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The George & Dragon

WESTMINSTER, LONDON

CONSERVATION APPROACH – HISTORY OF THE STRUCTURAL ISSUES

This 18th Century building was ‘remodelled’ over it’s Georgian basement and cellar vaults by the Victorians. The building was extensively modified, the resultant works exacerbating the existing precarious structural skeleton of the building. The Victorians took out both the spine wall and the original gable wall at ground floor in order to open up the pub. These walls were providing lateral support. Therefore the iron columns between the windows at ground floor, supporting large timber beams and the masonry of upper floors, have been relied on for over one hundred years to keep the building stable.

CONSERVATION APPROACH – HISTORIC DAMAGE

The decision to remove the only lateral support at ground floor level was all the more incredible given that none of the structural elements were tied together. The structure relied on gravity to stay in place. Enter the Luftwaffe in WWII and a colossal bomb drop metres from the pub and this was enough to start the building on it’s trajectory – gradually falling into Greenwell Street. Once we had revealed the structure in the building it was apparent that the elevations to Greenwell Street and Cleveland Street had moved by well over four inches from their original position.

CONSERVATION APPROACH – RESULTANT INSTABILITY

As demonstrated by this photo, showing a timber beam hanging in space having fallen out of its notch in the ring beam, all the structural elements holding up the floors, internal walls and providing stability to the external walls had no positive fixings. The historic damage resulted in movement apart of these elements. The floor beams had fallen out of the ring beams in the external walls, so that the floors were hanging in space. In many ways it is miraculous that the floors didn’t fall down into the pub. All that appeared to be keeping them there was plaster – and the memory of where they should be!

CONSERVATION APPROACH – WEATHER INGRESS

Due to the movement, but also the age of the property and a lack of maintenance, the building was rife with timber rot. This was extensive in the roof, but water was also seeping into the vaults and basement from the surrounding earth. The building was therefore damp from top to base. A Timber Damp Surveyor located the damp and advised the remedial strategy for treatment of the Listed fabric and/or replacement of elements that were beyond salvage.

CONSERVATION APPROACH – CONTEMPORARY INTERVENTION

A significant improvement to the pub layout involved moving the WC (previously located in the pub) to the basement, whilst creating a separate entrance to the residential upper floors ancillary to the pub. This involved removing the unsympathetic ground floor concrete slab to the two storey extension to create a new staircase to basement, and separated access to the stairs to the upper floors. A new lantern was installed at the top of the existing stair atrium.

CONSERVATION APPROACH – REMEDIAL STRUCTURE

Creating this new circulation strategy was coupled with a Conservation Architecture approach to the remedial works, in order to consolidate the structure. New steel posts and beams were installed to form the structure around the new staircase to the basement, this was then tied into the existing structure under the gable wall. All the existing primary and secondary structural elements throughout the rest of the building were tied together with the use of discreet structural ties and shoes for timber elements, and reinforced concrete strapping to masonry, so as to have as minimal impact on the listed structure as possible.

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