English Heritage publishes an Annual Register of Heritage at Risk. These are buildings that are statutorily listed at Grade 1, Grade 2*, and in London Grade 2 (that is, they are designated as being ‘of special architectural or historic interest) – whose condition gives cause for concern. Sandycombe Lodge, which is Grade 2*, has been assessed by English Heritage as being At Risk and has been placed on the 2013 register, published in October 2013.
Why is Sandycombe Lodge considered to be ‘At Risk’?
Turner’s House Trust became the owners of Sandycombe Lodge in December 2010, after Professor Livermore’s long ownership which began in 1947. Trustees’ immediate duties included, for example, assessing utilities for safety, as a result of which the gas supply was turned off. The Options Appraisal Study of 2012 identified the problem of inadequate drainage of rainwater, and crumbling rainwater systems have been our greatest concern. The excessive rainfall of 2012 caused gutters, flashing and downpipes to deteriorate further, leading to damp in first floor rooms and the ground floor dining room, and the partial collapse of ceilings in the basement. Heavy thunderstorms exacerbated the problems, the cause only being revealed when the original coal chute was found, with its cracked stone cover, under several inches of earth.
The large Yew trees, planted very close to the house and unpruned for many years, have been a major cause of damage. The needles clog and weigh down the gutters and downpipes, and the roots have penetrated the walls of the basement, causing deterioration of the fabric of the building and further water penetration and leading to wet rot. Yew tree roots have also invaded sewage pipes, causing total blockage.
What has the Trust done to cope with these threats to the property?
Firstly, we have secured funding from the Pilgrim Trust for remedial work. Repairs have been made to gutters and flashing, downpipes have been extended to take rainwater away from the edge of the property and sewage pipes and a leaking lavatory have been replaced. Cracked roof tiles have been renewed. Spectacular outbreaks of mould on the kitchen walls have been treated and the walls partially re-rendered.
Secondly, after securing professional reports and planning permission, the Yew trees are being removed and the stumps ground out.
Thirdly, the wet rot has been professionally treated and stopped in its tracks.
Fourthly, and most importantly, the Trust has made significant strides in securing the necessary funding to enable full conservation, with awards being made by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Andrew Lloyd Webber Challenge Fund, the Architectural Heritage Fund and others, and with many donations from generous individual supporters. We cannot, however, hurry along the work of conservation until all our professional plans are fully developed and until all our funding is in place.
We are well on our way in this exciting project, and it is worth remembering that although buildings are put on the At Risk Register, they are also removed when they are fully repaired and their future is secured. Strawberry Hill was once designated At Risk, and look at it now!