As part of the £50m Wigan Life Project, the 1902 and 1939 Royal London Friendly Society building in Hewlett Street, Wigan, was demolished since its cellular layout and frequent changes of level could not accommodate Wigan Borough Council’s brief for a new library and one-stop shop on the site. The distinctive façades on Library Street and Hewlett Street were such an established Wigan landmark and of significant architectural merit that the Council’s brief and the subsequent contractor’s proposals included their retention. The terracotta facings balustrades and copings had suffered from ill-considered repairs in the past and their retention and restoration required a very high level of expertise by the specialist sub-contractor.
The retained facades was, as far as possible, separated from the new construction to preserve its identity and to free new floor levels and plans from the existing fenestration. From the first floor up the external walls of the new building were pulled back from the original façade. The original wall required a number of new tie beams connecting it to the new structure. Extensive temporary support was provided by the specialist contractor until these permanent beams and the local framing supporting the corner turret could be integrated into the new structure.
The external irregular inner faces of the retained walls above the first floor were protected with a specialist lime mortar render system to allow any moisture in the fabric to dry out, and the space between the new construction and the old was roofed with louvres to encourage ventilation and allow light into the building and to replicate the form of the original slated roofs and the previously demolished domed cupola of the turret. The existing chimneys were also reconstructed and supported in their original positions in order to recreate the original roof line.
The project was undertaken in collaboration with astudio