Fairmile Chapel - Bracknell Roofing

Projects: Fairmile Chapel


Client: Linden Homes

Division: Roofing

Location: Oxfordshire

Services: Roof Tiling

Sector: Housing

Published on 2nd December 2021

The Project

The Fairmile Chapel project was shortlisted in the Roof Tiling category of this year’s Roofing Awards. Bracknell Roofing’s Contracts Manager Tain Macdonald explains how the team created the stunning curved elevation.

Given that we either refurbish or put new lids on more than 25,000 properties each year, it’s understandable that we simply don’t have the time to look back and admire our handiwork, as we’re on to the next in a conveyor belt of projects. However, when the great and good from the UK roofing industry shortlisted our Fairmile Chapel project for an award, it made us look back and think: actually, that was an outstanding piece of craftsmanship by some very talented tilers.

The chapel – which is listed and dates back to 1870 – has been transformed for use as a community centre by the local community as part of the housing scheme on the site of the old Fairmile Hospital in Cholsey.

The first challenge was the soft strip because of bat conservation. In all, we had to individually lift and check more than 65,000 tiles under the watchful eyes of the bat inspectors. Incidentally, we couldn’t salvage and reuse the tiles because it was clear that the roof had undergone so many repairs over the years that there was a mix of tiles.

Once they had stripped the roof back to the flat board of the vaulted ceiling, the team had to repair any signs of rotten timber – which wasn’t as extensive as it could have been, given that the building’s just shy of 150 years old.

A layer of insulation using TLX Gold Breather Membrane was put down, and then it was on to the tricky counter battening to the rafters, as we only had about 50 mm tolerance – and if we got it wrong, there would be unsightly holes in the ceiling.

The pitch of the roof was 50 degrees, which was a challenge in itself but the curved elevation at the rear of the chapel was the biggest test of all. We had to soak the batten to make it as flexible possible and give us the curved radius we needed for each course. Integral to this was the use of wedges to create just enough pressure for the batten to bend sufficiently – so that it could be fixed correctly.

The closer we got to the top, the shorter the batten pieces became and the trickier it was to get a consistent course.

Once in place, the tiling team began using Marley Eternit’s clay plain tiles (Ashdowne Aylesham mix) to try to match as closely as possible the original roof when it was first completed halfway through the Victorian era. Every one of the 8,000 tiles had to be cut to size, and towards the top we used a tile and a half to get it back.

The original vents had rotted, so they had to be remade. Also, new mouldings had to be made as close as possible to the originals, finished off with lead detailing. Finally, the use of crested and normal ridges topped off the roof to stunning effect.

Bats, removing 65,000 old tiles and individually cutting and fixing 8,000 new tiles on the curved elevation are some of the headlines of this project – but bending it better than Beckham when it came to batten was the showstopper for us.

Part of the Avonside Group

Part of the Avonside Group Logo
Avonside Shortlisted for Pitched Roofing Awards 2021 Bracknell Roofing NFRC H&S Gold Award Winner 2020