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The Master’s House

The Master’s House

Existing Building Highly Commended 2015

Location: Ledbury, Herefordshire
Client/Owner: Herefordshire Council
Architect: Butler Hegarty Architects
Structural Engineer: Hockley and Dawson Consulting Engineers
Main Contactor/Builder: Speller Metcalfe
Joinery Company: Splitlath Building Conservation
Interior Joinery & Furniture: Woodcraft Joinery Ltd
Quantity Surveyor: Sawyer and Fisher (Epsom) Ltd
Paint Conservator: Elizabeth Holford Associates Limited.
Wood Supplier: OakbeamUK
Wood Species: European Oak, Green Oak, Russian Birch Plywood, European Beech

Located in the market town of Ledbury, the Grade II* listed Master’s House has a timber frame medieval building at its core, encased in later Georgian and Victorian additions. The building is part of the medieval St. Katherine’s Hospital site; significant other parts of the hospital remain. In March 2015 the project was completed to repair and regenerate the Master’s House as a public building for Herefordshire County Council, with a range of facilities, including a public library.

This project is the culmination of a process of evaluation of the various stages of the historic fabric of the building, revealing, in particular, the completeness of the medieval timber frame which forms the two storeyed, three bayed Central Hall with cross wings at either end, all built at one time, circa. 1487. Today, the repaired Central Hall, with its magnificent roof structure, forms the central space of the revitalised public building. Alongside, a detached kitchen dating from circa 1520 has been reformed as a new public library, with the interconnecting spaces used for a range of public activities.

At the beginning of this project, the timber frame was carefully surveyed, and sufficient fragments remained to develop an accurate evidence based reconstruction. Each frame was drawn, each timber numbered and scrutinised on site, with the objective of conserving as much historic material as possible, and to repair the timber frame as a load bearing structure once again. Three dimensional assembly drawings were made for each repair.

Repairs to the timber frame were carried out using traditional carpentry techniques, with each repair and intervention designed to ensure maximum visual coherence. The timber used in the repairs was selected to match the extraordinary large scale, (the scantling) of the timber frame. Semi seasoned (minimum 5 years) European Oak was used for the repairs, to ensure that size and section was available, and in order to avoid shakes and drying issues. Salvaged oak was used for small patch repairs, matching in grain and texture, and new oak was matched for grain, texture and growth.

A sequence of new timber elements have been created throughout the building – counters, bookcases, desks, doors, shelving – designed in a contemporary manner, using birch ply and beech veneer with exposed ends. Their form and distinctive pale quality distinguishes these new elements from the historic fabric. 18th and 19th century joinery has been retained, and used in other parts of the building

The Central Hall originally had an eighteenth century ceiling, which, when removed, revealed the medieval roof for the first time in 250 years. In order to stabilize this medieval roof structure, a new “second roof” structure formed using Hempcrete cassettes was formed. Also, 45 wattle and daub panels in the main timber frame were repaired using local materials – riven hazel whittles and oak staves.

The ambition is that the repaired and regenerated Master’s House will be a valued community resource, a heritage destination in its own right and a starting point for interpretation and understanding of Ledbury’s historic environment.

Further Sustainability Information: The conservation and reuse of existing buildings and building fabric is intrinsically sustainable. Salvaged materials were used where possible. Timber is FSC certified.