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The Eagle Academy

Cowbridge, South Wales

Constructed as the ballroom, or assembly room, of the Spread Eagle Inn shortly after 1740, the Eagle Academy has a great sense of history. It became a school in 1870 and thereafter was used as a grain store until 1969, wherein its deterioration meant it was uninhabited for over 30 years.

Given its past, the restoration of the Eagle Academy was a highly sensitive process. It entailed working under the strict supervision of conservation architects and Cadw, the Welsh government's service for conserving the country's heritage.

A Grade II* listed building, and in such disarray, it was an arduous process for the company, but one which provided us with precisely the challenge to which we are accustomed and even embrace.

When we commenced the restoration, there was an internal scaffolding supporting the roof to avoid a collapsing of the structure. In order to commence work on the Academy, this had to be removed. This required the creation of a temporary system of specialist stanchion and beams to take the weight of the roof structure, with the aid of a jacking system.

The repair process to the roof was carried out in stages, which required the existing stone walls to be repaired and new wall plates inserted by jacking up the roof, providing sufficient work space. Only once the roof repairs were completed was it possible to remove the specialist support system.

We also removed all existing oak floorboards before repairing the floor structure. Once this was completed, we moved on to repair the large oak beams in the main floor, with the cellar and kitchen below. Once again, this entailed inserting large oak timber where necessary to the beams, and renewing joists.

The intention was for the building to be heated by means of an underfloor water system. We had to install this and have it in operation before the new native kiln-dried oak floorboards could be stored in the building, before fixing them in order that they could dry out to the expected temperature of the room.

New large hardwood sliding sash windows were fitted with specialist glass to match that used in the original windows. As per the spirit of preservation, internal decoration was carried out using specialist materials and colours as near to those used originally.

In order to meet the Academy's modern requirements, an external oak staircase was erected at the end of the building to act as a fire escape.

The Historic Buildings Council for Wales went on to proclaim the Eagle Academy "carefully restored and the interior returned to its former glory" in its annual report.

Cadw, after its inspection of the building, concluded that it was most satisfied and grateful for the standard of restoration achieved in our work.