Working with architects Purcell, our Manchester team are proud to be acting as civil and structural engineers on the Reimagining Wordsworth project. Due for completion in 2020, it is perfectly timed to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the esteemed poet’s birth! The £6.2 million project was commissioned by the Wordsworth Trust and approved by the Lake District National Park Authority. The National Lottery Heritage fund has also provided generous financial support to the project.
The project intends to ‘conserve, adapt and extend’ several properties connected to the poet in Grasmere. The plans have included extension of the original Museum, a revamp of Dove Cottage (Wordsworth’s former home), a new Café in the building housing the previous shop and the development of a Learning Space in the building which housed the existing tea rooms. The development of outdoor areas has also ensured that Wordsworth’s beloved nature is celebrated, including a sensory garden and Woodland, where the spectacle of changing seasons can be enjoyed throughout the year.
The project is nearing the end of the construction stage and although the buildings are now closed to the public, Dove Cottage was open during the planning stages which meant the team had to deal with the constraints of working on a busy, public site with many tourists. Additionally, the site slopes steeply towards the A591 with a difference of 10m in elevation between the highest part of the site and the main road. This has meant that extensive retaining walls were required across the site to cope with level differences.
The main structural work on the project has been at the existing Museum. To add gallery space and improve circulation around the building, a new semi-external staircase and Viewing Station has been cut into the hillside with a reinforced concrete retaining wall, to allow visitors to see the views across Grasmere. The Museum also includes an above ground extension providing more gallery space, which is formed of traditional masonry construction with a timber truss roof that mirrors and complements the existing timber trusses.
Preservation of heritage is firmly at the heart of this fantastic project and cleverly combined with innovation to ensure Wordsworth’s legacy is continued for future generations. Rachael McClenan Fitton, Senior Structural Engineer, on the project explained that a challenge of the historic nature of the buildings meant there was a lack of drawings available. This necessitated extra focus to counteract the limited availability of survey information. She said, “Throughout the construction phase, we have worked with the design team and the contractor, Parkinsons, to adapt construction details to suit the existing building fabric as more information about the existing buildings was revealed.”
Wordsworth intended his poetry to make people “wiser, happier and better” and the Reimagining Wordsworth project will certainly enable visitors to experience his world in an environment which blends history with contemporary enhancements.