Journal of Architectural Conservation

Volume 13 Number 1 March 2007


Editorial Norman R. Weiss

Stiffening a Timber Floor at Somerset House Simon Bennett

Roman Cement: Part One, Its Origins and Properties David Hughes, Simon Swann and Alan Gardner

St George’s Hall, Liverpool: A Review of the Recent Work Robert Chambers

Historic Timber Cantilever Staircases Paul Begg

Fired Brick and Sulphate Attack The Case of Moenjodaro, Pakistan Enrico Fodde

The National Trust in Australia Origins, Role and Key Advocacy Challenges Jacqui Goddard and Alice Yates

Read the Editorial by Norman Weiss


Abstracts and Author Information


Stiffening a Timber Floor at Somerset House

Simon Bennett


The Portico room at Somerset House, above the main entrance foyer (known as the Seaman’s Hall) was built as a large open space with a timber floor spanning over 12 m. Early on in the life of the building, it appears that the floor suffered a significant loss of stiffness, and remedial hangers were introduced to provide additional support to the first floor from the second floor. In the twentieth century, the second floor was replaced and new hangers installed. The hangers were hidden in partition walls that split the Portico room up into small offices. The Somerset House Trust wanted to open up the room and remove the hangers to create a function space. Highly interventionist engineering solutions to stiffening up the floor while allowing the hangers to be removed were clearly inappropriate. The solution arrived at involved a careful understanding of the original structural action of the floor and the reasons for its problems. By reversing the original flaws and providing an extra ‘helping hand’, the floor was restored to its original configuration, without hangers. A magnificent function room has been created, and the project has won the Institution of Structural Engineers Heritage Award for Buildings 2006.


Simon Bennett MEng, MICE, MIStructE, CEng

Simon Bennett is now an Associate at Alan Baxter & Associates, having graduated from Imperial College with a Masters degree in Civil Engineering. He is particularly interested in work on historic and listed structures, and has worked on various major buildings such as St Paul’s Cathedral and the Palace of Westminster.


Roman Cement

Part One: Its Origins and Properties

David Hughes, Simon Swann and Alan Gardner


Roman cement had a short period of significant use in comparison to lime and Portland cement. Despite this, there is a legacy of fine buildings of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in whose construction Roman cement was used, about which conservators need to be informed. This paper provides a brief history of the material, its characteristics and the mortars used for stucco and cast decorative elements with due recognition given to the surface finishes which were required.


David C. Hughes BSc (Hons), PhD

David is a senior lecturer in construction materials with particular interests in mortars using cements, limes, hydraulic limes and pozzolanas. His interest in Roman cement began some 15 years ago and has focused on the calcination of various cement stones from across Europe, latterly as part of the ROCEM project. He is currently investigating the use of rapid prototyping technology for the production of moulds to yield cast elements from existing decorations and historical drawings.

Simon Swann BA (Hons), ACR

Simon is an architectural conservator specializing in mortars, plasters, stucco, stone and related materials. He has been involved in several major conservation projects involving the conservation of Parker’s Roman cement and was a member of the ROCEM project. He has worked as consultant on stucco projects including: Castle House, Bridgwater; Hadlow Tower, Kent; Norwich Castle, Norwich; Sibton Park, Suffolk; and Albion Place Gardens (Pulhamite Landscape), Ramsgate, Kent.

Alan Gardner BSc (Hons), MRICS, SPAB Lethaby Scholar

Alan is a chartered building surveyor in private practice, accredited in conservation, who has been involved in providing consultancy advice, specification writing and contract administration on a number of Roman cement repair and redecoration projects. His involvement in the Traditional Paint Forum and Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings’ Technical Panel has informed his consideration of Roman cement repairs and their interaction with surface finishes.


St George’s Hall, Liverpool

A Review of the Recent Work

Robert Chambers


St George’s Hall in Liverpool is widely recognized as an outstanding example of neo-classical architecture. Its history and development are well documented, and have been extensively discussed elsewhere. It is not, therefore, the intention of this paper to discuss at any length the historical development of the building and its significance.  Instead, the focus will be on the conservation and alteration work which has taken place in the past few years, with a particular emphasis on the most recent phase of work, which is continuing until the Hall’s re-opening to the public in 2007. The areas where changes of use or access requirements have necessitated alteration or intervention are the subject of more detailed analysis. Covering methodology and approach, the discussion centres upon the philosophy behind the interventions and their basis in relation to the surrounding context.


