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Out of the Hat

Out of the Hat

Conservation & Restoration Highly Commended 2008

Location: Gloucester
Architect: Architecton
Wood Species: English Oak / English Ash

Significance:
Out of the Hat, traditionally known as The Hat Shop, is an imposing timber framed building sited in the centre of Tewkesbury. The earliest remaining section at the rear of the property dates from the mid 16th century with the front block dated 1664. The building is Grade 1I* listed and was on English Heritage’s Building’s at Risk register.

Condition:
When purchased by Tewkesbury Borough Council the building was in perilous condition, several areas had collapsed and major repairs to all parts of the fabric were required to make the building habitable.

Brief:
The initial brief was to repair and convert the building to relocate the Tourist Information Centre from inadequate accommodation elsewhere in the town. This evolved to include a fully accessible exhibition centre that acts as a catalyst to encourage people to learn about the history of Tewkesbury and form a starting point to explore other attractions in the town.

Philosophy:
The design approach has been to make a minimal impact on the quality and detail of the historic fabric. Where intervention / alteration was required the new elements have been of a recognisably contemporary design but make reference to and follow the scale of the original.

Timber Framing:
The timber frame was in a poor state of repair. Each frame member and joint was individually assessed on site and a sequence of repairs devised, starting with replacing oak pegs followed by strengthening with stainless steel brackets and, where necessary, scarfed in English oak repairs. Only in the worst cases was wholesale replacement of timber required. Analysis by Sibert microdrilling saved several areas of assumed rotten timber.

The original intention, to restore original clear floor areas, required strengthening all primary joists by cutting a large chase down the centre and inserting stainless steel tie rods anchored in resin. This was deemed too intrusive so an alternative method of strapping the upper joists to a strengthened roof truss and inserting new steel columns to prop the ground and first floors created a more efficient and sympathetic approach.

Early investigation revealed decorative C16th painted beams concealed by a later ceiling. The ceiling has been removed and the Tudor patterns carefully uncovered, cleaned and consolidated by specialist conservators.

The New Extension:
The new extension contains the services and supporting accommodation freeing up the existing building to retain as much as possible of its character and historic fabric. The form of the extension follows the line of previously demolished cottages, stepped in and down to allow the new to make a clean connection with the existing building. The materials – steel frame, oak slatted walls, glazing and blackened zinc roof delineate the new.

Shopfront:
A blank C20th shopfront was replaced by a design that aims to give an interest, colour and proportion to suit the upper floors, It also restores the elevation’s symmetry and structural integrity by repair of the timber posts supporting the original bressummer and carved brackets.

Apprenticeship Scheme:
The main contractor who specialises in historic building work employed several apprentices on the scheme including carpenters and joiners who gained valuable experience.

Programme and funding:
Architecton were initially employed in 1999 to carry out a feasibility study prior to the Council purchasing the building in 2000. Grant applications to The Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage were successful with enabling works completed in 2005. The main contract started on site mid 2006 and was completed in December 2007 with a building cost of £1.23m.