How are councils coping with heritage staff cuts?

National Trust property Tyntesfield estate, near Wraxall, North Somerset.

In the scramble to slash the budget deficit after the recent financial crash, the conservation and heritage sectors proved to be sitting targets for savage government funding cuts. So, what exactly are the implications for conservation across the UK, and how are councils coping with heritage staff cuts? Since their peak in 2006, the number of staff employed in specialist heritage and building conservation roles has shrunk by a third, according to an English Heritage and Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) report, as cited by John Geoghegan in his brilliant recent article, ‘A Little Less Conservation’. There is the suggestion that these cuts will have real implications for the … Continue reading

Maintaining ‘homes fit for heroes’, 100 years after the First World War

Building homes fit for heroes: still from a British Pathé film

This month has seen the centenary of the start of the First World War: the ‘war to end all wars’. When many people think of this monumental conflict, the first thing that comes to mind is not necessarily homes and timber sash windows, but a drive to create better quality housing for returning soldiers was actually a direct result of the war. Housing for the majority of people and families in the United Kingdom in this period was in particularly dire state. Most people, particularly the working classes, had no choice but to live in cramped, poorly designed Victorian slums that were ill lit, ill ventilated, and that fostered disease. … Continue reading

Heritage means business: so why is the government not investing?

St John's Hospital Alms House in Bath with timber sash windows

Heritage homes are an integral part of the fabric of rural Britain and buildings open to the public offer a little piece of heritage to all. As a company, we believe that maintaining all heritage properties is valuable, but that in itself doesn’t necessarily make it a worthwhile pursuit. Heritage for heritage’s sake isn’t an argument that convinces everybody. Leaving sentimentality aside, the heritage sector contributes a lot of money to the country’s coffers. The Historic Houses Association’s 1550 properties attract more than 13 million visitors a year – put into context, that’s 11 million more than Jamaica. And those are just the privately owned houses, not including properties owned … Continue reading

New arched sash windows for Bristol University property

Wessex Restoration renovation of University of Bristol property 15-19 Tyndalls Park Road, Clifton, with new facade of white timber sash windows

In 2013, we were contracted to renovate 30-34 Tyndalls Park Road, by upgrading the timber sash windows and supplying timber fire-rated doors. As part of the University of Bristol’s extensive renovations of period housing, offices and classrooms, Wessex Restoration has been invited back to undertake the restoration of 15-19 Tyndalls Park Road. Project details Project: 15-19 Tyndalls Park Road, Clifton, Bristol Client: University of Bristol Main contractor: Beard Construction Ltd Products installed: Arched sliding sash windows with horns and traditional locks, four-panel wooden fire-rated doors and period timber features, including skirting boards, dado rails and picture rails. Project completed: Summer 2014 15-19 Tyndalls Park Road Profile The project consists of … Continue reading

Why you shouldn’t replace timber windows with uPVC

Energy efficient sash windows

When looking to upgrade your old timber windows, it’s tempting to opt for the cheapness and convenience of uPVC. Some double glazing salesmen use horror stories of rotting wood and cold draughts of single glazed timber windows to persuade people to switch to uPVC. But these are just that – horror stories. Scare tactics to sell. Whilst it’s true your original timber windows might not be the best performing, the reality is today’s modern timber systems are designed to offer better levels of thermal efficiency, security and, above all, the classic charm that draws people to houses with timber windows in the first place. People choose uPVC for a number … Continue reading

How to avoid damage to your heritage property

Traditional timber sash window replacement in stone farmhouse

In our last blog we talked about how the weather can damage old properties and what can be done to prevent it. But what about the other things that commonly cause damage? Smoke, plants, animals and botched home improvement jobs can all cause problems in the long run. Don’t ignore them, do the following. Smoke damage Older houses built with fully functioning chimneys are likely to have some degree of smoke damage. Although not a safety hazard like fire damage, smoke from the fireplace would escape into the house, damaging the property over time. Soot and charring is common around the fireplace and the chimney breast, but it is worth … Continue reading

How to protect your historical house against weather damage

Old traditional country townhouse with trailing ivy hanging plant and restored white sash windows

