Work began on site in February 2021. In the weeks leading up to contractors arriving, both clubs decanted their boats to temporary homes along the river and canal, allowing them to continue rowing throughout the building works. The clubs heritage collections are safely stored off-site, and we are currently cataloguing and recording boats, oars, minute books and all manner of rowing paraphernalia.
We began with the interior strip out - carefully removing windows and timber paneling, demolishing the stud wall that separated the two clubs and taking out the separate staircases. This material has been set aside and will be repaired and reinstated or re-used in another format. In addtion to several large wasps nests found nestled within the timber frame, the team also found a newspaper from 1915 and a Berwick Regatta programme from 1955!
Scaffolding was erected and the crumbling render on the exterior of the building was removed. The building is now clad in timber ply, which provides protection from the elements and gives some extra strength to the structure. The roof tiles were also removed and protective sheeting laid down. This is probably the most water-tight the West Boathouse has been in decades!
The next stage is to address the foundations of the building. The timber frame is pinned to the sloping riverbank by 30 timber piles, most of which have rotted away leaving the building vulnerable to slippage and movement. This phase of the restoration will involve excavating the current floor level down by around half a metre to create a new level surface, and beginning work to repair and stabilise the foundations.