Unitarian Meeting House, Ipswich

The Grade I Listed Building, built in 1699, suffered unsympathetic repair works carried out in the last 50 years which put the long-term future of the building on the ‘Heritage at Risk’ list. Sections of the original timber frame had been replaced with untreated steel set into concrete. These supports were corroding and required removal to avoid future frame collapse. The building had also been rendered using an impervious cementitious material, not allowing breathability of the fabric, encouraging moisture build up and potential for rapid decay of the timber frame.

Informed by our own intrusive investigations, repairs reinstated the timber frame, removing venerable untreated steel and the building re-rendered using a lime / chalk specification to allow breathability. The addition of sheep’s wool insulation reduces energy requirements and allows moisture to be wicked away from the timber frame and dissipate through the lime / chalk render. Additional bracing within the existing frame required careful detailing to best preserve the original render line to window and cornice details.

The repair works required funding from multiple bodies, with Historic England (HE) being the largest contributor. This, along with the Grade I status, required an astute level of detail in specification of materials and repair schedules with continuous review. KLH worked closely with HE and Building Surveyor Phil Chatfield to find a balance between the client wanting a robust solution using modern materials and HE and the Local Authority requiring historically suitable materials.