Restoration of City of Culture visitor attraction to hit milestone

Historic Coventry Trust’s work on the £8m restoration of one of the city’s finest medieval buildings is about to reach a major milestone in the project.

The Grade I listed Charterhouse is just days away from having the restoration of its ancient roof timbers completed, allowing the roof to be retiled and the interior fit out to startwith work on-schedule to launch the new visitor attraction in time for Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture.

Specialist contractors Splitlath Building Conservation have been restoring the roof since the end of January this year, working to ensure as many original features as possible are retained.

After finding that the original roof was collapsing and causing damage to historic wall paintings discovered in the building below, a decision was made by Historic England to use modern steels to tie the roof together.

The work overseen by Birmingham based PCPT Architects and Historic England has made the building structurally sound, while having minimum impact on the original oak roof timbers which have been restored.

A number of discoveries have been made as part of the restoration, including burn marks on the roof timbers made by candles some 500 years ago which were an ancient ritual to protect the building against lightning and fire.

It was also discovered that the roof underwent a major repair scheme in Victorian times, with it being propped with wooden beams, and these have also been reinstated to show the history of the building.

The roof will soon be re-covered with new handmade clay roof tiles, specially made to reflect the original roof covering.

John Dimbylow, managing director of Splitlath, said: “The work on the roof has been one of the most challenging parts of the project.

“We have had to be extremely careful as it is something that effects the whole structure of the building, and decisions have had to be made on what elements can be restored and which have needed to be replaced.

“We are very excited to remove the scaffolding and be able to start re-covering the roof – we have been working on the roof for more than six months, so it is a major milestone in the project.

“We have been working with a number of craftspeople during the restoration, including those that have handmade the clay tiles for the roof of the building.

“This whole project is about bringing the history of the site to life. The clay roof tiles have been specially made to reflect the building’s original covering.

“They are an orange clay tile, but just like the originals they will weather down over time so are very in-keeping with the building.”

Historic Coventry Trust acquired the nationally important Grade 1 Listed building in 2012 and, working with Coventry City Council and the Charterhouse community, developed the plans for its full restoration.

The project will form the centrepiece of a new 70 acre Charterhouse Heritage Park along the banks of the River Sherbourne.

The 14th century Carthusian monastery is one of Coventry’s oldest buildings and an exceptional survivor as the only one of originally ten UK monastery with intact interiors.

Plans include creating interactive displays charting the site’s long history since its founding by King Richard II in 1385, as well as the recreation of two of the original monks’ cells set in the walled garden.

Ian Harrabin, chair of Historic Coventry Trust, said: “This is the turning point where we finally start to put the building back together again.

“All most every day over the past few months we have uncovered more and more of the building’s 600-year history and the craftspeople that made it.

“They took such pride in their work that there are marks on the timbers that identify who made them. We will be honouring the workers of today with a new plaque so that future generations can uncover their part in the building’s history.”

The partnership with Coventry City Council has secured major grants from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England and several trusts and foundations including Garfield Weston, Wolfson, Foyle and Historic Houses Foundation, Edward Cadbury and AllChurches.

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