Iron and Steeds – The Stables of the Central Lodge

As work on the renovation of the Central Lodge draws to a close, I think this is a good time to reflect on one of my favourite rooms in the building and the changes which have occurred in it throughout the course of the project. This stable space has always been one of my favourite rooms in the building, in no small part due to just how many original features have survived within it.

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The period in which the Council and the park authority made use of the Central Lodge was a long one, longer in fact than the period in which the building served its intended purpose for the Bolckow family. During this period the uses for different parts of the building changed to suit the times and the needs; there were increasingly more office spaces within the building as the twentieth century rolled on and with these changes came the associated electrical fittings as well as radiators and pipework.

It seems that in the late Council era this room had a practical use as some kind of a storeroom, which is reinforced by the many fuse boxes on the walls, however the radiator suggests that there may have been another use for the room at some point during the Council tenure.

It was seemingly the attitude of the Council to simply cover things up when they were no longer necessary, however – while it may not have been their intention – this has actually helped with the preservation of many of the original features.

G. Reid, founder of the Gazette, once described these stables as “second to none in the north of England”. The spaces which began to appear from behind the back of Council paint and wall panels certainly lived up to this billing.

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During the works original blue and cream tiles were revealed after having been hidden underneath a thick layer of blue paint for many years. This tile pattern was repeated in many other rooms in the Central Lodge, sometimes with a few slight variations. The darker blue sections of wood down the sides of the room are also the original wooden side panels, which still bear some of the gnawing marks of Victorian horses.

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The floor is also very interesting in itself. The original concrete floor of the stable was aggregated and grooved in order to help when the stable needed to be cleaned out and these grooves all led towards the larger drainage gully in front. The line down the middle is a slot made of iron which originally would have housed a divider, splitting this stable in two.

In the walk-through area at the front of the stable the flooring changes to hard wearing flagged stones which were also used in many of the other working areas of the building.

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The Council era radiator was removed from the rear wall to reveal a light blue brick-shaped section, and after the removal of the blue paint it was discovered that this made up most of the lower wall of the room. For a long time we had presumed that the light blue areas were tiled, but we eventually realised that these were in fact full bricks which are glazed on one side. Glazed bricks are a recurring feature found throughout the building.

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Interestingly enough the bricks were manufactured by a company named Rufford in Stourbridge. They must have been specialists in producing these glazed bricks for Bolckow to have sourced them from so far away. The main cores of the bricks themselves are a bit like man-made sandstone, the texture of which was perhaps best revealed in a few areas where these bricks had become damaged. You can learn more about the bricks used in the Central Lodge in Francine’s post.

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This room has recently undergone a dramatic change through the installation of a steel spiral staircase, mounted around a tall central column.

As drastic as this sounds, it has actually created a heritage feature which feels quite unique. The new staircase does not touch the walls and many of the original features have been left on show, giving an unbelievable snapshot of the original building to anyone using this staircase.

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There is a clear balance between the old and the new here which very much sums up the new internal feel of the building and which I feel will work well going forward. We have seen the interior of the lower floor change from tired and redundant Council offices and storerooms back into the century and a half old stable block, and now again into the modern college.

The Central Lodge has gone through many changes in its lifetime but somehow has always found a way to evolve and survive. Here’s to another hundred and fifty three years.

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Related posts: Central Lodge Restoration – Approaching the EndA Tale of Two DwellingsAnother Brick in the Wall

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