Simon Friend of Red Earth, owner of the landmark redevelopment, The Yealm, is passionate about bringing old buildings back to life and giving them the chance to survive for another 100 years. Simon is taking great care to sensitively convert what was the former River Yealm Hotel into luxury apartments. As part of the next stage in the redevelopment, the stunning roof-top dragons are undergoing restoration by local historic monuments and buildings restoration specialist, Guy Marsh.
Here, Guy talks about what makes this restoration project special.
“The dragons are earthenware terracotta. They have been nicely sculpted, with good detail and character. They likely date from 1898 when the hotel was first built. Decorative roof detail like these dragons were used in ancient China and Rome to deter evil spirits. For the former hotel though, their purpose would have been for decoration and, as the Yealm was built at the end of the Victorian high gothic period, it would fit in with this style.
“As part of the restoration work, I need to make them structurally stable and to reinstate areas of loss. Various elements are missing: two heads, two tails, two wings and five forearms and the odd leg! I have remodelled or moulded these from surviving items and will reattach them using marine grade stainless steel pins, blind fixed with polyester resin.
“The work is complicated, and needs a lot of thought, which is what I love about this project.”
Simon Friend concludes “We are taking great care to retain or replicate what features we can like the ornate zinc cornicing and of course, the dragons. The building deserves to be treated with great respect and I look forward to seeing these special dragons back in one piece and on the rooftop of The Yealm.”
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