Local businesses come together to rebuild after Sudbury fire

(L to R) Phil Branton (Wincer Kievenaar, Chris Blaser (Rose Builders), Tony Minter (The Bulmer Brick

(L to R) Phil Branton (Wincer Kievenaar, Chris Blaser (Rose Builders), Tony Minter (The Bulmer Brick and Tile Company), Craig Lewis (Rose Builders) - Credit: Archant

Almost three years after the Sudbury fire, three businesses have worked together to make the construction of a new building a reality.

Fire crews tackle the major blaze in the centre of Sudbury - September 2015

Fire crews tackle the major blaze in the centre of Sudbury - September 2015 - Credit: Archant

It was an event that brought a Suffolk town to a standstill.

The Sudbury fire, which took place one Sunday in September 2015, destroyed several historic buildings, left 20 people homeless and created a charred hole in the street scenery of the market square.

Now, almost three years since this terrifying incident, a new building is taking shape, thanks to a number of businesses who have been working hard to make sure the replacement premises on busy Friars Street is one the whole of Sudbury can be proud of.

Not an exact replica

Contract administrator on the project is Hadleigh-based architect business Wincer Kievenaar, which was appointed after overseeing the conversion of a number of retail units nearby.

This particular project offered the architects a number of challenges, primary among them was the dilemma of whether they went down the route of designing a traditional-style building harking back to its past or a modern-style construction using the latest materials.

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The building that had been destroyed is in a conservation area and had been known as the Goldsmith’s Mansion, latterly home to an Oxfam shop, a nail bar and several flats. Originally built in 1776, it had for much of its history been known as Mattingly’s, a gentlemen’s outfitters.

Aerial view of the damge caused by the fire

Aerial view of the damge caused by the fire - Credit: Archant

According to Phil Branton, a director at Wincer Kievenaar, there was a lengthy period of negotiations with the heritage team at Babergh District Council to agree a redesign.

“We looked at all kinds of options including a traditional period design that took cues from the original, and a contemporary approach,” said Mr Branton.

“In the end the heritage team preferred us to go down a more traditional route. Although there was some criticism of this – it was what the family [who owned the building] had wanted, and Historic England supported this and felt it was appropriate.

In broad terms, we stuck to the original but it’s not an exact replica. It’s a steel frame with period-style brickwork across the façade.”

He continued: “We tried to design a modern and flexible retail unit to the ground floor and some of the first floor – and some of the dimensions we needed to achieve varied from the original building. The retail space can be one single large unit or split into separate units.

“In six to 12 months time after the building has been completed, it will be a different building but we hope it will merge into the conservation area.”

Dominant effect

Drawing of new building to place replace that damaged by the Sudbury fire

Drawing of new building to place replace that damaged by the Sudbury fire - Credit: Archant

In order to achieve a period look and feel, Wincer Kievenaar needed to source bricks that were representative of the period when the building was built. Luckily, only a couple of miles from Sudbury is The Bulmer Brick and Tile Company, a leading traditional brick maker, which has worked on large projects for the National Trust, English Heritage and Historic Royal Palaces,

News of the fire spread quickly and come Monday morning, less than 24 hours after the fire had started, company founder Peter Minter was at the scene, looking through the rubble and trying to salvage any old bricks that might help with the rebuilding.

“We wanted to make sure we had the detailing of the brick right because if it was to be built in a similar manner we needed that information,” explained Peter’s son, Tony Minter, who also works at the family business.

“It’s a building that has quite a dominant effect on the market square but information on it was hard to come by. We also had to look at archive images.”

With the information to hand, Bulmer Brick and Tile were able to make bricks that are exactly the same size as the originals. All have been handmade from carved moulds and local London clay.

The company has also worked in partnership with Wincer Kievenaar, Babergh Conservation team and the building company carrying out the construction, Rose Builders, to agree the finer details around the water mix for the mortar and the pointing style for the bricks.

Building work started just before Christmas with a completion date of November 2018 pencilled in. The concrete floors and stairs are in place, as are the roof timbers while the brick work is now up to the second floor.

According to Chris Blaser at Lawford-based Rose Builders, working in such a tight space on a busy junction brings with it logistical challenges.

“You have to make sure that deliveries are timed well,” he said.

“You can’t just have all your bricks put here for when they are needed, we don’t have space.”

Where possible, the teams have also kept the noise levels of the work down, conscious that nearby retailers are still trading.

Mr Blaser says the people of Sudbury are eager to see the finished results and that he is often asked questions about the building’s progress.

“People want to stop and talk - there’s a lot of interest in it,” he said.

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