Anne Boleyn’s Gateway
Small Project Winner 2012
Building Owner/ Client: Historic Royal Palaces
Location: East Molesey, Surrey
Architect: Martin Ashley Architects
Structural Engineer: Hockley & Dawson
Main Contractor/ Builder: McCurdy & Co. Ltd.
Joinery Company: Whippletree
Wood Species & Products Used: English Oak.
Hampton Court Palace is one of the most famous buildings in Britain, first built by Cardinal Wolsey between 1514-28, only to be confiscated by King Henry VIII in 1529. Henry established Anne Boleyn there and commenced on a great building programme including the new gatehouse between Base and Clock Courts. In order to insert a new processional staircase up to the Great Hall, Henry removed the original Tudor gates which cannot have been in place for more than 18 years. These new gates are a matching pair to those still surviving at the main entrance which were repaired by McCurdy & Co. in 2009.
The client’s brief was to replicate the existing Great Gatehouse gates but to incorporate a pair of wicket gates which would require a departure from traditional design in order to comply with access requirements for the disabled. This dictated the loss of a traditional threshold piece that would have to have been stepped over. The threshold piece is traditionally a section of the main structural frame of large timber gates and to omit this created significant structural modification to the bracing and stiffening of the main gate frames, each gate weighing about 0.75 tonne.
The archaeology of the surrounding masonry structure including the vaulting above the gateway and the cambered historic cobbling was a primary consideration and presented particular constraints on the method of installation and alignment of new pintails and hinges affixed to the historic fabric. No rebate, jambs or archway was square or perpendicular due to historic movement and settlement, and the Victorian vaulting had been installed without the consideration for new gates being installed again. In places tolerances for fitting were down to 2mm.
The specification of wrought iron fittings, nails and rivets throughout led to major challenges for the blacksmith, Nick Peppitt, of Hollington Forge. Long and sometimes curved iron hinge straps had to be jointed using forge welding techniques and traditional hot riveting was utilised. Patterns for traditional fittings were copied from historic examples but innovation was dictated by operational requirements for ease of opening, locking, security and the need for emergency access.
The choice of English air-dried oak was true to the original but moisture levels indicated that shrinkage and movement would occur. Good straight grained pieces were selected along with curved pieces for the arched head of the stiles. Quartered, dry English oak boards were selected for the linen fold panels and special attention was given to the two pieces chosen for the carved spandrel brackets above the wicket gates.
The new Anne Boleyn Gates look superb and have been most favourably received. The ironwork has been treated with a hot black wax which will slowly wear off and the iron will start to rust and in places react with the tanic acid within the oak. The resultant natural staining is to be monitored and will probably generate adverse comment from observers. The timber has not been treated and will be left to weather naturally eventually resembling the original main gates which demonstrate the effects of almost 500 years weathering.
Timber sourced from FSC certified estate and English woodland “controlled source” from Englefield, Berkshire.