Robert Chambers BA, BArch (Liverpool), ADPP, RIBA

Robert Chambers grew up in Northamptonshire before studying architecture at the University of Liverpool. He has worked at Purcell Miller Tritton, a nationwide architectural practice specializing in conservation work since 1998. Since then, he has been involved in a wide range of projects, including conservation planning, most recently at Wrexham Museum and the Florence Institute, Liverpool, and on built work, including two large, award winning, projects at Roundhay Park, Leeds. In addition to the Phase II works at St George’s Hall, he is currently involved in a project at the Lady Lever Art Gallery on the Wirral.


Historic Timber Cantilever Staircases

Paul Begg


Whilst stone cantilevered staircases are occasionally addressed in the literature, historic timber cantilevered stairs appear to have been ignored. However, they demonstrate a remarkable refinement of this type of stair, resulting in a design which is exceptionally elegant and structurally efficient, yet which was also relatively easy to construct. This paper briefly reviews the history of cantilevered staircases and how they work. Using the results of a borescope survey, it then examines the detailed construction of a surviving example of a timber cantilevered staircase in a property built around 1800 in Aberdeen. This survey shows how the design had developed to an integrated, minimal structural form where all of the components contribute to the structural system. In relation to the preservation of such staircases, it is therefore important to understand that any repair or replacement of elements which may appear superficial can affect the overall integrity of their structure.


Paul D. Begg C.Eng., MICE

Paul Begg is a civil/structural engineer. From 1975 to 1990, he worked both for public authorities and civil/structural consulting engineers. Since 1990, he has lectured in engineering, most recently in the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment in Aberdeen, where he specializes in building structures.


Fired Brick and Sulphate Attack

The Case of Moenjodaro, Pakistan

Enrico Fodde


The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of the principal causes of the failure and decay of the archaeological structures of Moenjodaro, a World Heritage Site in Pakistan, and of the low-cost measures adopted for the conservation of its 52 km of exposed walls. Improper past conservation measures and their effects on brick decay were surveyed and highlighted in the context of salts attack. In order to further understand the influence of environmental salts on the durability of fired brick and soil (mud mortar, mud brick capping), an overview of the employment of mud slurry and of poulticing is also provided.


Enrico Fodde PhD

Enrico Fodde is lecturer in Sustainable Building Design at the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, University of Bath (UK). He was formerly International Project Director of Moenjodaro (World Heritage Site, Pakistan) and Field Director for the following UNESCO projects: conservation of the Buddhist monastery of Ajina Tepa (Tajikistan), the Silk Road sites of the Chuy Valley in Kyrgyzstan (Krasnaya Rechka, Ak Beshim, Burana), and Otrar Tobe (Kazakhstan).


The National Trust in Australia

Origins, Role and Key Advocacy Challenges

Jacqui Goddard and Alice Yates


In Australia there are eight National Trusts. Each State and Territory has a fully autonomous National Trust with a loose alliance through the Australian Council of National Trusts, which is currently based in Canberra. The first in Australia, and third in the world, was the New South Wales (NSW) Trust, founded in 1945 by Annie Wyatt. It was called then, and still is, The National Trust of Australia (NSW), clearly indicating the founder’s intent for the rest of the nation. Annie Wyatt’s vision of an organization safeguarding Australia’s natural landscapes and historic buildings for future generations predates any planning legislation to protect them. This paper sheds light on the role that the National Trust takes in Australia as a whole. It explores the public attitudes to conservation and heritage the Trusts face today (with particular emphasis on NSW as the first of the Australian family of National Trusts), and makes comparison to the Trusts in the United Kingdom and the US.


Jacqui Goddard BSc Arch, BArch

Jacqui Goddard is Conservation Director of the National Trust of Australia (NSW). She has worked as an architect in both Australia and Scotland, predominantly in the fields of conservation and repair and adaptive reuse of buildings. She was a senior lecturer and postgraduate course leader in Architecture at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen from 1994 to January 2001. Jacqui teaches design, adaptive reuse and building conservation on a part-time basis at UTS and UNSW in Sydney.

Alice Yates MSc, MA (Hons)

After working as a conservation officer for the National Trust of Australia (NSW) for two years, Alice Yates has returned to the UK and is working for the Wilton’s Music Hall Trust in the East End of London, which aims to secure the future of Wilton’s, the world’s only surviving grand music hall. She worked previously for WMF in Britain and SAVE Britain’s Heritage and holds a postgraduate MSc in Historic Conservation and a MA (Hons) in Architectural History.

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Donhead Publishing 2013