Case Study - Reroofing of the Argent Centre, Birmingham
2022 Shortlisted for Pitched Roofing Awards best heritage roof
2021 Victorian Society Birmingham and West Midlands Group Conservation Award
Dreadnought red blue blend sanded tiles
Architects - Oliver Architecture Ltd
Main Contractor - Midland Conservation Ltd
The Grade II listed Argent Centre, originally known as the Albert Works, was designed by J G Bland and built in 1863 as a pen manufacturing centre consisting of rows of workshops overlooking an internal square courtyard. It is believed that the original building had 2 impressive corner turrets looking out over Legge Lane, which were truncated post 1945. A recent restoration project, undertaken by owners Midlands Industrial Association, led by Oliver Architecture and and part funded by Jewellery Quarter Townscape Heritage, a National Lottery Heritage Fund scheme, has brought prominence and stature to the building at the entrance to Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, faithfully restoring the roof and masonry, and reinstating the turrets to their original design according to old Victorian engravings. Philip Waghorn from Oliver Architecture explains "It is not known when the corner pyramidal turrets were removed. Or if they were ever built. We have only found sketches and engravings with no photographic record."
On close examination these old engravings from 1863 showed bands of ornamental club tiles with plain clay tiles and elaborate decorative finials and Oliver Architecture sought to rebuild them to match the original design as closely as possible. Dreadnought clay tiles are made locally and with their traditional single camber shape and natural clay colour were found to provide the most authentic match. Dreadnought were also able to match the shape of the ornamental club tile. Their sanded red blue blend tiles were selected, a natural mixture of red and blue hues as they best represented the subtle colour variation that tiles in the 19th century would have had.
The turrets presented many challenges for contractors Midland Conservation who found that the bases were not square and that each roof slope would therefore have a different pitch and width making it very difficult to set out the tiles and to ensure their proper alignment. It also meant that the proposed arris hips would not work and a new lead gutter detail was created instead.
"Thankfully with the expertise of Oliver Architecture Ltd, Dreadnought Tiles and our site team we have managed to create two turrets that properly reflect the 1863 image and the original splendour of the Argent Centre. The stature of the Argent Centre to the Jewellery Quarter has now greatly increased following the recreation of the turrets and extensive conservation repairs to the elevations," explains Andrew Cornwell of Midland Conservation. The success of the project, in restoring the building and in particular the historical elements, has been celebrated by the Victorian Society and awarded the 2021 Birmingham and West Midlands Group Conservation Award.