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Restoration Grants 2018 Conference Presentation

Presentation given by Keith Falconer 1st September 2018   

The AIA Restoration Grants - What a Very Rewarding 10 years!

Back in 2009 one of our members approached the Chairman, Tony Crosby, offering to make a sum of £30,000 available to grant aid projects. The anonymous donor was keen that the money would be for a significant part of capital works and if the scheme attracted worthwhile applicants it might be continued in subsequent years! A somewhat modest beginning to the AIA becoming a truly significant player in the restoration of the industrial heritage.

Mark Sissons, the then AIA Vice Chairman, with Tony Crosby acting as liaison with the AD, administered the Restoration Grant scheme until illness prevented Mark doing so last year and a team consisting of David de Haan, John Jones (our Treasurer) and myself (as the then Chairman) took over.  Though having now retired as Chairman, I still coordinate the scheme and the inner team advised by a Panel of Judges now consider more than two dozen applications each year seeking around £400,000 and are able to award a total of some £120,000 each year thanks to the continued generosity of our original anonymous donor augmented by an annual contribution from a second anonymous donor and gift aid.   

Before looking at the 2018 grants, and in tribute to Mark Sissons who sadly passed away earlier this year, I wish to look briefly at the wide range of projects the AIA has supported over the last ten years and highlight some of the results. Avid readers of IA News will already be familiar with much of this but bear with me for a few minutes.

The modest beginnings begat a huge eclectic range of projects

The initial, perhaps rather tentative, foray into the restoration field in 2009 produced in its first year four very disparate awards totalling some £37,000:

These were £2,750 for the original vertical cross tube boiler from the Clyde puffer Vic 32 to be preserved and displayed in the Scottish Maritime Museum, £5,000 for repairs to the stone slate roof of Hoylandswaine Nail Forge, £14,000 for the restoration of two Londonderry Chauldron Wagons at Beamish and £15,000 for the restoration of Box Boat No337 at the National Boat Museum, Ellesmere Port. Though some of these projects took longer than others all were eventually completed and reported as such in IA News.

The attendant publicity generated,in the following years, an ever more numerous and wide-ranging list of applications many seeking quite substantial funds and the maximum award per project was raised from £15,000 to £20,000. The range of applications also greatly widened Thus IA News over the next couple of years was able to report on:

  • The repairs to narrowboat Tarporley
  • The restoration to working order of the papermaking machine at Frogmore Mill
  • The rebuilding of the wagon weigh bridge at Wharf Station on the Tallyllyn Railway
  • The excavation and interpretation of Wellington Wheel Pit at Mellor Mill
  • The restoration of a rare Robey undertype steam engine
  • The restoration of the Ellen Road Petrie Beam Engine
  • The restoration of the Windermere Steam launch Osprey

In recent years the generous increase in funds from our original benefactor augmented by those from our second anonymous donor has in parallel witnessed a huge increase in applications to the Grant scheme.

Transport projects remain a large component of these applications these include:

  • Canal locks, (such as the unique graving dock lock on the Stover Canal and Bowbridge Lock at Stroud and canal boats,
  • Railway structures and equipment such as the Ferryhill turntable standard and narrow gauge railway engines including 1949 William Murdoch, the 15 inch gauge Thorpe Light Railway locomotive the WWI armoured Simplex rail tram car , a rare tamping engine , railway carriages and wagons of all shapes and sizes including the LNER Thompson coach, the Lion Salt Works salt wagon and the Ryde Pier Tram,
  • Vessels such as sailing barges Dawn and Brittannia, the steam launch Lady Elizabeth and the lifeboat Swan.

Almost all aspects of the industrial heritage have been covered by our grants

  • Repairs to windmills such as Billingford and Danzey Green, watermills and steam mills such as Beeleigh
  • Mill engines and associated machinery also feature regularly in the list including the 1802 Boulton & Watt engine at the Verdant Works in Dundee , the Leigh Spinners Mill engine and the line shafting at Bristol Underfall Yard.
  • Agricultural portable steam engines such as the Empress of Britain

There have been some more unusual but nevertheless significant awards:

  • The Colonsay iron light chamber
  • The rare Penistone cinema organ
  • The Coker twine works
  • The Woodbury gashouse
  • Lead smelter remains at Crich
  • Grane Mill chimney at Haslingden
  • The Wapenshall canal warehouses
  • The water-powered pump-rod system at Wheal Martyn china clay works
  • The roof of Hemingfield Colliery Winding Engine House
  • The 1812 header pond for steam engines at Crofton Pumping Station

And now to this year’s grants!


