Restoring the Roofline of Westminster Abbey
Chapter House, one of London’s oldest buildings, was first built between 1245 and 1253 under Henry III and was erected concurrently with Eastern parts of the Abbey. Originally used by Benedictine monks it was a place for daily meetings and was a hub of religious activity. It later became a meeting place for the King’s Great Council and the Commons, the predecessors of modern day Parliament. Then, in the mid-16th Century it became a store house for the records of the Exchequer, providing the octagonal building with a varied and highly prestigious background.
The historic building underwent extensive restorations in 1872, which was headed by Sir George Gilbert Scott. These restorations included a leaded tent-lantern roof which was designed by Scott and constructed on an iron frame.
Now in the guardianship of English Heritage, and under the care and management of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, it has been subject to injury from various sources over the years. Smoke from Battersea Power Station, traffic pollution and corrosive weather has all caused damage to the building’s structure and aesthetic and, as such, the English Heritage recently funded a major programme of work to Chapter House. The £3 million restoration project comprised repairs to the roof, gutters, stonework on the elevations and flying buttresses and utilised an extensive team of highly experienced professionals.
One of these teams were the professionals from JTC Roofing – who were more than willing to take on the prestigious task! Restorative construction was needed on the roof and work was carried out under the architectural supervision of specialist building restoration and conservation experts Stone Technical Services of Darlington.
One of the major aspects of the project was opening up the lead work to rolls and fitting new hidden clips. Roof sheets were also re-nailed to ensure optimum strength and security. Throughout the project, every step was taken to make sure the roof renovation was in keeping with the rest of the period property and its medieval features and heritage tradition. As a result, all lead used was sand cast, a material which records show, when applied and fitted correctly, can have an outstanding lifespan. Upon completion, the entire roof had to be redressed, paying particular attention to the finish and aesthetic appeal.