Refurbishment of the Grade II listed bandstand on Clapham Common, believed to be the largest of its type remaining in the UK, has involved manufacture of a bespoke, 62 section zinc roof and central finial by manufacturers VM Zinc. The greater part of the original structure was retained, though the railings are thought to have been replaced in the late 1940s as a consequence of wartime requisitioning. Having fallen into serious disrepair, the bandstand had been placed on English Heritage’s ‘Greater London Buildings at Risk’ list in 1995.
Designed by architect Thomas Blashill, architect to the London County Council, Clapham’s bandstand was erected in 1890 at a cost of just under £600, as a replica of two built in 1861 to a design by Captain Francis Fowke for the RHS South Kensington Gardens (on a site now bounded by The Natural History Museum and the Royal Albert Hall).
Ironically, due to Victorian budget constraints, the Clapham example is not an exact replica of the South Kensington originals. Costs received at the time came in well above expectation, leading the specification to be revised and acceptance of a tender of £598.
The contractor, John Martin, of Warwick Place, Paddington was, however, still able to source ironwork from George Smith and Co’s Sun Foundry in Glasgow, then one of the most outstanding manufacturers of ornamental ironwork in the country.
Restoration was driven by lobbying from local residents who raised more than £100,000 to add to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £900,000 and a contribution by Lambeth Council of £300,000.
Among factors affecting zinc’s specification by architects Dannatt Johnson were its resistance to corrosion and light weight. However, the manufacturer’s ability to meet complex roof design requirements and provide examples of many similar heritage restorations throughout Europe was also significant.
To enable the roof to be made accurately 1:1 roof replication was undertaken prior to manufacture. As with all projects of this type, the roof is divided into appropriate sections for cutting and shaping. Plaster prototypes were used to create drilled sections which were then used to design the punching moulds.
Though much of the roof’s timber had decayed, the main supporting timbers remained in good condition. A finely crafted curved wooden structure was built to support the zinc covering, installed by specialist contractor T&P Roofing of Stanford-le-Hope. The hollow columns, some of which serve as drainpipes for the roof, had to be unblocked and re-engineered to fit. Along with remaining ornamental cast iron sections they were cleaned offsite. Finally, the original 1890s colours, bright greens, yellows and reds, were reinstated.
The two 1861 bandstands which had been moved to Peckham and Southwark were destroyed in or soon after the Second World War. Southwark Council has now commissioned another to the Clapham design.