The lower levels of Porthmeor Studios have substantial masonry or mass concrete walls, and these were all in good shape. However the upper floors are timber frame, the beach frontage has huge timber windows, and the roof is wet laid slate, and over 100 years of exposure to Atlantic gales had weakened this fabric, leaving it very vulnerable.
As the slate roofing started to show signs of aging, in common with other exposed roofs in the south west, it had been ‘Turnerised’ by adding layers of hessian and bitumen. Although this temporarily cures localised leaks, it also makes it very difficult to repair or replace missing slates (Image 1).
Since much of the fabric is timber, water penetration was causing significant problems. Many of the large windows were rotting, and were only held in place by elaborate timber braces. However a failed valley gutter and underlying support between studios 1 and 2 resulted in the worst damage, and the consequent large volumes of water entering the building caused rotting timbers and prolific fungal growth (Images 2 – 6).
Storm damage was responsible for blowing in the window of Studio 3 in 2005. Another storm in 2008 destroyed the window in Studio 2 (Image 7), and also removed a large section of slates from the roof of Studio 10. On inspection, the roofing contractor found that much of the slating was slipping and in a dangerous state, so the entire elevation was stripped and replaced with a temporary covering (Image 8).
Each winter was bringing a fresh series of challenges. The building was close to becoming uninsurable and was placed on the English Heritage ‘Buildings at Risk’ Register, and the Trust was struggling to keep it open. Work on the renovation project had started in 2003, but it was an expensive project and had taken a long time to bring all the funders on board. Fortunately everything was finally put together in time to start work in 2010.