Historical houses are fortresses. Robust and built to last, those still standing have stood the test of time (and passed with flying colours). A house that was built in 1700, for example, will have survived around 3,000 thunderstorms, 300 metres of rainfall and 314 frosty winters. However, exposure to the elements can pose serious risks to an old house. So, how exactly can the weather damage your house? Storm damage Obviously, storms can cause a lot of severe damage to historical homes very quickly. Lightning can strike anywhere, but it can be particularly destructive to buildings that already require a lot of care and upkeep. During storms, strikes to the … Continue reading

Guide to replacing sash windows in conservation areas

Old flaky timber window with Georgian bars

If your house is listed or in a conservation area, there are restrictions to what structural and aesthetic changes you can make, including alterations to windows. Sash windows are a common feature of many historical and listed buildings dating from the Georgian and Victorian eras. Most of these windows have existed for well over a century, but after a while some begin to look sad and shabby and in need of some love and attention. But do you need permission to replace your sash windows, or is it possible to repair them? Planning permission for replacing windows in conservation areas According to the English Heritage, windows and doors “make a … Continue reading

What is a conservation area?

Heritage cottage in conservation area in a village with a blue sky and flowers

We’re lucky to live in a country with old, historical and heritage buildings. But we haven’t always valued the importance of our rich cultural history. Instead of today’s nostalgic appreciation of historical buildings, previous generations would rip down old buildings to make way for “modern” architecture. Maybe it was as a result of mass city rebuilds in the 1960s that something had to be done to save our cultural heritage. In 1967, the first conservation areas were set aside as examples of historical and architectural interest. Since then, local councils have designated more than 9,000 conservation areas across the UK. What’s the difference between conservation areas and listed buildings? Conservation … Continue reading

Top 5 websites for restoration inspiration

Period living magazine flooring ideas

Whether you’re looking to renovate a residential property from top to bottom or just freshen up the appearance of your heritage home, here are other sites that will inspire your project. Check out the following websites, ezines and apps that other restoration men and women use to sympathetically restore their heritage homes. 1. Period Living – ideas for heritage homes This magazine is a fantastic resource for anyone looking to renovate a period property. Not only does it offer expert advice on maintenance and upgrades, but it has inspiring articles about the country’s heritage homes, as well as home décor, colour schemes and furnishings. iPad and mobile versions of the … Continue reading

Newly restored heritage properties to visit this spring

English Heritage property Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath

There’s nothing nicer than spending a springtime Saturday afternoon pottering around an English country garden. National Trust and English Heritage castles and stately homes are readying themselves for the summertime crowds as the weather gets nicer. In all corners of the UK there are ‘new’ heritage properties that will (re)open their doors to the public in 2014. Bask in a bit of British heritage and soak up the sun by visiting these ex-homes of the rich and the royal. Kenwood House, London This Georgian villa reopened in November 2013 after 10 months of restoration work, including roof repairs, weather sealing, interior refurbishment and painting. The £5.95 million project has scaled … Continue reading

Installing fire rated doors in your heritage property

White wooden FD30 Fire Door

Under the current Fire Safety Order, renovations of period properties must abide by building regulations by using approved fireproof products and materials. However, according to the Listed Building Act, replacement doors must retain their original style and period features. So how do we do it? Last month we wrote about our renovation of the University of Bristol’s teaching rooms and offices. As part of the project at 30-34 Tyndall’s Park Road, Wessex Restoration was contracted to install timber wall panelling and wood-panelled doors. According to modern-day building regulations this means that, among other considerations, all replacement internal doors have to be fire rated. Fire doors are especially important to stop … Continue reading

Broken sash windows – repair or replace?

Restored sash windows in a period property

Sash windows are one of the most beautiful features of period properties. When they are properly manufactured and maintained, they can last for over a hundred years; however, timber requires a lot of maintenance. Wooden windows need sanding, painting and varnishing around every 3-5 years, which is why it’s easy for them to fall into disrepair. If your wooden windows look like they have seen better days, read on to see if they can be repaired or whether you will need to consider a replacement window. Damaged timber frames Timber frames exposed to the elements can become tired and worn down over the years, leading to rotting or warped frames. … Continue reading