Mere Hall Grade I Listed Building
Mere Hall is one of the largest-timber framed buildings in the county and the only Grade I listed private dwelling in Worcestershire. The multi-gabled Grade I listed house was built in 1610, though there are remnants of a house begun in 1337 within the structure.
The hall is a beautiful example of its type, with close studding and herringbone struts, its larger gabled wings and five smaller gables across the centre range above a full width mullioned window. The whole is surmounted by a lantern cupola which houses the bell to a magnificent striking clock with is framed by the centre gable.
Not only is the hall, despite its creator Godfrey Baseley’s frequent denials, reckoned to be the model for the Archer’s Armbridge hotel Grey Gables, it also boasts involvement in the Civil War when Cromwell’s army evicted the family and hid their horses at the hall so that the Royalists could not gauge the level of opposition before the battle of Worcester.
The house was occupied by the Bearcroft family from its origins until 1976 when it was sold. The current owner, American born Mr Dean Butler, purchased the house in 1999.
For the most part, the house has been kept in its original condition with all the positive and negative benefits that this brings. The house is very sound but many of the windows are original with small leaded lights which have no putty to fix them into the lead and offer little protection against even the lightest of wind.
My Butler says, “Our first winter in the house was an eye opener. Despite a large, new and efficient boiler we could not get the temperature above 55 degrees Fahrenheit and it was even worse if the wind was blowing. Our curtains literally moved in the breeze. It made no sense just trying to heat the building without getting the fundamental problem sorted out – not an easy undertaking in a Grade I listed building! The house is a delight but there is not one square window in the building and no four legged piece of furniture has all four legs on the floor at once.”
With over 100 windows in the property it made sense to start there. Having been raised in the United States, Mr Butler knew of a system used in very cold parts of that country. He tried to find a UK supplier but nothing on the market was acceptable either to him or his local Conservation Officer because of the bulky sub-frames involved.
He therefore contacted the manufacturers who produced some straightforward secondary glazing to his specification. These gave an immediate improvement but certain windows needed to be opened on a regular basis and the single glazed units were inconvenient to keep lifting in and out.
The American company was not interested in expanding business overseas but offered to assist some colleagues of Mr Butlers in setting up a business over here. Thus Storm Windows was formed. One of the first things they did was to develop a slim-line sliding sash secondary glazed unit to ease access to opening windows. Mr Butler immediately replaced a large number of single glazed units with these new sliding units.
In addition, the front wall of the house, in the Great Hall, is bowed outwards and is one complete series of windows, some 30ft long. “These very old leaded lights can get really out of shape without breaking so the secondary glazing unit required to protect this area had to be carefully configured. Storm Windows surveyed the whole area to within 1mm tolerance and produced a unit that would do the job without a heavy timber frame.”
“Another area for concern were our beautiful dining room windows with the original working shutters. It was vital that we continue to be able to use these and that they were not impacted in any way by the secondary glazing. Storm did a tremendous job for us and I believe they are the only UK company able to produce such precisely tailored units which allow the shutters to be operated un-hindered.”
“The most unexpected benefit we have noticed from the glazing is the noise reduction, we are in a rural setting so don’t get a lot of noise but we do have an ancient clock that chimes every 15 minutes. Initially we though that the clock had stopped until we realised the sound deadening properties of the secondary glazing has dramatically reduced the noise.”
“Condensation was also a big issue before we had the secondary glazing fitted, now any condensation is a clear indicator that there is moisture coming from the primary window frame and needs attention. It’s our early warning system.”
“We could not be more delighted with the effect that the secondary glazing has had on our home. The improved level of comfort is far greater than people would expect. When you have a large stately home with large windows there is such a huge area for heat transfer. The house is now comfortable to live in and the energy efficiency is phenomenal. We now only need our heating on for a couple of hours in the morning and evening and our fuel bills have reduced by around 70% of what they were during our first winter in the house.”