Cabmen’s Shelter returns to Crich

The restored Bradford Cabmen’s Shelter is back at Crich following restoration work by Dorothea Restorations of Bristol and is now waiting for the finishing touches before it can be officially re-opened.

The shelter dates back to 1877 and was the first such shelter in Bradford initially situated outside Christ Church, Darley Street before moving in 1879 (after the church was demolished) to the entrance of Exchange Station. It was transported to Crich in the 1970s.

With it having been exposed to the elements at Crich for a number of years a restoration of the structure was required with the project starting in earnest during the early part of 2020. The aim of this was to return it to as near as possible its original 1877 condition. While a lot of the original structure did remain the roof had been replaced and the interior had been changed with open bench seating fitted instead of its original configuration.

The shelter departed Crich for Bristol in July 2020 and Dorothea Restorations then embarked on the restoration. They started off by stripping the paint back to the timber with all of the timber that was in suitable condition conserved and re-used in the same position. Most of the upper half could be reused but large sections of the lower half had to replaced as they were suffering from moisture ingress. Pitch pine had originally been used to construct the shelter but Douglas Fir had to be used as an alternative as Pitch Pine is not commercially available anymore. The backs of the interior seats were also retained as they are believed to be original.

Amongst other work completed was the construction of a new clerestory (as close as possible to the architects’ drawings as well as a similar shelter at the Bolton and Embsay Railway). This allows ventilation through fixed louvres on either side of the clerestory, with two hatches on the roof beneath which can be opened and closed independently using a pulley system.

The shelter had originally been set on two iron axles and four cast steel wheels. One of the axles and wheel sets, plus one wheel bearing, were still in situ and were able to be refurbished for reuse. The remaining three bearings had to be remanufactured as did the other axle and wheelset. Draw bars – which had originally been thought to be tie bars but had just lost their protruding parts over the years – had to be manufactured with a towing loop where each bar protruded through the wood.

During the project a lot of time was taken on deciding the colour scheme of the shelter as there were no records of its original colour. During meticulous  work it was discovered that beneath the numerous layers of paint on the lower half a layer of tan paint was revealed with the upper half only seeing evidence of white paint. It was still difficult to be certain of the exact shade so a decision was taken to use GWR Light Stone which was considered to be the most accurate representation of the base layer found.

The shelter returned to Crich in mid-December and is now complete except for its wheels. A hard-standing is now being installed and the shelter will be placed on this (complete with its wheels!) in the new year. Once this is done the interior will be fitted with bench seating, a table with coal locker beneath, a stove and wash basin (which are still to be sourced). A range of interpretation will also be included. In addition a further 3D scan will be undertaken by V21 Artspace to provide an enhanced virtual tour.

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