Canalside Heritage Centre, Beeston

By Sarah McGarrigle Guy at Bonsers

Bonsers were delighted to have been part of this fantastic community project, which saw the sympathetic and careful restoration of these previously derelict 18 th Century lock cottages, and the
addition of a contemporary new extension, to create the Canalside Heritage Centre, Beeston.Built as part of the Beeston Cut in 1796, the lock cottages were home to generations of canal working families, until the final tenants left in 1980.

Unoccupied, the cottages deteriorated over anumber of years, prompting the formation of the Canalside Heritage Trust in 2010. The Trust workedtirelessly on the project to prepare a feasibility study in order to secure Heritage Lottery Funding. Afunding award of £687,000 was made in 2015 against a project cost of £865,000, with £120,000 fromthe Local Improvement Scheme, and a further £75,000 raised from Broxtowe Borough Council, theCharitable Trust, The Canal and Rivers Trust, and local fundraising events. Work began on this sizeable project in July 2016, with fantastic support from the Canalside HeritageTrust and local volunteers. As Principle Contractor, Bonsers were commissioned to undertake boththe building of the contemporary rear extension, as well as the extensive renovation of the cottages,retaining and re-using as much of the original fabric as possible. This was essential in preserving the historic and cultural significance of the cottages, while allowing for their development for re-use. Inone example of this approach, our skilled plasterers carefully repaired the delicate original lath andplaster ceilings, and re-plastered with a three coat lime putty, sand and hair mix. The historic gypsum plaster floors also underwent a scheme of repair and restoration, utilising Bonsers expertise and experience to reproduce the most suitable mix for this difficult and highly specialised task. Usingtraditional methods and materials ensures that the building will continue to move and breath, protecting and preserving it for the future.

Another opportunity to introduce traditional materials to the restoration process was the use oftraditional burnt sand mastic pointing between the brickwork and window and door frames. This mastic is made up of kiln ‘burnt’ sand mixed with double boiled linseed oil and a drier, and producesa long lasting wind and water tight joint in keeping with the history of the cottages. Far superior to modern mastics, and perfect for historic building materials! There were, of course, areas where retaining existing fabric just could not be achieved. One example
was the roof covering, which had been replaced with unsympathetic concrete tiles. Instead, we sourced reclaimed materials in keeping with the original design and finish of the 18 th Century
buildings, to best reflect the history of the site. We were, however, able to repair and repoint the existing stone copings to the roof verge, retaining this important element.

Working with historic buildings never fails to create unique experiences for the Bonsers team, and this project was no different. Due to the canal side location, all materials had to be bow-hauled on to site by means of a big, rusty hopper barge called the Dirty Duck! Certainly an experience we will never forget.As well as undertaking and overseeing the works, Bonsers also provided Heritage Repair Training for the volunteers, alongside Nottingham City Senior Heritage Buildings Officer, Jason Mordan. Training days gave volunteers and members of the public the opportunity to learn the theory behind conservation methods, as well as getting their hands dirty with practical experience. Workshops included; gypsum floor repair; hot lime mixes and uses; lime plastering; and lime pointing. These were all essential skills to ensure the preservation of the Heritage Centre for years to come. They were soon put to good use, with volunteers making repairs to the gypsum floor and the brickwork to the smithy.

Once close to being lost forever, community spirit, dedicated volunteers, and the specialist skills of the Bonsers team, have saved this wonderful site, and created a vibrant and flexible community space. The centre was opened to the public in June 2017, with a spectacular grand opening event which saw over 2000 visitors and involved craft events, traditional music and dancing, and displays of local art and photography, as well as fantastic local produce. More details can be found at At Bonsers, we’ve been proudly preserving the UK’s historic buildings for more than 50 years. We’re a third generation family business, made up of skilled craftspeople and dedicated conservationists, all with a real passion for restoring and protecting our rich and diverse heritage. For us, every project is a privilege, and we bring to it an in-depth understanding of the complexities involved. We’ve earned an excellent reputation for quality workmanship, professional advice and specialist services, including stone carving, roofing and joinery, masonry and brick replacement, brick and terracotta repairs, masonry cleaning, and lime mortar plastering, rendering and pointing.