Imperial Bricks provided handmade bricks that blended with the original historical site at Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire, for National Trust historic renovation.
Quarry Bank Mill is a National Trust Property in Styal, Cheshire. A complete industrial community built around a cotton mill in the Cheshire countryside, it was opened in 1784 and 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. There was also a certain amount of conservation repair to existing walls. The Mill 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.
Making new bricks look old
To keep the authentic look of the mill it was essential that the new structure blended seamlessly into the old. Reclaimed bricks weren’t an option as they are in short supply and are prohibitively expensive. They’re also a target for thieves and there is no guarantee of quality – there’s no standardised testing and there can be as much as 20 per cent wastage. The sensible alternative was to use new handmade bricks, which can be blended to give an exact match. Imperial Bricks was approached to provide new bricks for the lift shaft, which would match the existing brickwork.
Brick matching is a free service offered by Imperial – if stock bricks can’t offer a close match, it’s possible to have a custom product created. There is always a solution, even for the most unusual sites. The brick matching team will compare colour, size, texture and weathering to produce the perfect finish. For Quarry Mill, Imperial’s expert visited the site to record the colour and size of the old bricks.
Jason Hughes, Managing Director, Imperial Bricks, commented: “It’s the kind of project we love! We 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 selection, 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 and 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. It 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.
For more information on the traditional handmade, waterstruck, wirecut and pressed bricks and services available, visit www.imperialbricks.co.uk