“So, what is happening underneath all that scaffolding at Bridge Cottage?” this was the question posed to Mick Harker, the Chairman of the Bridge Cottage Committee recently. He responded “As you probably know, Bridge Cottage is a very old building, built in 1436 by a very wealthy person at, what was then, an important river crossing. Over that years it has been modified and changed to suit the people who lived there. Unfortunately the time had arrived when, to meet modern regulations only a major refurbishment would allow the building to be used as a community building that we can all enjoy.
“Because it’s an old building we needed to protect the very oldest fabric from the effect of the weather; hence the all-embracing scaffolding. So, with the scaffolding in place we have stripped the whole roof, right back to the original rafters and, as with all old buildings we have found a few ‘horror stories’!
“In a building of this age you do expect to find rotten timbers where either the water or beetle has got in however, in our case we have found what I call ‘woodworm holding hands’ as there was absolutely nothing holding, quite large pieces of structural timber together. We also found that some timbers had been cut away because (presumably) they were in the way when the inside was subdivided into rooms. Discovering these two areas meant that suddenly, we had a very unstable structure on our hands. Not quite waiting for a butterfly to land on the roof to cause it to collapse, but near to it.
“Being a Grade II listed building does mean that everybody has to agree on major changes to the structure – including the Committee who, in the end need a building that people can use.
“Unfortunately it has taken a bit of time for our Structural Engineer to design a solution that fits in with the building, and our planned use for it and one that the Planning and Conservation Officers are happy with – but we are now there.
“A new green oak truss is being constructed with stainless steel corners, ties and supports for rigidity all held in place with modern bonding materials that blend into the background.
“So now, as you exit River Way and look at the structure in the daylight you will see, not only the old rafters sitting there like a rib cage but new rafters as we build the northern extension, over the old shop. Once they are in place then we can start adding the sheep’s wool insulation and covering the roof up.
“Until we have a weather tight structure, Uckfield’s largest ‘tent’ will remain.
“Just before we re-tile the roof there will be an opportunity for everybody in the community to be part of this historic project. We will be holding an open day when anybody can come along, sponsor a tile for £1.50 and write their message on an actual tile before its put in place on the roof. Something for future generations to discover. Just watch out for the announcement of the date!”