How Imperial Bricks matched bricks for stunning restoration of Quarry Bank Mill.
Quarry Bank Mill is a National Trust Property in Styal, Cheshire. It was a complete industrial community built around a cotton mill in the Cheshire countryside. Opened in 1784, it operated until 1959 when it was donated to the National Trust. In November 2017 the mill was closed to allow refurbishment, including construction of a passenger lift to give access to the whole site for people with mobility issues. It re-opened to visitors in summer 2018.
Contractor HH Smith and Buttress Architects in Manchester were responsible for Quarry Bank Mill’s £9.4 million restoration and renovation. The whole project took close to four years and was funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund and thousands of generous donors. It is one of the biggest projects in the National Trust’s history, an important step in the conservation charity’s continuing commitment to bringing the stories of its properties to life.
To keep the authentic look of the mill, it was essential that the new structure blended seamlessly into the old. Imperial Bricks was approached to provide bricks for the new lift shaft to match the existing brickwork around the lift shaft area. Brick matching is a service offered by Imperial – if stock bricks can’t offer a close match, it’s possible to have a custom product created. The brick matching service will compare colour, size, texture and weathering to produce an exact match. Sales Manager Gary Dawber visited the site to record the colour and size of the old bricks. Gary comments: “It’s the kind of project I love! I visited the site to photograph the existing brickwork, then had sample brick boards made up in various shades so the architect could select the best match. After careful matching, 8,000 3” Reclamation Handmade bricks with a bespoke weathered finish were supplied, It’s a rustic red multi brick that’s particularly suited to old Cheshire buildings and has been a very popular choice for matching period properties across the North West. It was a very rewarding project. It’s a privilege to be able to contribute to the renovation and improvements of such a historic property.”
Replacing the old goods lift with a passenger lift meant a new shaft had to be built in the heart of the mill complex, close to the main visitor entrance. The building, one of the best-preserved textile mills of the Industrial Revolution, is Grade II* listed. It has been used as a location for several films and TV shows where an accurate historical background is needed and featured throughout two series of ‘The Mill’, the Channel 4 programme which dramatised the story of Quarry Bank and its origins in the Industrial Revolution. It has also featured in ‘Secrets of the National Trust’ and an episode of ‘Midsomer Murders’.
The Mill at Quarry Bank was closed during the building work but the rest of the properties on the site and the grounds remained open to the public. Access to the site is shared by the visiting public, staff and construction traffic so deliveries from Imperial Bricks had to carefully schedule deliveries to comply with robust health and safety requirements. During construction the public was still admitted to the grounds and other buildings on the site, so their safety was a high priority.
A brick-matching solution for any scenario
Imperial Bricks works closely with contractors, planners and conservation officers to ensure the most suitable bricks are used in heritage projects. There is always a solution, even for the most unusual sites: even if there is no suitable brick from stock, our free brick matching service will produce a bespoke blend. It’s even possible to correct past mistakes; existing brickwork can be tinted to make sure the end result is right. Ask your local merchant for their regionally-appropriate handmade brick selection, and test panels for heritage projects can be delivered on-site.
Gary Dawber continues: “It’s also very important for builders and contractors to consider the mortar used, which in heritage or listed buildings will almost always be a lime-based mortars. We also supply a Heritage range of mortar, designed with specific conservation areas in mind to offer a variety of bespoke colours, such as Cambridge Dark Grey or Traditional London.”
Smart brick-matching app
Imperial’s Brick Matcher app (available on Android through the Google Play store as well as iTunes) allows builders to view the entire range or upload a picture of existing brickwork for our team to match. The area sales managers are available for onsite visits too – and can help with brick tinting, weathering or creating custom blends to suit.