In 2018, Whitechapel Art Plaster Co Ltd were involved in the refurbishment of the Coupland Building in Manchester working as a sub-contractor for Graham Construction, who’s client was Manchester University. Work on the building included traditional solid plastering, heritage lime plastering, ornamental plastering to arches, plaster cornice, barrel ceilings, contemporary modern wet pre-mixes, metal frame & dry wall installation and finishes.
Involvement in this project came off the back of an enquiry from Graham Construction regarding Murray’s Mills restoration which was also a Graham Construction project. Whitechapel Art Plaster were invited to tender for the contemporary pre-mix reinforced lime plaster systems, which were applied onto an insulating layer of breathable wood fibre board, utilising the well-known compatible and efficacious breathable benefits of solid lime plasters in traditional buildings. This is achieved using state of the art organic insulation which is environmentally friendly, reduces heat loss and therefore saves energy and money. These systems help to eliminate condensation by raising the surface temperature of susceptible surfaces above the dew point in rooms with cold walls. Previously this would result in an uncomfortable and unhealthy living environment and associated problems would include the growth of unsightly and potentially unhealthy moulds, such as Aspergillus Niga.
The matching of plaster, both solid and fibrous, along with Glass Reinforced Gypsum (GRG), Glass Reinforced Concrete (GRC) and composites such as Jesmonite are used with traditional and modern-day innovation to blend contemporary design with original features. Whitechapel Art Plaster has embraced these activities as one of its areas of specialisation along with associated carpentry, joinery, and metal work. We can identify what is required by managing and coordinating the sequence of works from start to finish with an initial survey, through to templating, mould making and matching.
One of Whitechapel Art Plaster’s main areas of expertise is within the field of building pathology, problem solving and associated works. We deliver effective remediation with restoration and reinstatement, enabling the conservation process to deliver solutions. For an existing traditional building to undergo refurbishment for change of use, this requires the need to retain a flavour of what originally was and to harmoniously meld the past with the present. As the construction process shapes the future, in a way it changes the past, as run-down slum areas become comfortable accommodation.
Murray’s Mills is an example of an inner-city improvement by way of development and change of use. The mills were originally built for the brothers Adam and George Murray, on land near the Rochdale canal. This area became a tough industrial inner-city area, called Ancoats. Ancoats was the subject of the L. S. Lowry painting; ‘Great Ancoats Street’ and one of the notorious Manchester scuttle gangs; the ‘Bengal Tigers’. Ancoats was also a hub of the ‘Manchester Music Collective’ in the rhythmical and style changing back lash days of post punk; based around the ‘Band on the Wall’ venue. However, times change and the area has now been developed and rebranded as ‘New Islington’. Murrays Mills has now changed into luxury accommodation for inner city living.
The Band on the Wall
As this cradle of the industrial revolution is reinvented, it is part of the resurgence of Manchester; the first industrialised city in the modern world and is currently a developing and leading city in the United Kingdom.
After completing some problem solving and decorative plaster matching for Graham Construction, we were then invited to get involved in a small, yet interesting and fun aspect of the post completion works. Some push trucks were discovered which were unloved, rotting, rusting, and pushed into a corner of an old car park, the trucks were now to be upgraded for a change of use. Previously they were used to push materials around an industrial cotton mill, the trucks were now to refurbished and used as historical platforms for planters bringing them back into practical use.
Push Trucks at the Workshop
Painting of Components
The Finished Push Trucks Ready for the Planters
Whitechapel Vans Returning the Push Trucks to Murrays’ Mills
Planter on Push Truck at Murrays’ Mill
Whitechapel Art Plaster removed the trucks from site and brought them back to the Workshop. The trucks were stripped down by a metal and frame fixer who trained within our company. The metal work components were taken away for shot blasting, missing parts were replaced and the steel work was reinstated. The rotten ash timber bases were replaced by new bespoke ash planks and machined to match the original dimensions. They were also matched, cut and shaped by joinery work before the trucks were put back together. The metal work was primed, painted and timber sections varnished. The trucks were then delivered back to site, awaiting the arrival of the planters.
The trucks are now to be a symbol of this specific area’s past, showcasing the ever-present changes that shape and hopefully improve the environments we work and live in.