The Rotunda, Liverpool

Sector: Buildings of Historical Interest

Main Contractor: William Anelay Ltd

Architect: Brock Carmichael Architects

• Site survey including photographic evidence
• Lime plastering
• Reproduction of ornate plaster mouldings
• External stucco rendering

The Rotunda was commissioned in the 1820s by the prosperous iron-foundry owner Uriah Davenport, who had acquired land in the undeveloped Kirkdale district of Liverpool to the North of the rapidly expanding railway and dockland area. The building was designed as a four-storey town house with stables and coach house set in extensive grounds.

By 1878 the large influx of impoverished Irish Catholic immigrants had caused Kirkdale to spiral downwards socially and economically. The no-longer-desirable residence was sold to the Trustees of Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese who extended and modified it for use as St Alphonsus Church and School and for the Catholic Young Men and Boys Club. Those uses in turn declined and by the 1970s the building was derelict, having been repeatedly vandalised and finally badly damaged by a major fire in 1993. Rotunda Community College then bought the building, planning to restore it to further charitable objectives.

The eleven-month project was completed in June 2013 at a cost of approximately £1.1 million, primarily funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund and StepClever with smaller contributions from various organisations and charitable trusts. The Rotunda now provides a Bistro and Heritage Centre, reception and administrative areas and lettable office space.

During their site survey Ornate Interiors found that the fire had destroyed most of the original mouldings and the few remaining were beyond restoration. These were photographed and detailed dimensions were carefully recorded so that mouldings could be faithfully re-created.

The next stage was to remove all damaged plaster from the walls and ceilings, which were then re-finished using lime plaster applied to riven oak laths. Meanwhile, sections of the fragile surviving ornate mouldings were painstakingly cleaned in the Ornate Interiors workshop, so that moulds could be made. Once model samples had been approved production began, followed by installation on site.

The external survey showed not only that the render was badly damaged, but that there had been movement of the building over time. Ornate Interiors therefore constructed a framework to re-align the wall, which also required extensive dubbing out before the stucco render could be applied.

The project was shortlisted for the Georgian Group Awards 2013 in the category Restoration of a Georgian Building in an Urban Setting.

“The recording and development of the replacement plasterwork was a big challenge due to the fragility of the material but it is probably the most stunning element of the building, so my thanks to all at Ornate Interiors for their invaluable input and commitment.”
David Watkins of Brock Carmichael

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