19 Apr The Royal Ballet School, White Lodge
In 1727, The HM Office of Works appointed experienced architect Roger Morris to the role of Clerk of the Works at Richmond New Park Lodge. His task, to construct a new hunting lodge in the centre of the park for King George II. It was to be built in the Palladian style which draws on the classical architecture of Rome and Ancient Greece. It remained a Royal property for centuries, being home to many members of The Royal Family and several Prime Ministers until in 1925 it was passed to The Crown Estate to be leased. Since 1955, it has been occupied by The Royal Ballet School, home to its junior school and now giving the building the title of The Royal Ballet School, White Lodge.
Completed in 1730, it is constructed from Hildenley limestone, which was extracted from a series of small quarries in North Yorkshire, which form the most Northerly edge to the limestone belt. The stone, which was formed in the Upper Jurassic period, is one of the few pure, fine grained limestones quarried in Yorkshire and was highly valued for carving as a result, All of the Hildenley stone quarries have long since closed, and so we had to look at quarries capable of producing similar material. Jordans Basebed from the Island of Portland matches most closely colour, texture and composition and following approval from Richmond Council and English Heritage, was used for all indents.
As is the case with so many buildings, White Lodge (renamed 40 or so years after it was built, due to the striking colour of the limestone) has been repaired numerous times over the centuries. Sadly, the fashion for using cement as a repair medium from the mid-19th Century onwards has led to much exacerbated damage which as a result often needs removal and replacement.
As is sometimes the case, the conservation officer for The London Borough of Richmond regards previous intervention as reflecting part of the buildings chronology and felt widescale removal and replacement would impact on the buildings historic integrity. As It is now Grade I listed, we were to only remove cementicious repairs which were completed poorly, were failing themselves or could be seen to be causing direct damage to adjacent material. This means, conversely to most common understanding, retaining a number of inappropriate elements which are currently solid and sound.
As is always the case with conservation and restoration, a fine line needs to be gauged between conserving the original building fabric and preserving the longevity of the building as a whole, and these decisions can be somewhat subjective. What is stable today, may of course not be tmrw and so a period of time is often used as the basis to define the level of works completed, as has been the case here.
The majority of works completed in this contract therefore relate to the removal and replacement of previous repairs and the making good of losses suffered. Mouldings which form weatherings are not best repaired in lime mortar and so where these are missing or have failed, a stone indent is completed matching the adjacent profiles.
Numerous guttae form delicate mouldings within the pediment modillions, repairing these in mortar would again prove destined for failure, as they are ground facing and would hold moisture – so these are to be individually hand carved and pinned with 316 grade stainless steel. It is thought that the Guttae represent pegs used in the construction of wooden structures from Ancient Greek architecture. They do however have functionality, as water drips over their chamfered edge it is encouraged away from the building.
Some cautious stone conservation has been undertaken to the delicate floral patera which sit between each modillion. This fragile stone was exhibiting hairline cracks and so was consolidated with a lime grout and then micro pinned using fine gauge stainless steel. The combination of these methods has allowed some vulnerable carved detail to be retained and all being well, secures these elements for decades to come.
© James Brennan Associates
© James Brennan Associates
Several areas of the building, were considered to be too costly to restore or replace within this current phase of works and so as a way of archiving the current condition, a 3D laser scan was commissioned. Laser scans are being used more and more frequently within the heritage sector and this digital information then forms a long-term record of condition and as a ‘worse case scenario’ could be used to reproduce losses.