The scope of the Restoration Grant Scheme has continued to increase year on year and at last year’s conference at Moulton I reported on awards totalling £122,000 to eight very different projects selected from a field of 25 applications which sought some £300,000. This year we received 27 applications for projects seeking over £400,000 and were able to offer eight grants totalling £126,500 to eight, very varied, projects.

The Panel of judges was joined this year by Geoff Wallis who is known to a great many of us and his expertise in the restoration field is greatly valued. Once again, I must comment on, and commiserate with, those applications that were not successful. Indeed the standard of applications is universally high and the worthiness of most of the causes is beyond doubt and one of the least pleasant of my duties as co-ordinator is to inform unsuccessful applicants of their failure to secure AIA funding. They of course greatly outnumber the successful applicants and include projects for the conservation of a horse drawn tram and a couple of rare railway carriages and the restoration of boilers of a steam roller and a portable steam engine, of several narrow gauge and standard gauge locomotives and of a steam rail-mounted crane. They also included repairs to a railway viaduct, to two watermills, a lime kiln and even to a theatre Thunder Run.

Let us now look at the successful applications – in no particular order:


Built in 1951, the lorry was used by Ipswich Co-Op for over 30 years, and has been owned by the museum since it was withdrawn from service. Co-op battery lorries were an everyday sight for decades. We tend to think of electric vehicles as modern ‘environmentally friendly’ technology, but floats like this have been around for well over half a century. They were used to deliver coal, milk, butchery and green-grocery door-to-door. Ransomes were pioneers in developing battery-electric lorries a hundred years ago. Originally a cosmetic restoration to the coal lorry’s bright red livery was planned, but the Ipswich team secured a £7,000 grant from the Association which will enable the vehicle to be made operational.

Sudbury Gasworks

Sudbury Gasworks Restoration Trust  has been offered a grant of £15,500 towards the refurbishment of one of the most notable features of Sudbury Gasworks; its original and unique fireproof. wrought iron roof structure.  Attributed to George Devey and built in 1874, Sudbury Gasworks is important to industrial heritage and history because, although there are a remarkable number of buildings associated with gas manufacture that survive on county houses estates, most of these are quite utilitarian in design.  Sudbury Gasworks is a notable exception with its buttressed chimney, Dutch gables and diaper-pattern brickwork.  Indeed, Devey was a pioneer in the revival of vernacular building styles and materials. 

An original 1874 plan, still in the possession of the Vernon family, who owned Sudbury Hall, shows the layout of the building with a retort house, purifier and meter rooms, and coal and lime stores, all integrated into a single building.  Such a configuration was commonly used for country house gasworks, but no other intact examples of this arrangement are known to have survived.  The plan also shows that the gas supply extended beyond the Hall to a few estate properties within the village, including the hunt kennels, as well as the parish church and some street lighting.  Only a small proportion of country house estates with their own gasworks extended the benefit of gas lighting beyond the immediate confines of the estate.  It is being restored with HLF funding to provide a heritage centre for Sudbury village. 

Murgatroyd’s Brine Pumps, Middlewich

Murgatroyd’s Brine Pumps are the only intact and in-situ ‘wild brine’ pumps left in the UK with an original hand-dug timber lined shaft and gantry. The Pump house is the largest remaining part of Murgatroyd’s Salt and Chemical Works which represented the culmination of over two thousand years of salt making in Middlewich. Overall the site has great historical value and marks the changes and development in the salt and chemical industry for the last 129 years.  The £17,000 grant from the AIA is towards the biggest cost of the project  -  the highly significant gantry and well head.   The project has succeeded in attracting the necessary other significant support and is to start shortly.


In the late 1870s urban horse vehicle traffic was increasing as horse tramways developed. Laws at the time stipulated that cabmen could not leave their carriages unattended at the cab stand, making it difficult for them to take refreshments and shelter from the weather. Built to designs by the Architects T. H. & F. Healey the shelter was installed at Christchurch, Bradford in 1877, costing £194 in response to the concerns by the local RSPA for the welfare of horses. The initial shelter design provided lockers, a compact stove with hot-plate and boiler for supplying warm water for the horses. Despite the absence of its original internal fittings the significance of the shelter is not diminished. Only one other of the same style is known, at Embsay Station, Ilkley, and is Grade II listed.

