Walton Hall and Gardens, situated in south Warrington, is often referred to as the jewel in the borough’s crown. A popular attraction, visited by 200,000 people every year from inside and outside the borough, it is regarded as one of the top outdoor leisure destinations in Warrington. Last year, Warrington Borough Council drove forward its plans for the continuing development of the Walton Estate, improving the range of facilities for residents and visitors, restoring its historic assets and ensuring it remains a valued local resource for future generations. A key part of this work has been the restoration of the Estate’s conservatories.
The project received a much needed grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund and following a long procurement process, the Council appointed Rosslee to restore and revitalise the existing conservatory, glasshouses and shippon building; transforming the site into a community hub providing educational, retail, office and workshop space.
Walton Estate is Grade 2 Listed, so the scheme required Listed Building consent in addition to planning approval. But this wasn’t the only challenge that needed to be overcome. The conservatory range contains thousands of pieces of elegant timber and during construction each piece of timber was removed and tagged to mark its original location and assessed for rot. To ensure the site remained structurally safe the original timber that was in a good condition was used internally and new timber used for the external, structurally significant beams.
The conservatory range’s brickwork was generally in very good condition, with more than 90% of the bricks on site today originally dating from 1899-1910. The walls were dismantled brick by brick, cleaned, assessed for damage and rebuilt. The original lime mortar was analysed and a similar lime mortar used, to allow any moisture to leave the walls through the mortar rather than damaging the bricks.
Almost all of the original ironwork was repaired and reused. Through paint testing the ironwork, a number of paint colours were found. One of the most prominent colours, a powder blue, was chosen for the restoration. The new ironwork has been cast to match the original.
Once the ridged structure was in place, 3,200 panes of glass were carefully installed and putty pointed to secure. Then finally, the main glass lantern section was put into place before completing with the finials.
The Shippon building and adjacent potting shed also underwent a transformation from derelict stone buildings into a modern training, workshop and classroom space for the students of Myerscough College.
Project value: £2.35 million
“The rejuvenation of the Walton Estate conservatories is a real success story for Warrington, and a fantastic example of how effective partnership work can protect, preserve and ultimately, bring new life to our most treasured historic assets. Our glasshouses are about to shine once more as an iconic centrepiece for Walton Hall, as a high quality public venue for learning, development and volunteering – and as a historic treasure to be enjoyed for many years to come.”
Cllr Tony Higgins, Warrington Borough Council’s executive board member for culture, leisure and community