Conservation in action; stabilising the Coach House


The Coach House

Built in the eighteenth century, this two storey building was originally the Coaching house that served Quebec House in Westerham, Kent. Quebec House is the former childhood home of General James Wolfe (1727) and was bequeathed to the National Trust along with the rest of the site and buildings in 1918.

Today the Coach House is the location of our exhibition, tea-room and shop.

A rescue mission

The River Darent flows directly behind the Coach House which has made the site particularly vulnerable. Minor subsidence had resulted in significant cracks opening up in and around the Coach House in recent years.

During our project, the opening up works revealed that the ground beneath the bread oven, rear wall and other features of the Coach House was largely made up of alluvial soils; such soils are likely to have been deposited by the River Darent over time.

These alluvial soils were not sufficiently firm enough to effectively support the full load of the building. Conservation work was needed to help stabilise the building so it could be enjoyed for future generations to come.

The eighteenth century bread oven had open cracks prior to the conservation work.
Cracks in the eighteenth century bread oven at Quebec House, a National Trust property in Kent

The salvage process

The task of stabilising the Coach House was not an easy one. The building needed to be underpinned, a process which involved:

  • Lifting, labelling and storing each of the bricks in the floor so they could be returned to the same spot at the end of the project.
  • Digging up the floor of the Coach House below the bricks. Excavation work went to a depth of 2.3m to find solid ground under the soft alluvial soils. Concrete was then poured in at this depth to create new foundations strong enough to stabilise the building.
  • Repairs to the existing cracks, particularly to stabilise the eighteenth century fireplace and bread oven.

Underpinning is very delicate work – particularly on such a fragile, historic building. It was challenging in the more stable summer weather, though would have been riskier if conducted in the winter months when the property is closed.

Excavation work went to a depth of 2.3m before concrete was poured in to create new foundations.
Excavation work as part of a conservation project to the Coach House at Quebec House, a National Trust property in Kent

A big thank you to our visitors

It is thanks to our visitors and members that we are able to carry out such vital conservation work. Without you, we would not be able to keep this historic property open for future generations to learn from and enjoy.

Thank you for your continued support.

The Coach House officially reopens on 30 July and we invite everyone to come and join us for the reopening of this special building.