The shelter was moved in 1879 to Exchange Station where it remained until 1972 when it was at risk of demolition and acquired by the museum.  Located at the Tramway Museum’s Wakebridge tram stop it is now urgently needing major conservation work and the AIA Panel recommended that a grant of £20,000 be offered to ensure the survival of this rare example of street furniture and testament to the early charitable work of the RSPCA.

COLDHARBOUR MILL, Devon. Gas House, Economiser House and Linhay Barn

Coldharbour Mill is Grade II* listed, and a very rare surviving example of a working textile mill. This project will provide essential conservation measures, both remedial and preventative, to three historic industrial buildings at Coldharbour Mill which are in a dilapidated state owing to lack of funds in the past for conservation, beyond ad hoc repairs to some areas.  The Gas Retort House is an extremely rare survival, being one of only three mill examples extant in the country, so its restoration is of great importance.  Built in the second half of the 19th century. It once supplied gas to the local village as well as to the factory. The roof is of interest, with lightweight trusses of cast- and wrought-iron and an intact ventilation louvre.

The Linhay Barn pre-dates the Gas Retort House and was originally used to store horse-drawn carts and horse below and hay above. The original open-front was closed many years ago, and doors and windows inserted of similar design to other out-buildings on the site. The Economiser House was built in 1931, alongside the 19th century Boiler House, to house the 'Green's Economiser', first patented in 1845 by Edward Green.  The Economiser is still in situ, but cannot be restored to full working order and displayed to the public until the building has been rendered safe. There are very few other Economisers still in existence so this example is of great interest and significance.  The AIA has offered a grant of £20 ,000 towards restoration of these three buildings.


The late 18th century Gothick Pumphouse is owned by the National Trust and is example of housed industrial equipment which served a domestic and agricultural requirement for fresh water on the Croft Estate over the last 200 years.  It is likely this is one of the earliest examples with remains in situ where the structural supports and relating industrial technology that assisted in driving water from the source to the castle can still be seen. 

The building houses at least three iterations of engine. It would appear that the original waterwheel drove beam pumps, and most of the working parts would have been of timber. What is to be seen now is a complete late 19th century mechanical refurbishment, though remains of the beam engine are still extant. The small ram-pump, which stands at a higher level, was driven mechanically, presumably by the present waterwheel.

The AIA has offered a grant of £20,000 to effect repairs to the building and for volunteers working under professional archaeologists and conservators to investigate the building and conserve the extant machinery.


JWB 416, fleet number 216, built in 1947, is the oldest surviving Sheffield Corporation bus. It was the first non-“utility” (i.e. wartime specification) bus to arrive in Sheffield after WW2. It is owned by the South Yorkshire Transport Museum and is accessioned.  . It is now the oldest Sheffield Corporation bus in existence, and the only single decker. It is also believed to be the only remaining half-cab rear entrance single deck Weymann bodied bus in existence. Volunteers have been slowly restoring the vehicle to original condition and livery over the last three years and the AIA grant offer of £10,000 should see this through to completion.

HOLLYCOMBE WORKING STEAM MUSEUM,LIPHOOK 1910 Clark Chapman vertical steam winch

Steam winches were the employed in a great many industries but being non-glamorous have not been preserved in any great numbers.  Clarke, Chapman and Co established in 1882 and  located in Gateshead developed into the premier supplier of auxiliary steam equipment both on ships and industry. Their vertical-cylindered steam windlasses were less common – usually specified where deck space was limited or for special applications and surviving examples of vertical-cylindered steam winches are now rare.  This winch is believed to be the only example of a vertical Chapman winch in a UK museum.  Acquired in the early 1970s from a scrapyard it last ran in the 1980s and when restored  is to become the centre piece of the restored sawmill main mill area at Hollycombe where the sawmill  is being rebuilt under the project title “Trees to the Trenches” commemorating the Canadian Timber Corps work during WW1. 

Steam will be provided by piping the winch to a First World War unique Robey semi portable. When restored by a commercial engineering firm, including re-boring the cylinders and bearing manufacture together with re-machining the winch drum bearings, volunteers will install the winch in the sawmill where it will be providing power to winch logs onto the rack saw bench, just as similar winches would have done in the Canadian WW1 sawmills.


As you can see from this brief review of the evolution of the programme, and report on this year’s offers, the Restoration Grant scheme has being going from strength to strength thanks to the donations of our anonymous donors. The AIA greatly benefits from the attendant publicity. 

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