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Alford Manor House Restoration Report/ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING Thursday 7th July, 2005

Bill ReadChairman's Opening Remarks

Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to the Annual General Meeting of the Alford Civic Trust. I am pleased to report that the Restoration scheme of the Manor House is on schedule.

Those of you who were present at one of the site visits on the last Hard Hat Day will have seen at first hand the progress that has already been made. But for the rest of you, who must be wondering at what is actually going on underneath that monstrous covered scaffold...

The repairs to the framework of the roof are complete, though these have been more extensive than was originally envisaged. Most of the timbers of the 1960's renovations have been removed, and replaced with new pressure treated timbers which extend to the wall plates, much of which has been replaced with solid oak as a lot of the early ones had perished. On the south east side where the older timbers have been retained, they have been extended to bed onto the walls securely, and the whole is secured with stainless steel bolts and fixings to make a rigidly strong frame. This is all covered with a breathable solid light coloured membrane. When viewed from the attic floor from the inside of the building, this enhances those parts of the original roof which have been retained. Indeed, the effect is most dramatic as you will all discover for yourselves when restoration is complete.

The three chimney stacks, the sheer size and bulk of which have been so obvious whilst the roof was removed, have been rebuilt, as also have the gables on the front elevation. There are now pots on top which are designed to allow the chimneys to breathe but keep the weather out, essential as the fireplaces are no longer used. The central stack has been extended to match the outer two in height again. One of the more alarming discoveries has been that this central stack had incomplete foundations, which has involved some clever engineering and under pinning, all completed successfully by the team.

All the older cement repointing has been removed from the walls, exposing some rather large cracks in the structure as you have no doubt witnessed yourselves from the street. This is all being repointed with lime mortar, and sections of clay rooftree are being inserted in the wider cracks to give a more visually acceptable and stronger wall so that when complete, they should not be so noticeable. Quite a lot of this work has already been done, as have the repairs to the window frames.

Roger Evans, the thatcher, and his team are making good progress with the thatching. This was a most interesting part of the last Hard Hat Day. I for one was previously unaware that thatching in straw was a completely different technique to working in reed. The Manor House is being thatched in both, a layer of reed below the straw will assist the roof to breathe, and Roger is accomplished with both. He and his team are preparing and wetting the straw on the concrete base of the old scout hut at the rear of the site. By the time they have done this and carried some 40 tonnes of straw up ladders onto the roof they will have walked many a mile!

Internal works are proceeding: the lift room which replaces the C19 toilets at the back is under construction, and the new electrical circuits, which were exposed, will be in a very discrete copper tubing.

Plans for a revamped and professional working kitchen in stainless steel are proceeding. This will be of use for various functions and will ease the workload of the volunteers on whom the Trust depends.

So it all appears to be going well.

The scaffold could be coming down by the end of August, and the sheer magnificence of our old Manor will be revealed.

By the end of the year, the interior renovations should be complete, and a completely renovated House should be opening its doors again in the Spring of 2006.

We will then need a renovated Civic Trust to run the show. So it would seem that now is an appropriate time for me to stand down and let a fresh person lead the show. As is the way of the Alford Civic Trust, I will continue as Chairman for the remainder of this A G M. Grant Allan, without whom we would never have got this restoration scheme to work, I believe will be willing to take the helm at the next meeting of Council if they so desire and elect him to the post. He will then have a year to prove himself before being finally approved at next year's AGM.

He has already shown the capacity to revamp and reinvigorate the Trust, so I am sure you will all support him and be prepared to accept any change of direction that the Council propose.

We are about to have a completely renovated Manor House. This through the Heritage Lottery and other and local funds will have been paid for by the local and district community. It will be important that it is widely available for and used by them too.

I am not forgetting the existing members and officers of the Trust. They are all still busy beavering away behind the scenes, and you and I are eternally grateful. In particular, I would like to thank Michel, our President, Philip as Secretary, Bob as Treasurer, and Linda for Social and Membership, who have all had a lot of work to do. Also to rest of the Council and committee members who are keeping this show on the road. Please continue to support us all.

Bill Read.

>>> next: 2005 August: Thatching in Progress
For further details email: civictrust@alford.info
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