Handley Oak, Chester

Firmly dating to 1601 but thought to be older, Handley Oak is a timber frame building sitting on the outskits of the city of Chester.

Recclesia was contracted in two phases to conserve and repair the timber frame throughout, removing cumbersome and cold brick infill panels and replacing them with natural insulation boards and lime render, except in areas where the original wattle and daub remained.

In the 1960s, Handley Oak was the subject of a demolition order by the council, such was the parlous state of the building. Contrary to the order, the building was purchased and rescued instead and whilst the repair work may not have been in line with current best practice, those efforts meant that the house remained standing.

The repairs to the frame addressed severe rot as well as structural issues. Time-expired sections of the frame were replaced, but those less badly affected were repaired or given secondary support. The layout of the frame had been substantially altered which compromised its structural capability, so based on evidence of mortice locations and peg holes, some sections of the frame were returned to their previous layout which single-handedly addressed the structure.

The glazing scheme was also changed to reflect evidence found whilst stripping away the brick infil panels. The oriel windows were returned to the principal gabled elevation and new leaded lights of mouth-blown cylinder glass were installed onto oak staves.

A considerable amount of original wattle and daub infil was also discovered during the work. In the attic space, some of the earlier infil panels had simply been left lying inside behind the new infil. These were carefully mounted into a framework and reinstated. In other areas, the wattle and daub remained but in a very poor state, but the decision was taken to conserve and retain the panels by weaving lengths of hazel into the existing panels for additional support, and reinstating the daub using a mix prepared following lab analysis of the original.

All of the work was undertaken in-house by Recclesia and completed in 2018.