Seaton Delaval Hall Topographical Survey

Holy Topographical Survey Batman!

Classic Masonry

National Trust

Historic Building Topographical Survey case study

Scope of the project

It has been said that some of the Gridmark Survey team have “bats in the belfry” at times but for our role in a unique corbel restoration project at Seaton Delaval Hall our focus had to be on the resident bats in several locations in the main hall.

This fabulous National Trust site is steeped in history including being used as a prisoner of war camp in WWII.  But working alongside bats is a serious business as due to their protected status, any non compliance could land one of the team with some prison time of their own. 

There are no fewer than five species of bat recorded on the site which are Natterer’s Bat, Brandt’s Bat, Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle and Brown Long-Eared Bat and it was our duty to ensure that none of them were disturbed or obstructed in any way during our topographical survey work.

The project’s overall objective is to install three and a half new corbels under the first floor balcony with one of them to be ground back to allow a new section to be attached.  The results of our detailed survey would feed into the creation of a 3D printed model template.  And if like us you were unfamiliar with the word “corbel”, here is a picture of the ones we were working with below.

Historic Building Topographical Survey site photo

Site and technical challenges

One of the main challenges here were the local residents.  A largely hairy bunch who tended to only come to life at dusk, they were very sensitive to visitors and had the protection of local police.  But we also had to pay special attention to the resident bats.

Whilst we’ve conducted many topographical surveys where there are wildlife considerations this was the first project we can remember where there was a specific “Bat Method Statement”.  Whilst we were secretly hoping for references to The Penguin, The Riddler or Catwoman it was a much more serious document and referenced many pieces of legislation such as the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations as all roosting bats in the UK are protected species.  The roosting locations of the various bat species had been well documented so we had to familiarise ourselves to ensure we didn’t disturb them in any way.

We also had to be very mindful of protecting the main hall flooring as it is very delicate when conducting our scanning.  We were not able to use any height access equipment and would have welcomed something from Batman’s utility belt as we figured out the best method of scanning the corbel which was suspended beneath a balcony and 4m overhead.  Luckily not all heroes (or survey technicians) wear capes.

Historic Building Topographical Survey info

Points of Interest

We did learn a few things about bats during the survey job – we certainly didn’t realise that they hibernate throughout the winter.  Although as they mainly eat insects this certainly made sense.

We were also reliably informed that part of the hall was host to German prisoners of war in WWII and there are a few signs of that left today with the fire extinguishers from that era being kept as exhibits with instructions in both German and English.

We did learn of a stone-faced ditch on the site which was built in memory of Lord Delaval’s son who was unfortunately killed after being kicked in a sensitive area by a laundry maid in 1775.

If you have topographic survey requirements and believe that Gridmark Survey might be able to help you with your project please get in touch with one of our friendly team and we can discuss your specific needs.

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