Repair works on historic UCLan building reveals hidden note from the past
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What was found?
Tucked away inside the roof vent, UCLan’s Estates Services team found a handwritten note, dated April 2 1896, which was left by two carpenters to commemorate their work on the construction of the building almost 130 years ago.
Signed by James Pierce and Joseph Gregson, the note included a very British observation about the weather, stating it was on "a cold, frosty morning” that the two men tucked it away.
The joiners had left their memento on the back of an old raffle ticket, and the list of prizes makes for interesting reading: from a rope of onions, to a leg of mutton and a pair of trousers made to measure.
How was it found?
The note was discovered earlier this year, when the roof vent on top of the Harris building needed some repair work.
It was once the team had stripped back the vent’s original oak structure, which dates back to 1896, that the historic note was found.
What is the history of the building?
The Harris building opened in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee year, 1897, and was known as the Victoria Jubilee Technical School.
It housed spinning rooms, a weaving shed, and a lecture theatre for 250 students, but major extensions between 1929-32 added classrooms, laboratories and a gym.
Its vent supplied fresh air via a series of internal wooden ducts to the upper rooms: while no longer used for this purpose, it remains an iconic part of the building structure, stretching eight metres above the ridge line of the roof.
What work was carried out?
To restore the Harris spire, the UCLan team painstakingly removed sections of timber from the vent, working on each face of the octagonal structure one at a time, whilst Ashton’s Joinery created templates for new pieces.
The whole structure was then stripped back to timber, undercoated and repainted, and new lead work was added.
The vent is now back to looking as it would have done during James Pierce and Joseph Gregson’s time.
What does UCLan say?
Bill Hancox, Assistant Director of Estates at UCLan, said: "The UCLan Estates Services team and our local joinery company Ashton's are very aware of how historically important the Harris Building is to both the University and to our City. From the initial discovery of the problem, they worked incredibly hard to effect the repair using traditional materials and workmanship to maintain the integrity and preserve the heritage of the building.
“Having the opportunity to work on a significant historic building and such an intricate piece of Victorian engineering was a privilege in itself; however upon discovery of the hand-written note concealed within the structure, the team were absolutely amazed, as it really brings the building and its history to life. The finished article looks truly stunning and I am sure that the original carpenters would be very proud of the renovation."
Why was the work needed now?
The restoration of the vent has been completed in time for Preston’s Heritage Day on September 10, when UCLan’s historian Dr Keith Vernon will be leading walking tours around campus, taking in the institution's history.