Historic hall needs 'cover-up' operation

THE owners of one of Suffolk's most historic buildings have admitted they might have to carry out a controversial “cover-up” of the building to safeguard its future.

Dave Gooderham

THE owners of one of Suffolk's most historic buildings have admitted it might have to carry out a controversial “cover-up” of the building to safeguard its future.

Restoration work on Lavenham's Little Hall has been hit with the prospect of a £20,000 bill every three years because the building's timber frame is in such a bad condition.

But the building's owner, the Suffolk Preservation Society, has said meeting this figure was unlikely and has defended its plans to cover up the beams to protect them.


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Society director Richard Ward said: “This problem needs a practical solution so we think covering up the building using traditional techniques and then lime wash might be the way forward.

“This is a radical change but it will properly protect the building. We would ask any doubters what they would do in our situation.

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“Little Hall is about 550 years old but the framework has only been exposed for the last 70 years, so a relatively short period of time.

“Of course we have to consider our duty of care to the building, but we think there is no choice but to cover it over.”

If approved, the appearance of Little Hall, built in the late 1400s, would dramatically change with specialist plaster over the exposed timbers to protect them.

Current repair work, which includes lime washing the entire building in specially-produced “Little Hall yellow”, has revealed serious decay with some holes in the wooden frame more than three feet long.

Mr Ward said: “It is costing between £20,000 and £25,000 and we will have to do it again every three to five years to keep on top of the problem. The trust is a charity and this is a major burden. I don't think it can continue in this way.”

Mr Ward said the problems had happened because the timber frame - uncovered during renovations in the 1930s - was never meant to be exposed. It had suffered because, unlike the village's Guildhall, the exposed faces of the frame were of lesser quality.

The idea of covering over the building was originally discussed last year but was met with objection by Lavenham parish and Babergh district council as well as English Heritage.

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