Chris lifts roof on over 500 years of history

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A young Sutton apprentice is helping to lift the roof on 500 years of history as he helps to rebuild an ancient Newark building.

Work to create a £5.4m National Civil War Centre in Newark’s historic Old Magnus Building has reached a crucial stage with the slate roof removed so engineers can check beams and probe into the 500 year old monument’s past.

Chris Richards, 18 in his third year of a joinery apprenticeship is learning traditional woodwork techniques as part of the team..

Chris who works for the main contractor, Robert Woodhead of Edwinstowe, said: “We are refurbishing everything, we are half way through ripping the roof off and checking the timbers.

“Everything is going back as it was originally built.”

Experts will be looking for tell-tale signs of war damage as Tudor beams are exposed for the first time in living memory.

Chris added: “The job is totally different to anything I have been on before.

“It is a lot slower - you don’t know what’s underneath and most of it is rotting.

“There are two or three main beams on the top floor to be replaced with solid oak.”

The building – built in 1529 as a free grammar school and whose old boys include a distant ancestor of Walt Disney – will become home to the UK’s first National Civil War Centre when it opens next year.

The £5.4m project by Newark and Sherwood District Council has been supported by £3.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). It will tell the story of Britain’s epic 17th century civil wars, while boosting the regional economy.

Newark suffered terrible damage during the 17th century clash between King and Parliament.

Nearly 20 per cent of the town’s buildings were destroyed by bombardment.

The Old Magnus Building survived, but beams may still show signs of scorch marks and grenado and shell fire.

Chris said builders had already found a set of historical signatures on the walls.

“We have to protect them for archaeologists and other professionals to study,” he said.

The project, backed by £3.5m from the HLF, is also giving young people chance to carve a career in traditional heritage crafts.

Chris, of Kirkby Folly Road is nearly at the end of his second year in carpentry and joinery.

He hopes to qualify at NVQ level two next year and then progress to level three.

Chris said: “Working here I have learned a lot. It is a different approach.

“Nothing is ever the same , everything is done traditionally as it was hundreds of years ago. There are no trusses , all the beams are jointed together using mortice and tenon. In a 12x6in beam you wouldn’t do that today in a new build.”

The work is expected to finish next March.