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Imperial’s Bricks restore Award-Winning Conservation Project

Reclamation Cambridge Buff bricks by Imperial Bricks were used to restore this residential building following collapse - image courtesy of ARID

In July 2017 a Victorian property in Ventnor, Isle of Wight (IOW), suffered a catastrophic collapse of its four storey bay.

By some miracle no-one was hurt, although one elderly woman had to be rescued by firefighters and one man walked out unaided.

Arid Design, the architecture and project management practice based in Newport, IOW, was commissioned to repair and restore the building.

After a couple of weeks’ delay while the collapsed structure was assessed, the team at Arid was able to instruct sub-contractors to start repairing the building. The house, which contained four apartments, had been built in the 1880s on the site of an old mill and in the face of prevailing winds from the sea. Once the rubble was cleared it was obvious what had happened; the wooden lintels supporting the bay had rotted away under attack from 110+ years of salt-laden air and water.

Local conservation officers required the building to be restored to its original appearance as it was part of a terrace of seafront properties, so there had to be a perfect match between old and new materials, and Arid rose to the challenge.

The first step was to construct a new timber frame to support the four storey bay. Then the contractors could start to rebuild the front. While it was possible to re-use some of the bricks, many had been damaged beyond repair. It is a common problem with reclaimed bricks (particularly when they have been dropped from height, as the Alexandra Terrace ones had) – they can be fragile and it can be very labour-intensive to clean off old mortar. So Arid turned to Imperial Bricks to provide an exact match for the Victorian originals.

Reclamation Cambridge Buff bricks by Imperial Bricks were used to restore this residential building following collapse - image courtesy of ARID

The project team were able to reuse some of the original bricks, whilst new handmade bricks were supplied to match. Image courtesy of Arid Design

To match the bricks for the main structure, Imperial made up several sample boards and Arid selected the best match. Around one third of the original bricks were salvaged; the rest were new. Imperial Bricks supplied Reclamation Cambridge Buff bricks in an imperial size to match the originals. New and old were used in small groups, and it’s impossible to tell which is which.

But it didn’t end there. There was a lot of decorative detail which had to be reproduced, and this was not so straightforward. The ornamental border under the windows, which formed a band around the building and continued across all the houses in the terrace, was made from a mixture of unusually sized and shaped bricks. Some were curved and it was essential to reproduce the correct angle. To ensure an exact match Chris Ridett, Director of Arid Design, first traced the bricks so get the right dimensions then sent samples to Imperial to match the colour and the curve. From this information, the specialist team at Imperial Bricks custom made new bricks in special shapes for the repair. Arid produced the new window sills, which were painted white to finish.

Reclamation Cambridge Buff bricks by Imperial Bricks were used to restore this residential building following collapse - image courtesy of ARID

The award-winning restoration project was completed with meticulous attention to detail to recreate original features. Image courtesy of Arid Design

The brick arches above the windows had to be reproduced too to match the originals. Imperial produced the brick element and Arid made the keystones by pouring sand/cement into a fibreglass mould they had made, experimenting with the mix to get an accurate colour match.

The key to the project was meticulous attention to detail from Arid, working in partnership with Imperial.

By taking time to ensure the best match for the original Victorian bricks, the repaired building is indistinguishable from the rest of the block.

The completed work won a Certificate of Merit from the Isle of Wight Conservation Society.

View project details …


To find out more about our specialist brick matching service for restoration and conservation projects, get in touch on 01952 750 816 or email sales@imperialbricks.co.uk