News: Traditional Foundry Skills Hold Water at London University

28 June 2011

Master craftsmen Hargreaves Foundry have supplied cast iron rainwater goods to help restore the Grade II listed University House.

Traditional foundry skills are back in vogue in the restoration of the exterior of one of London’s former technical colleges.

Master craftsmen from Hargreaves Foundry have supplied bespoke and off the shelf cast iron rainwater goods as part of a £1.5m external refurbishment to University House, a grade II listed building which is now part of the University of East London (UEL).

Hargreaves craftsmen created new moulds to replicate the intricately patterned earbands needed to hold in place 200 metres of 100mm x 75mm rectangular pipes. All offset pieces were manufactured as specials in the Halifax-based foundry within three weeks.

A Hargreaves site survey revealed that after a century of excellent service, the cast iron rainwater system had disintegrated. Some bespoke replica fittings needed specially casting so as to complement standard items specified from the Premier Rainwater range of traditional cast iron rainwater pipes, gutters, heads and fittings.

The building was formerly part of West Ham Technical Institute which opened in 1898 and taught art, engineering and science. Its apprenticeship classes included foundry skills.

As part of an external renovation programme, funded by the UEL and ‘gift aided’ to local people, specialist contractors Triton Building Conservation cleaned and restored three facades of the building and those to the adjacent Passmore Edwards Museum.

Triton Building Conservation’s site manager, Zak Crafer said: ‘Hargreaves provided a faithful reproduction of the century-old earbands and offsets. Their comprehensive site survey and ability to include special castings over a short timescale meant no downtime on the project and the replica pieces were easy to install by our own skilled team.’

Ironically, Hargreaves Foundry, which was established in 1896, is just two years older than the building it has helped to restore.

Cast iron is a sustainable material and so after serving the drainage needs of a building for its lifetime it can be fully recycled, not 'down-cycled'.