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Labour of love for Yarmouth landmark

PUBLISHED: 10:49 26 April 2009 | UPDATED: 13:46 03 July 2010

The former Boultons building which has been transformed into apartments

The former Boultons building which has been transformed into apartments

Liz Coates

AN extreme restoration of one of Great Yarmouth's oldest and most neglected historic houses is being hailed as a barometer of how far the town has come in the last two decades.

AN extreme restoration of one of Great Yarmouth's oldest and most neglected historic houses is being hailed as a barometer of how far the town has come in the last two decades.

Twenty years ago Boulton's fly-posted façade spoke volumes about everything that was wrong in the town.

But after a £2m rescue project that has peeled back 500 years of history the former furniture store in North Quay is ready for a new era offering affordable housing to sympathetic tenants.

It has meant restoring every original detail from wooden shutters to coving - and making again what couldn't be salvaged.

Site manager Roger Pitcher of Wellington Construction said there were plenty of surprises along the way including the discovery of a near perfect mullion window - its timbers as old as the Mary Rose, and a skull hidden in a fire place.

Stripping back the plaster revealed part of the building had been rebuilt using the cannibalised remains of a Carmelite friary which burnt down in the early 1500s.

Elsewhere bright paintings - a type of early wallpaper - were revealed by careful craftsmen under strict instructions to tiptoe as they toiled.

But overall the whole project was characterised by daily dilemmas and challenges which could not be forseen, Mr Pitcher said, in an “incredibly dangerous” environment, the years of neglect having brought the whole building to the brink of collapse.

He said: “From a health and safety point of view my biggest fear was losing a man - it was that unstable. It was incredibly dangerous. It is difficult to envisage how bad it was.”

He added that the changing fashions in design were written throughout the building like a textbook. Some aspects like the mullion window, rare for its preservation, remain on show while others have been buried back within the fabric of the building, perhaps for others to discover in years to come.

The project has been overseen by borough council conservationist Darren Barker who was keen preserve its character.

Borough council leader Barry Coleman said the project was close to his heart after the building narrowly escaped the bulldozer by one vote.

He said it was a landmark building whose turnaround was the “epitome” of wider improvements across the town.

The five two bedroom and 14 one bedroom apartments are being allocated to people on the borough council waiting list. The accommodation is managed by its owners Peddars Way Housing Association who have 400 properties in the Yarmouth area.

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