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Meeting Report - February 2017

There were 42 members present at the meeting of the Romsley and Hunnington History Society on Tuesday 28th February. This was the first meeting of 2017 and we welcomed the speaker, Derek Clarke, RIBA, AABC, a retired conservation architect. This was Derek's 4th visit to the Society and the subject of his talk was, "Repair Work at the Old Naval College in Greenwich.

For many years the Royal Navy had occupied the huge buildings at Greenwich, on the banks of the River Thames. They were designed by Christopher Wren and were built between 1701 and 1751. Over the years the wind and weather had taken their toll on the Portland Stone buildings and they were in a sorry state of repair. In 2002, Derek was commissioned to inspect, supervise and advise on the work needed to conserve and repair these ancient, Grade 1 Listed Buildings.

This was no easy task and as his stunning photographs show, he didn't always manage to keep his feet on the ground, as much of the work was high on the roof, replacing the lead and the rotting wood. Derek used a hoist, which took him up to inspect the dome and weathervane on the Queen Mary building, which was 120 to130 feet high. His breathtaking photographs showed a tiny River Thames, far, far below. He also had to climb up 14 vertical ladders to inspect the work which was needed. He always kept one vital tool in his pocket, a piece of chalk which he used to mark any part of the building which was the worse for wear.

The buildings were designed to use only Portland Stone but the cost proved to be too high so bricks were used in parts, bricks made in Birmingham! A composite material, instead of stone, was used for the statues on the Nelson Pediment. These had to be restored and in order to see the original drawings Derek was taken on a cloak and dagger rendezvous to a secret place in London, where they were stored!

Inside the beautiful Painted Hall, full of naval paintings, which was open to the public, work was needed on the rain water pipes. Scaffolding was erected but the powers that be deemed it unsightly, so the ever resourceful Derek purchased some material and made a huge curtain to hide it.

After 5 years, 3 building contractors and over 11 million pounds, the work was completed and the buildings at Greenwich were restored for future generations to admire.

Derek's photographs were spectacular and once again we had a most fascinating and interesting talk but we were left wondering how those builders of long ago managed to build the original buildings and face the many hazards involved, without the use of modern equipment.

The next meeting of the Society will be on Tuesday 28th March at 7.00pm in the Church Hall when the speaker will be Mike Pearson. He will give a talk on, "The Black Country in the Great War." And the meeting on the 25th April will be, "Richard III." by Max Keen. Everyone is welcome.

Pat Evans.

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