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Wigan Town Hall Restoration: Architectural Ceramics Specialists, Darwen Terracotta and Faience, Provide the Final Touches

110 bespoke terracotta pieces from Darwen Terracot

Now that the scaffolding is down, Wigan’s Grade II listed town hall, a terracotta masterpiece and a key feature of the town centre for more than a century, can be seen in it’s true glory. Local architectural ceramics specialist Darwen Terracotta Ltd (DTL) and expert restoration contractors Stone Central (NW) Ltd played a crucial role.

DTL director Jon Wilson explained, “Wigan Town Hall is an exceptional example of the use of architectural terracotta in an Italianate style building. Like so many surviving Victorian buildings the standard of construction and level of craftsmanship in the finish was first class. In addition to the warm terracotta decorations, the building has some attractive Flemish-bond brickwork. That is why, despite more than a century of use and exposure to the severe air pollution during the industrial revolution, it survives and we are able reverse the damage to breathe new life into the fabric.”

After an extensive survey to identify damaged terracotta elements that were beyond repair DTL manufactured and supplied 110 replacement terracotta blocks. Each of the bespoke terracotta pieces replaces an original element and was hand sculpted and finished based on measurements and photographs taken of the originals. Extreme care was taken to achieve a close colour match to the surrounding terracotta – even taking into account the effects of weathering and chemical cleaning. To achieve a perfect fit new ceramics were precisely manufactured taking into account shrinkage during drying and kiln firing.

Working closely with DTL, Stone Central were responsible for the careful removal of the failed cladding and installation of the new terracotta pieces. Additional work included extensive re-pointing of the exterior brickwork and re-bedding of the wall copings to make them secure and weathertight. Work was undertaken during an 18 month programme.

Designed by local architects Nuttall and Cooke the grade II listed town hall has been a prominent landmark in Wigan town centre since 1867. Built at a cost of £12,000, equivalent to nearly £16 million today, the total refurbishment by main contractor ISG has cost £5.9 million. In addition to the work to restore the exterior, internal areas have been redesigned to a master plan by architect’s Plus 3, making the building fit to meet the demands of the 21st Century and able to continue to provide service to the people of Wigan well into the future.

DTL work with leading architects and contractors throughout the UK and overseas on both restoration and new-build projects. The company is one of only a handful of terracotta manufacturers left in the UK able to recreate such elaborate sculptural decoration. Deep knowledge and skills in the formulation and application of decorative glazes enables the company to produce a full spectrum of colours and a numerous specialist effects and textures finishes to architectural ceramics.

More Information
Jon Wilson, Director Tel. +44 (0)1254 460 500
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Darwen Terracotta Ltd, Building O, Ribble House, Ribble Business Park, Challenge Way, Blackburn, Lancashire. BB1 5RB

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