look like a panelled wall.  The repairs contract is now well under way and we look forward to viewing the finished work. Many thanks to the organisers and hosts.


Contributed by Crispin Edwards, Historic England

IHBC NW visit to Longbottoms Cast Iron Works

Nine IHBC NW members enjoyed a fascinating visit to Longbottoms Cast Iron Works in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, on Wednesday 12th April, organised by Mark Watson.

The author of this post (an enthusiast for lesser known railway lines) began the day with the additional bonus of a misty journey on the train to Brockholes, the nearest station on the sleepy Huddersfield to Sheffield line, and an impromptu cyclocross session carrying my bike much of the way up and down the (many) hills on the way to Holmfirth.

Longbottoms is a family firm in continuous operation on the same site and in the same building since 1919, whilst the fabrication process is virtually unchanged since the mid-19th century and involves almost no mechanisation. The company is one of the very few remaining providers in the UK of pattern cast as opposed to imported die cast iron.

The company produces all types of non-structural architectural cast iron, primarily rainwater goods including gutters, downpipes, and hopper heads, but also traditional cast iron air bricks, decorative castings and a huge range of specials are available on request.

We were given a detailed tour of the works by Simon, the current manager, and an opportunity to see each stage of the casting and finishing process in action.

Almost all of the raw material is recycled, primarily from unwanted cast iron drain covers, the market for which collapsed around 15 years ago – Longbottoms still hold vast stocks. Beyond this a small amount of new iron is added, along with additives, to each batch.

The iron is melted in small quantities (approx. 10lb of metal each time) in a graphite crucible heated within an electrically powered furnace. The site retains a much larger traditional coke furnace which is still occasionally used, but for most purposes the electric furnace is more efficient.

Whilst the iron is being melted sand moulds are prepared using green sand. This is made on site and is, confusingly, black in colour. The primary ingredient is natural red sand, which is mixed with coal dust, additives and a very small amount of water to give the correct consistency and to enable the mould to retain its cohesion.

The moulds are given their form using a huge range of retained patterns or originals. These are kept in racks next to the moulding area and are painted in a bright red pattern paint so as to distinguish them from the grey colour of the completed products.

The sand moulds are enclosed using boxes, also of cast iron, which are also made on site and for which the patterns are retained to enable them to be reproduced.

When, after around an hour, the molten iron reaches approximately 1200 – 1300 degrees centigrade and is ready to be poured, it is carried by hand in ladles from the furnace to the moulds and poured in through holes left in the moulds for that purpose.

This is a team effort requiring simultaneous pouring from three ladles into the corresponding pour holes; the speed required combined with the serious consequences of a trip or fall demand a high level of coordination and trust between the operatives.

Within 10-20 minutes the cast is complete and the completed castings can be broken out of the moulds, although they are still far too hot to touch and are left to cool. The heat from the cooling sections can be felt from several metres away.

After the casting process is complete the finished product moves to the fettling workshop for removal of the rudders, cast iron nodules which form at each of the pouring holes. Any remaining green sand is brushed or shot blasted away before the final stage which is a dip tank application of a grey spirit based primer.

In an alternative version of the process, usually for smaller more intricate castings, the mould is made using a yellow sand laced with a glue which allows for the production of more complex designs.

There is also a separate workshop for the fabrication and repair of smaller details including non-standard rainwater details and decorative plates.

The end product has a lifespan of at least 100 years, a thought provoking figure to present to clients wishing to use UPVC or aluminium instead.

If required, the whole casting process can be completed within a day and the product shipped that evening, however most orders are completed from stock to allow the foundry to concentrate on more specialist work.

Longbottoms’ catalogue is available to download from the following location:

To see this process of hand production of cast iron architectural details in action, unchanged since the 19th century, was a very informative and in fact a rather moving experience and we are most grateful to Longbottoms for welcoming us and providing an exceptionally interesting tour.

Contributed by Matthew Williams, Heritage Architecture

Is Heritage still on the agenda in the Isle of Man?

IHBC Executive Committee Meeting in the Isle of Man (September 2016)

The IHBC North West Executive Committee gathers together quarterly to review and discuss the issues facing the heritage industry and to look at ways in which to contribute to the objectives of the organisation.  In September 2016, the branch was invited to visit the Isle of Man where, there is a concern heritage is being missed off the agenda!

To help reinvigorate interest, a unique initiative known as the ‘Isle of Architecture’ has been spearheaded to recognise and appreciate the islands’ built heritage with a year-long series of events from July 2016 – July 2017 ( Billed as an exciting celebration of the built environment, the organisers are exploring innovative ways to encourage the community to understand what makes their towns and villages special by running lectures, workshops, exhibitions and music gigs.

Prior to our committee meeting, we were taken by our host Ashey Petit (IoM IHBC representative and local architect) to soak up the atmosphere of Castletown, the ancient capital where we took advantage of the bright weather to walk through the narrow, medieval streets lined with brightly painted fisherman’s cottages and Georgian townhouses. The main feature however was Castle Rushen, one of the best preserved medieval castles in the world.

Dating from 1265 and further fortified during the 13th and 16th centuries, Castle Rushen is built of limetone. It has been home to Kings and the ‘Lord of Man’ including the seat of the Stanley’s who were one of the great families of England, also known under another title – the Earl of Derby. Falling into disrepair during the 18th century after it was converted to a prison, the British Crown handed over Castle Rushen to the Manx Government in 1929. Control of the Castle was, however, vested in both the Manx Museum and National Trust in 1988 when the restoration and redisplay of Castle Rushen was undertaken by Manx National Heritage.

