Case study: Camellia House Cast and Wrought Iron Repairs

One of the oldest cast and wrought iron glazed structures in the UK, Grade II Camellia House in Nottingham, required a complete restoration by Dorothea's bespoke ironwork specialist team.

Situated in a walled garden within Wollaton Park, the 350 sq m Camellia House is a rare early example of a Georgian cast and wrought iron glass house.
The council identified that the building was in need of intensive work following numerous incidents of vandalism, as well as the wear and tear of nearly two hundred years of British weather.

Inspection by architect’s Purcell Miller Tritton revealed that not only was the wrought and cast iron structure vulnerable to further vandalism, but also that it was too weak to support a range of additional stresses such as snow-loading.

As main engineering services contractor, Dorothea first faced the challenge completely dismantling the entire structure – comprising more than 18,000 elements including 6,500 panes of glass.

Once all the glass had been removed, the wrought iron frames were individually restored, and the surviving copper glazing bars were cleaned and repaired. Missing ones were made from folded copper strips to match original profiles.

Cast ironwork was carefully blast cleaned to remove layers of paint and corrosion before being repaired and re-painted.

Stone floors were lifted and the original heating ducts were rebuilt using traditional materials.

And as the entire structure was reassembled, glass was replaced using a
Polish restoration glass, all being reglazed on site using traditional methods.

To protect the structure from future stresses, weather and vandalism, a secondary ETFE (Ethylene TetraflouroEthylene) roof covering was made and fitted above the original roof.  ETFE is a modern, plastic sheeting material which is very strong and light weight.

The entire £1.1m restoration process was completed over a 12 month period, led by architects Purcell Miller Tritton with a project team including Dorothea Restorations as main contractor, engineers the Morton Partnership and project managers Hornagold and Hills. The restoration was funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

More about Wollaton Hall and Camellia House

Wollaton Hall, a grade I listed Elizabethan mansion, was designed by Robert Smythson and built for Sir Francis Willoughby, taking 8 years to build. A flamboyant design in Renaissance style, Wollaton Hall is generally considered a masterpiece of its time.
Completed in 1588 and originally spanning 790 acres, the construction of the hall and the enclosure of its immaculately kept formal gardens required the complete destruction of the small village of Sutton Passeys.
Now slightly reduced in size, the park spans 500 acres and houses the later addition 19th century Camellia House - The oldest cast iron glasshouse in Europe.
It was built in 1823 for the Willoughby family who owned and lived at Wollaton Hall until the 1920s when they passed the estate to Nottingham City Council.

Specially built to house Camellias collected by the family, it includes a bespoke-designed heating system (no longer in use) as it was thought the flowers needed a warm climate to survive. In fact Camellias are remarkably hardy – an important factor as the 50-year-old plants were to remain in place throughout the restoration process.



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