Major refurbishment work on a landmark building has uncovered fascinating new details about its history.
But it has also revealed the need for further restoration work costing more than £100,000.
Supporters of the Pepperpot in Queen’s Park, Brighton say new discoveries have added to the significance and understanding of the building but are also set to delay any plans for a future practical use of the building.
A £70,000 council project to repair and refurbish the grade II listed building was due to be completed in May but is now expected to continue until at least September.
While work to repair and weatherproof the 19th century structure was being carried out, conservationists discovered that it was built from Ranger’s Artificial Stone making it one of the first in the country to be built in this early form of concrete developed by Ringmer builder William Ranger.
Further research by Nick Tyson of the Regency Society looks to have solved an age-old mystery – the original purpose of the Pepperpot.
An entry in the Arcana of Science and Art in 1836 listing the year’s top inventions and designs revealed that the Pepperpot, then known as Belvedere Tower, was home to a steam engine to pull up water from a well below.
The current work has seen top-floor windows and the front door replaced and a special paint applied to the exterior.
A full restoration of the exterior would cost an estimated £100,000 while work to the interior, where staircases and floors are currently being supported by scaffolding after aging joists rotted away, would add further cost and delays.
The Friends of the Pepperpot had hoped to be able to convert the building into a bed and breakfast, café or community space but this could be delayed by five years or more as further restoration work is funded and carried out.
The group has entered into talks with the building preservation charity The Landmark Trust, which let out unusual buildings as holiday homes, and two representatives of English Heritage attended the most recent public meeting discussing the Pepperpot’s future.
Any future refurbishment could rely on Lottery funding and any bid would be boosted with the support of the Landmark Trust.
The continuing work has also thrown into question a heritage open day and a special light display on the building which were both scheduled for September.
Chris Lowe from the Friends of the Pepperpot said: “It would have been fantastic to have a slick, elegant looking repair but that has not been possible to achieve.
“What we have had is not just a repair but a part restoration which has made the Pepperpot more secure and weather treated.”
A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said: “Following discussion with our planning conservation officers, English Heritage, the Georgian Group, the Regency Society, the Friends of the Pepperpot, and due to budget limitations, it has been decided to have a conservation approach for repairs to the main tower rather than a full restoration of the rendered surfaces.
“The contractor is revising the programme in line with this approach, which will be available shortly.”
Caroline Stanford, historian for the Landmark Trust, said: “Designed by Charles Barry, this small building is clearly of some significance and in need of a new use.
“We are currently assessing whether Landmark can help with its future.”
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