Stella Rooflights Breathe New Life into Historic Railway Pumping Station

Shore Road Pumping Station is a Grade 2 Listed building in Birkenhead on the Wirral peninsular, Merseyside.

The three-storey Italianate style building was designed by engineers James Brunlees and Charles Douglas Fox and constructed in conjunction with the Mersey Railway in order to house steam pumping engines, which drew water from the rail tunnels.

The building housed two ‘Grasshopper’ Beam Engines (manufactured by Andrew Barclay of Kilmarnock), which powered pumps designed to remove water from the railway tunnel under the River Mersey. These steam driven pumps have today been replaced by modern electric versions, however one of the original pumps, the ‘Giant Grasshopper', remains in the building, although it is no longer operational.

Up until 2014 the building served as a public museum, however today the building is closed to the public and maintained and operated by Network Rail.

The property is primarily constructed from red brick and comprises six bays of blind arcading with engaged brick columns and round headed arches subdivided by brick buttresses to the longitudinal elevations and three bays to the gables elevations. Each elevation is supplemented by small round arched single glazed metal framed windows, decorative brick dentils / articulation and stone hood moulds / string courses. To the south-west gable end of the main building is a single storey duo pitched roof outshoot of similar style.

The roof structure is of hipped construction covered with Welsh slate and clay ridge tiles, supplemented by ornamental finials at each apex. The internal roof structure is of timber queen post construction (a truss in which two posts are placed on a tie beam to support the principle rafters above, with the vertical posts held in place laterally by a collar beam). These roof trusses are in turn engaged into the external masonry walls.

Shore Road Pumping Station is located within the Hamilton Square Conservation Area – an area designated in recognition of the architectural qualities and historic significance of the realised portion of the Grand Georgian Development.

Network Rail is currently undertaking an extensive package of works to the Shore Road Pumping Station building to secure the building’s fabric in a historically appropriate and sensitive manner. As such, a programme of works were recently authorised for the refurbishment of the building, consisting of the replacement/repair of various elements of damaged fabric.

As a major part of the refurbishment and preservation work, contractors MFG Construction appointed Stella Rooflight to design and manufacture the Conservation rooflights to replace the original skylights sited in the principle roof slopes of the buildings’ Welsh slate roof.

MFG commissioned Stella to produce four bespoke rooflights, of two sizes, the first two with a size of 15,260mm (w) x 1310mm (h) and the second pair at 2842mm (w) x 1304mm (h). Stella divided the large rooflight into five frames to ensure that framework was kept to a minimum and the amount of glazing maximised, while still providing manageable sizes. Each section consisted of five glazing bars and six glass units giving a total of 30 panes for each rooflight. The smaller rooflights were produced as single frames with a total of six glass units. Each pair of rooflights were linked together with a 316 stainless capping, giving the impression of two large individual rooflights, sitting adjacent to each other in the roof structure.

Due to the height of the building and the inaccessibility of the rooflights, regular cleaning was not going to be straightforward, therefore carbon or mild steel frames were not an option due to the problems that can occur with rusting if they are not regularly maintained. As all Stella rooflights are manufactured using a Marine Grade 316 stainless steel frame and finished with a C5 marine powder coating, they were the ideal choice for the project.

Furthermore, the flush fit offered by the thin lines of steel and genuine glazing bars on each unit, would perfectly replicate the original Victorian design and satisfy the Planning and Conservation officers involved.

As the rooflights needed to be individually designed to exactly match the size of the originals, a set of complex, detailed drawings were created by Stella, each showing the full assembly of the linked frames as well as files for each individual component, based on the precise measurements provided.

Due to the sheer size and weight of each rooflight, one of the major challenges for the MFG team was the positioning and installation of the rooflights, three storeys up in a building situated on a busy main road. To help overcome this challenge Stella allowed for four lifting eyes, which were welded to each individual frame during the manufacturing process, allowing the contractor to lift the frames into position with a crane.

The entire design and manufacture process took a total of 8 weeks, despite facing the unprecedented challenges that the early stages of the Covid-19 crisis posed. Having the entire supplier, manufacturing and assembly process based in the UK, enabled Stella to overcome these challenges and ensure that the remaining refurbishment works were unaffected by any delay.

Rooflight specification:

2 x Bespoke Stella Conservation Rooflights
Manufactured From 316 Stainless Steel
Size 2842mm (w) x 1304mm (h)
Outer Frame in Single Section
5 Glazing Bars / 6 Double Glazed Units
Fixed (Non-Opening) Design
Black Powder Coat Finish In C5 Application
American Ash Interior Liners

2 x Bespoke Stella Conservation Rooflight
Manufactured From 316 Stainless Steel
Overall Rooflight Size 15,260mm (w) x 1304mm (h)
Outer Frame In 5 Sections / Linked With 316 Stainless Capping
5 Glazing Bars / 6 Double Glazed Units Per Section (30 Panes Per Rooflight)
Fixed (Non-Opening) Design
Black Powder Coat Finish In C5 Application
American Ash Interior Liners

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