Following the tour, we headed to the quaint Malew Church for the IHBC North West Executive Committee meeting. This remarkable building dates from a similar period to the Castle, with medieval fabric remaining to the west gable ( Set within a largely 18th century interior, we began to discuss the issues facing conservation in the North West, particularly in the Isle of Man.

Following the meeting, the committee members were invited to contribute to an evening workshop held at the Manx Museum in Douglas to discuss the difficulty of embedding the principles of conservation in the planning process (at a time when the Conservation Officer has been seconded to the Economic Development section).  A group of approximately 60 participants were in attendance at the workshop and arranged in smaller groups of ten. Each table was accompanied by a committee member where conservation and regeneration was discussed.

The table I sat at was primarily concerned on how to engage with the local community on the subject of conservation areas, particularly on how to rationalise them and regain significance. The group, consisting of town planners, architects and members of the local community were all very pragmatic and aware of heritage, its benefits and its place in the planning process. My impression was that each member of the group were experienced and full of integrity and that knew what needed to be done but perhaps needed some fresh ideas, reassurance and support on how to carry it out.

From the workshop, it was evident there is a strong concern growing that the Islands’ built heritage is losing its status and relevance and that the planning department is largely focused on new development at the cost of local distinctiveness and sense of place. It was collectively felt that this is not a positive move but both the IHBC North West Branch and the local community are hopeful that key Government officers will take on board the economic and social benefits of history and heritage. Our IoM representative will continue to keep us updated on the progress within the Isle of Man. Watch this space!

Contributed by Diane Vaughton, Conservation Officer at Preston City Council

Photographs of the Isle of Man visit can be found here (courtesy of Crispin Edwards):

IHBC Council+ Meeting

IHBC Council+ Meeting in London (6 December 2016)

Some 30 delegates from Belfast to Cambridge and from Cornwall to the Orkneys (via Skype) descended on St Andrew CoE, Holborn, for the second Council+ meeting this year. Inspired by the elegance of St Andrew Court Room with its Jacobean fireplace, the meeting pondered a range of burning issues.

President David McDonald opened the day with a note on apprenticeships (future need for HS2-related archaeologists etc.), Chairman James Caird gave a presentation about funding (who is left to pay for conservation in future?), Treasurer Richard Morrice talked about concessions and Secretary Jo Evans raised the issue of conduct. Following Director Sean O’Reilly’s update about the Corporate Plan (CP20) and a few words by the North West National Representative Crispin Edwards about the upcoming Annual School in Manchester in 2017, the meeting shifted towards the panelled oak splendour of the adjacent chamber for lunch and networking.

After reconvening, Mike Bown introduced the draft “Quality Assuring Local Planning Authorities – A model ‘Quality Mark’ scheme for IHBC ‘recognition’ of local government conservation services” and Dave Chetwyn talked about “Conservation Professional Practice Principles”. The meeting then split into a forum of four committees (Membership & Ethics, led by David Kincaid; Education, Training & Standards, led by Bridget Turnbull; Policy, led by Roy Lewis; and Communications & Outreach, led by Dave Chetwyn). Delegates were encouraged to play musical chairs between sessions to be able to contribute to each of the committee strands. Contributions ranged from questions about the effectiveness of LPA recognition vs. concentration on the person of the chief planner, to improving IHBC awareness in schools of architecture.

The meeting concluded with a variety of open mike contributions, regarding national issues such as partnerships with other built environment professional organisations (LI, RTPI, RIBA etc.) as well as international issues (importance of partnerships with European organisations in the new age of isolationism).

Contributed by Michael Asselmeyer

IHBC NW Newsletter (February 2015)

IHBC NW Newsletter (February 2015)

Contents of the IHBC NW Newsletter from February 2015 include:

  • IHBC NW Annual General Meeting 2014
  • Spotlight on Lancashire
  • 20th Century Heritage – North West Building recognised as part of thematic review by English Heritage
  • Tiles and Ceramics Introductory Talk – Overview of the recent TACS event in Manchester in January 2015
  • Recent Appeals
  • Open Branch Committee Meeting
  • Upcoming Events

IHBC NW Newsletter (October 2014)

IHBC NW Newsletter (October 2014)

Contents of the IHBC NW Newsletter from October 2014 include:

  • Relocation, Relocation, Relocation – A dignified setting for the Manchester Cenotaph
  • The Art of Conservation – Personal account of the IHBC Annual School in Edinburgh
  • The Art of Conservation – Personal account of Orkney as part of the IHBC Annual School
  • Townscape – Gordon Cullen and David Rudlin form part of the recent IHBC NW meeting on the Isle of Man
  • House Tour 1 : Bank Hall, Bretherton
  • House Tour 2 : Hopwood Hall, Rochdale
  • House Tour 3 : Tonge Hall, Middleton
  • Appealing Open Space : Some recent appeals regarding Open Space in Conservation Areas in Stockport
  • Success for Central Library! IHBC NW present the 2014 Conservation Award to Manchester Central Library at the RTPI Dinner
  • Let’s Consult on the Matter
  • Upcoming Events