Repairs and improvements to the Mansion, one of Ipswich's iconic Grade One Listed buildings, commenced in April and Society members were invited to attend an inspection of the building to review the ongoing and proposed works which are scheduled for completion in December 2016.
We were greeted by Hillary Brightman, who introduced herself and advised that, in her profession as a Conservation Architect, she had been originally appointed in 2002 by Ipswich Borough Council to prepare a Conditions Survey of the Mansion. The survey of this complicated building had taken twelve weeks to complete and resulted in the production of a document which formed the basis of a strategy for the future Maintenance and Repairs, classifying the works, prioritising Urgent Improvement /Remedial Works, General Repairs and long term Maintenance.
The current scheme follows on from the recently completed improvements works to The Wolsey Gallery Wing, the reroofing of the West and East Wings in 2008 and roof parapet works undertaken in 2006 and concludes the identified major Improvement works. The current works are being undertaken both externally and internally with Hillary guiding us around the building explaining the extent of the proposals.
Externally the works include general brickwork repairs with reclaimed bricks, installed with a hot lime and sand mortar mix sympathetic to the existing brickwork and the major scheme of reroofing to the central core of the Mansion. Surprisingly, we were advised that significant ongoing damage to the roof areas was being caused by ‘roof runners' who take pleasure from climbing difficult structures and filming themselves for distribution on social media sites whilst inadvertently damaging the roof tiling and leadwork. The reroofing works entail the construction of a temporary roof canopy over the building which will be enclosed with vertical sheeting to prevent water ingress during the roofing works. To deter future ‘roof runners', external CCTV is to be introduced with cameras carefully located not to detract from the Grade I building.
Internally, the main focus of the works is to the two-storey Tudor Wing, a timber framed structure relocated previously from Majors Corner which, as well as being used as a museum exhibition room, is utilised for marriage ceremonies. As one would expect, the building suffers badly from heat loss and can be cold for occupants. The proposed scheme is to install an innovative warm air heating system in a strengthened roof void with ducting via the existing chimney flue discharging from the fire places oneach floor. To mitigate heat loss, auto-opening glass doors are to be introduced across the internal corridors and the roof ceiling void is to be overboarded with timber encapsulating the loft insulation. We were advised that some of the new vapour permeable roofing underfelts and insulation products are not bat friendly and thus the requirement to encapsulate the insulation.
Other works to be undertaken internally include the provision of ‘heat mats' (similar to electric blankets) which are to be laid under carpets within the Children's Education rooms on the ground floor. This will enable children to sit on the floors which are currently timber boarded but cold. Minor adaptation to window seats which currently enclose the radiators are also proposed.
As a partial consequence of works undertaken over the years, the existing underground electrical mains supply serving the Mansion requires upgrading and the current scheme includes the excavation of a service trench extending from the front of the Mansion to Soane Street. With the sensitive nature of the route, all excavation work will be undertaken under the supervision of an archaeologist to identify and record all finds.
Whilst the major works are undertaken, some disruption will inevitably incur internally, but the Mansion will remain open for business as usual.
Many thanks to John Norman for kindly organising the visit and the architect Hillary Brightman, who, for the past 14 years has endeavoured to help conserve and protect our historic building for the enjoyment of future generations.