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Transformation of Oldham Town Hall

June 2017

    Craven Dunnill Jackfield has replaced over 2,000 original ceramic wall tiles as part of a £37 million re-development at Oldham Town Hall. In 2009 Oldham Town Hall was named by the Victorian Society as one of the top ten endangered buildings. After the re-development, it is now a cinema and leisure complex. The preservation of the Grade II listed building’s heritage is said to be a result of the approach adopted by Craven Dunnill Jackfield. The company reportedly employed traditional techniques to match to the remaining original tiles.

Craven Dunnill Jackfield was commissioned by the specialist contractor Heritage Project Contracts to copy and manufacture matching wall tiles for the centrepiece Egyptian Room and anti rooms.

    Richard Baister of Heritage Project Contracts said: “With projects like these you need to work collaboratively and Craven Dunnill Jackfield worked closely with us at each stage. Their vast expertise and understanding of Victorian glazed tiles ensured the accurate replication of the original Pilkington tiles and meeting the strict production schedule demanded by our requirements on site”.

        The project comprised over 55 different tile types and 2,000 decorated and plain field tiles, which required matching to the Pilkington originals. For most of the 55 designs, new moulds needed to be made as many of the tiles are unique sizes and embossed with various decorative features. Tile-clad pillars dominate the room, for which Jackfield produced three variations of the embossed, yellow leaf design to cater for the tapered dimensions. For the base of each pillar, eight different styles of tiles were required, all with embossed detailing. The greek key pattern around the upper section of the room’s walls likewise required the creation of numerous moulds to accommodate the left and right window reveals. This running border also involved the hand-manufacture of bulb-glazed, square tiles in two colours. Rising towards the ceiling is a band of yellow tiles for which Jackfield manufactured some 1200 replacements.

    The project required the approval of the designated Conservation Officer and Planning Authority. Craven Dunnill Jackfield started work on the project the summer of 2015 and the manufacture of the tiles was completed a year later; installation took a further six months.

    Gemma Ball, senior sales manager at Craven Dunnill Jackfield said “We worked to a detailed survey supplied by Heritage Project Contracts and were fortunate to have original tiles from which to make the new moulds. Such complex projects require a team of ceramic experts with a wealth of skills in restoration work, from detailed mould-making to specialist glazes. Unexpected challenges are common, once you start to work with tiles on a heritage site. However, this project went smoothly from the outset.”

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