Salford mayor Paul Dennett signs an agreement with Buile Hill Mansion Association (L-R: Jennifer-Anne Smith, Petra Vanila Vartovnikova, Markéta Crehan Lážová and Wendy Francis). Credit: Salford City Council. Caption: Joseph Timan.
Work to save a Grade-II listed mansion built nearly 200 years ago starts today.
The restoration of Buile Hill Mansion, which has been closed for more than two decades now, begins on Monday (18 October) with much-needed roof repairs.
Salford Council has commissioned the 12-week project at a cost of £210,000 which will see the timber beams on the building removed and replaced.
Further details on the future of the Georgian property, which would include a full restoration estimated to cost up to £5m overall, are expected next month.
It comes after years of criticism against the council by campaigners who have fought for the much-loved mansion in Buile Hill Park to be fully refurbished.
Jenni Anne-Smith, chair of the Buile Hill Mansion Association, says she is now confident that the historic building will be open to the public by 2023.
She said: “We’re now in the strongest position we’ve ever been in since we formed the group in 2018. Things have actually started moving.
“We know it’ll be open in 2023. We’re confident it’ll definitely be open by then.”
The group, which meets every month with the council, is so confident that the mansion will be restored in this time frame, it has moved onto other projects.
The former garden for the blind on the mansion’s grounds is being restored and turned into a sensory garden with raised beds representing each sense.
Work on a wooden sculpture trail using crowdfunded money is also under way.
However, Mary Ferrer – who has campaigned to reopen the mansion since the Lancashire Mining Museum was closed on the site in 2000 – is not convinced.
She criticised the council for using money which had been allocated for the restoration of Buile Hill Mansion last year to buy seven bin wagons instead.
But since then, Salford mayor Paul Dennett has committed to fully restoring the mansion within his second term in office ahead of his re-election in May.
Ferrer said: “By not spending the money last year, he just made the building in need of more work. He could’ve spent that money when he said he was going to. He could’ve spent it on the extra work to keep it watertight and safe.
“They have an obligation to look after it. It’s just decaying. It’s not going to get better until they make it watertight and secure.”
A detailed condition survey of the site has now been completed and a timber specialist has also assessed the extent of fungal decay caused by dry rot.
Recommendations for the treatment and remedial works to eradicate the fungus were prepared and incorporated into a tender document for the works to prevent further water ingress and deterioration of the building fabric.
This will include the removal and replacement of timber lintels, floor joists and ceiling joists, repairs to the roofs and rainwater goods to protect the property.
A contract for the work worth £176,508 was awarded to Schofield & Sons Ltd.
Further designs are now being developed for the rest of the building and its grounds with more details on its future expected to be revealed in November.
The public were invited to contribute to a consultation on the future use of the building with their responses, having been analysed, under consideration.
Ideas included creating a café, public toilets and a heritage exhibition space.
A function room which would be available to hire for weddings and other occasions has also been discussed by Salford council and the association.
Ferrer said she would like to see a conference centre, restaurant and wedding venue created at the mansion, describing this as the ‘ideal’ use of the property.
She said: “If you just shut your eyes, you can just see the chairs for a wedding.”
A Salford council spokesperson said the local authority hopes to share details of the proposals which are being worked up over the next couple of months.