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Date completed : 31 December 2018 Duration : 30 Months
Timothy Martin

English Heritage staff at Brodsworth Hall, near Doncaster, were gradually losing the ability to open the original mid-Victorian wooden roller shutters on the ground floor windows of the house, to the point where only five out of the 24 were operational. This project involved investigating how the shutters worked and why they had failed; and then undertaking the necessary restoration work to bring them back into use.

The original shutters consisted of cedar slats (70 to 80 per window), mounted on to 5 webbing straps that would roll up onto a wooden shaft in a shutter box above the window, with a counter-weight on a leather strap at one end balancing the weight of the shutter. The clever design meant that the thickness of the leather strap on which the weight was mounted increased the effective weight as the shutter ran out over the window, keeping it more or less balanced. Over 140 years of use repairs had meant many slats had been replaced with other timbers a,nd thinner leather, dramatically affecting the overall dynamics of the functioning of the shutters.

The project ran over a 30-month period, programmed in with other conservation work on site that also included keeping the house open to the public, and consisted of:

  • Removing the shutters in batches, taking them back to the Studio and dismantling them;
  • Retaining viable cedar slats and replacing failed woodwork with new slats made to exactly the original profile (about 1km of new);
  • Stripping several failed layers of paint off original slats back, as far as possible, to bare wood and painting all the slats with linseed oil paint to the colour specified by the client (around 3km of slats in total);
  • Re-assembling the painted slats with new webbing straps (using around 1600 screws per shutter);
  • Repairing, and in some cases replacing, the wooden shafts and guide rollers;
  • Repairing the main bearings on the roller shafts which had worn oval by reaming the hole round and inserting a bronze bush;
  • Repairing, and in some cases replacing the leather strapping (3 full greasy butt 7mm thick leather hides were used);
  • Rebalancing the shutters by casting additional lead weights where necessary;
  • Providing manual gear boxes and shutter poles to help EH site staff when opening and closing the shutters on a daily basis; and
  • Introducing a remote lubrication system to help with on-going maintenance.

Two of the shutters were repaired and re-painted but kept their historic openingĀ arrangement (rope instead of gear boxes).

A short video of the project can be found on the Caring for Brodsworth page on the English Heritage website here.

Brodsworth Roller Shutters
Brodsworth Roller Shutters
Brodsworth Roller Shutters
Brodsworth Roller Shutters
Brodsworth Roller Shutters

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