The Restoration of BLAYDES HOUSE and it’s Particular Problems
By ALAN K. BRAY R.I.B.A. (writing in 1975)
Many buildings, during their lifetime, sometimes extending through hundreds of years, survive a variety of changes. These might be changes of use, structural alterations and additions, improvements (or so considered by their owners) repair works resulting in some change in appearance, changes in the external environment by development of the area around, repercussions of social events, strikes, wars and fires, alteration in social customs, growth of trees, repercussions from traffic growth, and dilapidation, wear and tear. A great many men and events have influenced Blaydes House over the years, some dealing it not mortal blows but certainly deep injury. Some influences have persisted. Blaydes House has always been a town house, and in particular a house concerned with the sea trade of the port of Hull. Above all, the influence of the original designer has not been lost though only saved by determination on the part of your Society.
The outset of the rescuing operations, for it was indeed a rescue, had to be preceded by a complex series of liaisons with the various interested Authorities and responsible bodies in connection with legal procedures, with the Historic Buildings Council and within the Society and its Executive Committee, and the Trustees, with grants, with permissions, with conveyances, with all the paperwork surrounding operations connected with building in the nineteen seventies rather more than in the eighteenth century.
PROBLEMS OF CONSERVATION
First it is important to arrest the ravages of decay, to make secure, and to make wind and weatherproof. These are first priority measures, but such are no more than first aid. Next we must look a little further into the future and consider how long these measures will last and to what extent first aid should be ex tended into more structural repair, perhaps involving not just externals but the bones as well. But the aim is not to produce a building exactly as it existed when first built if that, then easier to pull down and reproduce in new material, like a reproduction antique. The word is conserve. If a stone cill is worn, then no matter, but if it is cracked then the crack must be cut out and sealed to prevent further deterioration. If this cannot be done, only then must a new cill be considered. If the crack can be successfully made good then this is a better result than heavy handed and needless replacement; a piece of history will have been preserved.
The most immediate and pressing problem of the repair operation was the solution of the stability of the north facing wall. Formerly Blaydes House had a neighbour building, built up shoulder to shoulder on its north side. Possibly, over the years, it had had other neighbours, demolished and rebuilt but eventually events conspired that the property to the north was pulled down and was not to be rebuilt, and Blaydes House was left with an open wound. Some of the brickwork from the adjoining property was temporarily left to provide the support which Blaydes House had had so long that it had become used to it and relied on it — the more so as its own gable wall was a pitiful 4'/1" thick from ground to apex. With great care the temporary supports were removed, a new foundation made and the old wall thickened out and knitted in to the old with metal anchors and ties, and using a supply of bricks which had been acquired from demolition of a building further down the High Street, that of the old Weights & Measures Office south of Alfred Gelder Street. Acquisition of these bricks had been no light matter. Careful measurements had been taken to establish their suitability for correct coursing, correct appearance and correct period.
The entrance porch of Blaydes House, a Doric portico, is one of the finest in the area, but although this portico survived Victorian attentions and later wars and bombs, and fire, it was fin ally dealt a serious blow by a lorry in 1969 which damaged its fine Doric columns. These were hastily removed at the time by arrangement of the Georgian Society and placed in safekeeping until the time came for comprehensive building repairs, the pediment meanwhile being temporarily shored up. These columns have been carefully repaired and are at present being made ready for refitting into the repaired portico, thus restoring former glory.
A man may consider that if he owns a building, he is entitled to alter it according to his wishes. Certainly this happened in the case of Blaydes House. On the ground and first floor the graceful Georgian box frames and sashes were removed and new round headed openings to Victorian taste made. The results seem eccentric to the onlooker today but were no doubt pleasing to the then owner. Little did he know that one day his building would be acquired by the Georgian Society, and these follies removed. Already the windows on one side of the frontage have been so restored and a start made on those on the other side.
There remains much more to do. Facing the Staithe to the south are areas of decayed brick work to be rebuilt and decayed joinery to renew. In improving weather the whole roof is to be thoroughly overhauled, layers of encrusted yellow and brown paint to be removed from a fine stair case, the fine staircase Venetian window to restore, flooring to overhaul and protect against rot and beetle, and a host of minor works to attend to. This is slow work, yet not so slow that the occasional passerby cannot readily perceive progress and already though the work was started in September, 1973, the view from the north is already seemly and the house taking on again its Georgian dignity and air of wellbeing, a vast change from the cowed and hopeless appearance it presented immediately before the work commenced.
In this section
- The Georgians
- Georgian Architecture in East Yorkshire
- Georgian Art, Literature & Music in East Yorkshire
- Georgian Science, Industry & Commerce in East Yorkshire
- Georgian Politics, Diplomacy & War
- The Blaydes Family and Their House in The High Street, Kingston Upon Hull.
- Georgian Architecture in East Yorkshire