Saving historic architecture

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Scaffolding perched on the town hall roof

With scaffolding newly erected, contractors are ready to commence repairing the roof and cupola over Rye’s historic Town Hall. Earlier investigation just before last Christmas has revealed some structural faults and there are signs of water ingress into the attics above the council chamber.

The cupola requires complete restoration as Richard Farhall, the town clerk, told me when I spoke with him earlier this week. The gilded ball on top of the cupola was glinting in the morning sunlight and re-gilding might also be a future option, but natural ageing is considered an attractive choice. The ball has a dent on the south side, he said, the cause of which is not known.

The council has been given an estimate of £50,000 for repairs, including professional fees and a sum for contingencies. The sale in December 2019 of the sculpture of an American Indian chief found in the town hall attic will more than cover the cost. The council is now registered for VAT so this item of expenditure can be reclaimed. It is not known at present how long the work might be expected to take.

There is a bell up there which used to swing, but at some stage this was deliberately fused in a fixed position, probably to reduce pressure on the structure. No decision has been reached as to whether to retain its striking capability, and one alternative may be to remove the mechanism altogether. Meanwhile, the Union Jack keeps flying.

Image Credits: Kenneth Bird .

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