January 2022 marked the beginning of a new year, as well as the start of the beginning of the restoration of the former Post Office on London Road North. Unlike the failed new year’s resolutions of learning to speak Japanese and how to play the guitar, conservation repairs have been off to a successful start at the Post Office over the past 8 months, and will be completed this winter.
Unfortunately, much of the amazing conservation repairs being undertaken to the building are hidden behind an enormous amount of scaffolding so has not been visible from the street. We therefore want to share the exciting work which has been happening at the Post Office, being delivered by a superb project team comprising of Chaplin Farrant (Lead Architects), Kings and Dunne (Conservation Architects), The Morton Partnership (Structural Engineers), and multi-disciplined site team of RG Carter (Lead Contractor), Aldis and May (Conservation Specialists), Abbeygate Masonry (Stone Masons), Oakhill Group (Decorating), Apex Scaffolding (Scaffolding) with many other subcontractors involved in the project too.
So, back to the beginning.
The London Road, Lowestoft Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) is one of 2 heritage led regeneration schemes in Lowestoft, funded by East Suffolk Council and Historic England, delivered in partnership with Lowestoft Town Council, East Suffolk Building Preservation Trust and Lowestoft Vision. The schemes use funding to improve the appearance and condition of buildings, repairing traditional detailing, reinstating lost architectural features and bringing vacant buildings back into use to help regenerate the area.
The former Post Office was purchased by East Suffolk Council in 2017 and repairs to the external fabric of the Grade II listed building are a key project for the outcomes of the London Road, Lowestoft Heritage Action Zone.
The Post Office was designed as a single storey building in the 1880s and was the first dedicated Post Office in Lowestoft, replacing operations which were previously taking place in Post Masters’ houses. The building was extended to provide a first floor around the turn of the century, and second floor around 1909.
The building suffered from a series of unsympathetic alterations during the 20th century, including re-roofing with asbestos tiles, replacing the ground floor timber sashes with aluminium windows, removing the original entrance door, and relocating it to the side of the façade.
The funding through the London Road, Lowestoft Heritage Action Zone and Towns Fund has allowed East Suffolk Council to carry out a detailed schedule of repairs to the external fabric of the building. This includes replacing heavily weathered balusters at the parapet, timber repairs to the roof structure, repairs to the chimneys including some replacement of stone, and renewing leadwork and rainwater goods. In addition, specialist conservators are completing air lime repointing, consolidation, and mortar repairs to the façade, as well as the removal of algae, lichens, sulphation crusts, dirt, and a linseed oil surface coating.
The Post Office has over 50 sliding sash windows which all needed repairing in some form – some splice repairs to replace areas of rotten timber, others needed reglazing, and all needed their sash cords overhauling to make sure the windows open properly and safely. All the windows were carefully stripped to remove the layers of previous paint to allow a clean surface for the repainting of the windows and frames with a linseed oil paint.
Works are mostly complete to the stonework, and the roofing work is also due to commence over the coming weeks, both significant milestones in the progress of the conservation repairs to the Post Office.
The final phase of works in this project will be to reinstate the entrance door back to the middle of the building, as per the original design. The modern aluminium windows at the ground floor will also be replaced with sliding sash windows to reinstate the original features of the building.
We were thrilled to open the doors of the Post Office back in June, when we held sessions for the public with the support of the specialist craftspeople working on site to explore the principles of traditional repairs, using lime mortars, repairing original timber sashes, the use of linseed oil paint for historic joinery, and the importance of breathability in historic buildings.
The conservation repairs project being delivered by the London Road, Lowestoft Heritage Action Zone will be completed this winter. This will leave the listed building restored externally and allow for the next phase of conversion works to commence in 2023. We look forward to bringing you more information on the future use of the building in due course.
If you want to keep updated with the conservation repairs taking place at the Post Office, follow @LowestoftHAZ and @ThinkLowestoft on social media.