1930s Lift Restored to Former Glory!

Gareth Lomax, Director at Ardent Lift Consultancy, walks us through a refurbishment he and his team completed on a beautiful 1930s lift.

The Job In Hand

Ardent Lift Consultancy were commissioned via Willmotts Block Management in early 2018 to undertake a condition survey of a passenger lift in the beautiful Holland Park area of West London.

Upon our arrival at the mansion block, we were delighted to find a 1930s Marryat & Scott lift, which (with the exception of a basic modernisation scheme during the early 1980s) retained a number of aesthetic original features rarely seen in lifts of this era.

The lift car was tired, with the timber scored and damaged from 80 years’ service, the glazing within the car was heavily begrimed and some of the decorative mouldings within the car had been broken.

Additionally, the works undertaken in the 1980s had seen various components of the lift cut and carved in a display of function over form, with little care afforded to the original timber lift car or the appeal of the original design. This is pretty standard from workmanship of this era and subsequently, many timber lift cars have been removed or overlaid with laminate panelling, forever damaging/obscuring the craftsmanship that took place decades before.

We were excited by the prospect of what the lift could look like once completed and how it could once more be a real asset and focal point within an already impressive property. During further inspection, we noted the timber machine room housing had badly rotted and water was leaking into the restrictive space, the controller and machine were inaccessible (and had been for decades) from a safety perspective and had suffered as a result.

The operational components were beyond their useful lifespan and there was an opportunity to provide a level of service and ride quality expected with modern lift systems, whilst the lift car and surrounds could be restored to the grandeur of their 1930s design.

English Heritage vs Health & Safety

The one issue we anticipated was the mesh shaft surround and lattice gates of the car and landings.

These items are no longer permitted under lift regulations, due to the potential for harm that is presented. However, English Heritage (in listed properties) and other conservation trusts, are always keen to retain as many original details as possible and H&S considerations are not always at the forefront of their interest. There are many ways to improve the health and safety of a lift without compromising the aesthetic appeal and we used our experience here to strike the right balance on this often-thorny issue.

We met the Directors of the block who immediately embraced the potential for restoration of the lift car in this environment. We discussed the pros and cons of the lattice gates and despite advice to the contrary by the HSE, the decision was made to retain them and a plan was formed for our appointment, with specifications to be drawn up and prospective contractors to be invited to tender.

Following a competitive tender process, we met with lift contractors and reviewed the merits of the various proposals, finally appointing the contractor who best understood the design intent and importance of retaining character.

The Machine Room

As part of the scheme, the renewal of the lift machine room was undertaken by a building contractor who had already worked successfully at the property.

The removal of the original motor room structure and coordinated installation of the new motor room also fell into our remit as we planned the project from start to finish. The before and after shots are to the left.

The importance of liasing with the lift contractor and the refurbishment team closely throughout this project was critical for its success.

The new machine and control panel are state of the art units, providing excellent ride quality, safety features found on new lift systems and near silent performance. The machine room housing was renewed, offering a space for the engineers to now work on the equipment safely and to enable access to all components, which will aid longevity and improve maintenance standards.

Team Spirit

The installation works were challenging for the lift contractor, with old buildings often throwing curve balls into projects when least expected. The site access and storage was limited, as often happens in city centre projects. The lift installation had accumulated 80 years of grease, dust and grime that needed to be meticulously removed to enable the lift installation to be restored to its former glory.

However, the team delivered, with the onsite Engineer showing dedication, skill and ingenuity to the work, which included taking components home to his workshop to fabricate and refit the following day.

It was this level of teamwork which enabled the lift refurbishment to prove so successful and provide a lift to be proud of once more.

The lift car underwent a full French polish, damaged components were renewed and glazing removed and cleaned, before being reinstated.

The original car operating panel was removed, sandblasted, with the components overhauled and the unit reinstated. A position indicator and emergency autodialler system were added to the lift car, whilst a non-contact electronic safety edge was installed at the lift car gate, to stop the car if the beam is broken during travel - greatly reducing the potential shearing hazard risk.

LED shaft lighting was sympathetically installed to offer a bright working environment for operatives without detracting from the shaft lattice work. The lift car top was cleared of all components to restore originality to the lift look and a removable working platform was fabricated. The lift car top controls were skilfully concealed within the lift’s sling with just the mushroom stop switch visible.

The lift had the counterweight replaced to enable the original safe working load to be restored. This was due to the car area being too great for the lower load the car had been rated at.

All EN81-80, health and safety improvements for existing lifts, were addressed wherever possible; counterweight screen, pit stop switches, unintended movement protection, ascending overspeed protection.

The lift was completed on budget, albeit the programme overran for a week due to circumstances beyond the control of the team. However, with the workmanship on display, there was never a question of penalising the lift contractor for this minor project overrun.

Ardent are proud to have managed this project, working with a dedicated team to achieve a sympathetic lift refurbishment for the client.

The client had the following to say on the project:

“We were delighted with both the quality of the final outcome and the management of the work-programme. The project was only a week behind schedule, which is nothing given its complexity. After a few minor teething issues we have a lift, which looks as beautiful when it was originally installed, but now moves with the smoothness of a modern one.”

You can contact the Ardent team via their website or by emailing info@ardentlc.co.uk.

Article first published in Edition 45 of Flat Living Magazine.