Horribilis at Percy House
On the fateful night
of November 19th 2009 the Rivers Derwent and Cocker burst through
the town as a raging torrent. Viv Austin and staff waded chest deep
saving as many paintings as possible as the water rose. Eventually
they had to be rescued by boat from a first floor window that night.
Viv recalls: "As we climbed out the firemen had to struggle
to keep the boat stable as the river was surging through the archway
under the gallery taking trees and everything down to the brewery
gallery was completely flooded downstairs. However many artworks
were safe on the first floor and the historic ceiling unaffected.
English Heritage inspected and found no structural damage to the
days that followed we had the heart rending task of clearing all
the ruined artworks. The ground floor was left with layers of river
mud and the ornate plaster ceiling was beginning to yellow with
damp. After much discussion and meetings with English Heritage it
was decided the only course of action was to dry the building very
gently in order to preserve the unique plaster work. September saw
the restoration ready to start but insurance problems yet again
held up the work and it was not until October that the contractors
Yet the challenges for Percy House were not over. Even as contractors
started restoring damage to the ground floor walls Allerdale council
slapped a Stop notice on work after querying the type of plaster
being used. And as if to rub salt in the wound it was on November
19th, exactly a year after the floods that the Stop was imposed.
This meant the gallery and its artists missed the busy Christmas
period. Finally, with help from the local media and MP Tony Cunningham
the council agreed, after all, that the work should proceed.
2011 and once again Percy House is back to its former glory. Thanks
to contractors Roland Hill, the historic building has been sympathetically
restored. Local joiner Chris Jordan has also added beautiful oak
fixtures and fittings. The gallery is now fully restored and
open, so please call in anytime!