Main Contractor: William Anelay Limited
Architect: Austin Smith Lord Services
• Lath & Lime plastering
• Reproduction of plaster mouldings
Gorton Monastery was founded on a four-acre site in East Manchester, acquired in the 1860s by Franciscan monks for £2,200. Built between 1863 and 1867, the friary was designed by Edward Welby Pugin, son of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, a renowned designer of churches in England, Ireland and Australia.
The Monastery closed its doors to worshippers in 1989 and fell victim to vandals. By 1997 it had been placed on the World Monuments Fund Watch-List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the World, alongside Pompeii, The Valley of the Kings and The Taj Mahal.
In 1996 The Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust was established to raise the funds needed to restore the building. Some 12 years later a total of £6.5m had been raised, boosted by grants from heritage funds and development agencies.
Ornate Interiors were called in to restore the damaged plasterwork to the ceiling within the cloisters, re-plaster the walls and repair Gothic arches and columns. The techniques used drew on both traditional and modern methods.
Oak laths were fixed to the Cloister ceilings at approximately 1cm intervals before three coats of haired lime plaster were applied, with each coat requiring around one week to cure. The old plaster was hacked off the walls, which were painstakingly cleaned and prepared before the application of haired lime plaster. Moulds were taken of the existing arches and columns then new sections were cast in Glass Re-inforced Gypsum and installed on site.
The huge 18-month works programme transformed the 144-year-old Grade II listed landmark into a conference venue and community centre. The project won numerous awards including RICS North West Project of the Year 2009.
As part of National Construction Week craftsmen from Ornate Interiors attended a Craft Skills Fair at the Monastery to demonstrate the skills used in the restoration. A visit from the The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall highlighted the event.
“It’s amazing to see the building finished on time and on budget, which is a credit to the entire team who worked on the project.”
Elaine Griffiths, Project Director for The Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust