Fire safety at Lanhydrock

An understanding of smoke containment helped us preserve the drawing room

An understanding of smoke containment helped us preserve the drawing room

Responding to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order in a Grade I listed house
Lanhydrock House, Cornwall

In April 1881, Lanhydrock House near Bodmin in Cornwall caught fire. As a consequence, the then owner Lord Robartes commissioned the architect Richard Coad to refurbish the house as an ‘unpretentious’ family residence incorporating the latest in Victorian fire prevention solutions.

In 2005, 150 years after these measures were installed; the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order was legislated through Parliament. The Fire Safety Order places emphasis on a risk-based attitude towards fire assessment, most notably by reducing the possibility of fire starting in the first place or, in the worst-case scenario of fire being confirmed, by safeguarding life through provision of a safe means of escape and then limiting damage by restricting the spread of fire.

A head start from the Victorians

In response to the new Act, we commissioned a detailed risk assessment of Lanhydrock House, from which a phased schedule of works was instigated to deal with the issues identified and explore building solutions to create a sustainable future for the property.

Fortunately, the construction techniques of the Victorians provided a head start. For example, the concrete ceilings still offer good fire resistance between floors – a methodology known as horizontal compartmentation. Furthermore, the iron fabrication uses little or no timber beneath the floors and in the roof.
Landydrock was the first National Trust property to go to these lengths to create a sustainable future for the building and as such have become an exemplar of best practice in fire protection, salvage and collections management.

What else did we do?

We needed to repair all of the pipe-work and cabling breaches between floors and compartments in order to stop any potential fire spreading. Once these were rectified, an independent specialist was commissioned to certificate the installation of all intumescent products that went into creating these vertical and horizontal compartments.

We also needed to create two new vertical compartments: one to separate the internationally important 17th-century gallery from the rest of the house and the other to provide a second, protected staircase for means of escape. To do this, new bespoke fire doors were introduced into the historic interior. However to achieve certification, all existing historic doors in these compartments had to be considered to ensure that they had the correct intumescent and cold smoke seals fitted.

The new doors and their frames, adopting the style and finishes of the 19th-century door openings, were mounted into Victorian delicately-carved joinery openings and granite arches. Inevitably the new timber sections of the fire doors are more robust than the 19th-century counterparts but close attention to detail and true craftsmanship has resulted in delicate Victorian joinery pendants being retained.

Special Commendation for Craftsmanship

Three new fire doors were installed to protect the gallery and billiard room areas. These were made by Simon Brewer who works closely with our Direct Labour team at Lanhydrock. These doors were awarded a Special Commendation for Craftsmanship by the Cornish Buildings Group.

To find out more about this project see our case study.