Raising the Roof one slate at a time

Mac roof project Ickworth

The Ickworth Uncovered project was a huge undertaking at Ickworth, involving multi skilled teams both internally and external contractors, builders, architects and artists. Steven 'Mac' McCullough, the site co-coordinator, talks about his experiences on the project.

What did you most enjoy working on Ickworth Uncovered?

I enjoyed being able to spend time with the Craftsmen working on the project and learning the construction techniques and problem solving. It was good to interact with other Staff as well as Architects and Contractors so that I could provide communication updates to the team at Ickworth and visitors. It’s was such an interesting and rewarding role.

The process of double 'sarking' the Rotunda roof to keep it watertight
Sarking boards Uncovered Ickworth
The process of double 'sarking' the Rotunda roof to keep it watertight

How did the slaters physically manage to slate the roof?

Following the 'sarking' of the roof and the lead work's completion, the slaters were able to come and get started. The roof is curved and eight metres in height so once on site the carpentry team re designed the sets of ladders used for the sarking to enable the slaters to work on a row by row basis.  They built sixty-four sections of ladders to be able to reach all the way around and reach the very top, as well as providing supports for a platform to use. All this work was done on site and built by hand due to the unique structure of the Rotunda roof.

The re-slating of Ickworth's 200 year old roof begins
Slate Roof Ickworth
The re-slating of Ickworth's 200 year old roof begins

What was involved in the re-slating of the roof?

The Slaters used varying different sizes of the Westmoreland slate to create row upon row of tiles. These varied from 20 to 12.5 inch in height, overlapping with precision and attaching with copper nails. Some of the slates needed to be further trimmed by hand to get the exact shape where the dome curves and it became trickier and slower as they move up the roof. We estimated it took about twelve weeks to slate the entire roof, using 30, 000 slates. Many of which had been signed by our visitors as a legacy of the project.  

Did you have to do anything to protect the wildlife which makes Ickworth it’s home?

Yes, our lead worker Karl had made ‘bat boxes’ so that our furry friends can still roost in the roof safely. We worked with a Bat Ecologist to ensure the bats would be protected on the estate. We hope to see them here during the roosting season.

Making a home for our furry friends
Bat hibernation Ickworth
Making a home for our furry friends

The roof has been slated, what is next?

Following the finishing of the slating, the next major task was be the disassembly of the scaffolding. The eighty-foot crane, returned to Ickworth to take the scaffold roof off the Rotunda and the scaffolding will took approx. six weeks to be ‘struck’. The Rotunda slowly revealed itself and has been able to show off it’s brand new roof for all visitors to see since the end of September. Even though the scaffolding around the Rotunda has been an absolute spectacle, it's been great to see the Rotunda back to its original glory.