South Shields Town Hall

Constructed between 1905 and 1910, the Town Hall stands as a fine example of an Edwardian Baroque public buil­ding. The aim of the scheme seeks to alter and refurbish the existing building to create a modern, bright, open working environment to accommodate various teams and services. Whilst the majority of the works are inter­nal, extensive works are required to the historic façade com­posed of brick and ashlar masonry with a mixture of Victorian sliding sash windows and stained glass set into Henry Hope metal casements.

As with many of Recclesia’s projects, we were asked to carry out a survey and provide our advice of any works required to the historic glazing, metalwork and masonry, which resulted in a detailed schedule of repairs. After extensive value engineering, the council decided upon an initial scope and we were appointed by the Main Contractors Willmott Dixon to begin works at the end of 2015. Led by Stephen Evans (Contracts Manager), with the assistance of Mike Batters (Senior Foreman) and Kat Walton (Studio Supervisor), Recclesia’s team is now in the process of dismantling, cleaning and re-leading approximately 100 leaded lights from 41 windows, alongside the conservation and repair of the Hope metal casements, fabrication of replacement frames and an extensive programme of masonry repairs.

As the building will still be in use for civic events and weddings, the client wanted to ensure that while the windows are in our workshops they appeared to be in place. As such we have produced specially made, temporary, imitation panels using Perspex and film that give the appearance the glass is still in place.

The project also includes the removal and careful cleaning of the Hope steel casements back to bare metal (equivalent of SA2.5 standard) to allow a new paint system to be applied. Once cleaned each frame is being thoroughly assessed for repairs, which will then be carried out by our metalworking team, including specialist metal replication of historic bronze ironmongery. Due to the extensive corrosion of five large frames, the largest measuring approximately 4.7m x 2.5m, it is not possible to conserve them so we are carefully replicating each one in stainless steel to match the existing profiles which will then be fitted onsite prior to the restored stained glass being returned.

The project has been challenging as a result of its size and the need for careful cataloguing of original building fabric prior to conservation work. Keeping the building in use has also resulted in some difficult programming and coordination, but our solutions have been creative and accommodating, balancing carefully controlled budgets with the needs of the client and users of the building. The project is not due for completion until April 2017, with extensive masonry repairs and cleaning works still to be carried in addition to the return of the windows. As such we will certainly be writing some more pieces on the project, which will see every part of this wonderful building transformed and reworked to continue its civic role at the heart of South Shields.