March 30th, 2020

Work is underway to give several  buildings a new lease of life at Locomotion in Shildon, County Durham, following the appointment of building contractor, VEST Construction (VEST) of Bishop Auckland.

Architect, Howarth Litchfield, was appointed by the Science Museum Group in 2018 to undertake conservation building surveys and provide conservation architecture advice.  The team has also been involved with the assessment of tenders in relation to VEST’s appointment.

Both Howarth Litchfield and VEST were awarded their contracts after a competitive tender which was based on experience, quality and price.

Several buildings, which are all within the Shildon Conservation Area were surveyed under the contract.  These include some that are Grade II listed – Soho House, Soho cottages, which were railway workers cottages, Soho Shed, which was originally built as a store and used by Stockton and Darlington Railway and Black Boy Branch Buildings – plus a goods shed and parcel office, a Sunday School building, previously known as the Welcome Building and a colliery building.

Since Howarth Litchfield’s appointment, the team has been working on detailed drawings and has implemented a scientific research project with conservators Crick Smith to cut away the layers of paint used throughout the years to reveal the original colour when the woodwork was first painted.

Howarth Litchfield’s flair for design, combined with a strict adherence to and understanding of conservation requirements, has seen them working on some notable Co Durham schemes over the last three years. These include the refurbishment of Acklam Hall in Middlesbrough, the redevelopment of 52 Old Elvet, formerly the home of the Durham County Club into 12 luxury apartments, and also on Old Elvet, the redevelopment and refurbishment of Shire Hall into the four-star Hotel Indigo.

With an ability to combine conservation building surveying and conservation architecture under one roof, Howarth Litchfield is well suited to undertaking projects of this nature as Neil Turner, director, explains:

“Given our experience of working with stone buildings, we are delighted with our appointment to this project.  Additionally, we are a local team with good knowledge of the Shildon area. One of our first tasks, in consultation with the planning department at Durham County Council, was to get the essential repairs underway, such as getting the holes in the roof covered to prevent further damage.

“In this case, the buildings have suffered a degree of vandalism over the years, so their urgent stabilisation was critical to minimise further disrepair. The detailed surveys we have undertaken are informing the programme of works to allow us to move forward. Once the restoration and redevelopment work are complete, the historic buildings will further enhance Locomotion as a leading visitor attraction for this part of the county.

VEST began work on site in January.  Commenting on the firm’s appointment, managing director, Gavin Vest, said: 

“We are very pleased to be working on this project, which will preserve the heritage of these buildings for years to come.  The railways played a key role in the development of this part of the world when these buildings were first constructed, and we feel privileged to be able to play our part in securing their future.”

Other members of the professional team include Driver’s as quantity surveyors and Steel River Consultants as PD/Health & Safety.

Sarah Price, Head of Locomotion, said: “We are fortunate in being able to call upon the services of a specialist heritage team to renovate these buildings. This early work marks the start of wider redevelopment at Locomotion which will include the construction of a new, 4,000m2 ‘Building Two’, close to the existing visitor centre to almost double the amount of covered space available to the public. The development will celebrate Shildon’s railway heritage ahead of the Stockton and Darlington Railway’s bicentenary in 2025.”

The project to restore Locomotion’s historic buildings is funded by Durham County Council. Work is expected to be complete by the end of the Summer.  

Locomotion is a partnership with Durham County Council and is a part of the Science Museum Group, displaying highlights from the national collection of rail vehicles.