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Riber Castle in Matlock, Derbyshire

Riber Castle

A Troubled Past

Riber Castle is a 19th century Grade II listed country house overlooking Matlock, Derbyshire. It was built by local mill-owner John Smedley in 1862 as his private home. After the death of Smedley’s wife, the castle became a boys’ school until the 1930s. With the coming of WWII the Ministry of Defence used the site for storage. The MoD left following the war and the castle remained unused until the 1960s.

From the 1960s to September 2000 it was home to a wildlife park, until “Riber Zoo”, as it was known, was sold by the owner. The park was criticised for the treatment of the animals, and the closure was not without controversy. Activists even released several Lynxes which escaped into the wild, with regular sightings occurring in Matlock and Carsington to this day.

The site is reputed to offer some of the finest views in the Peak District, and Riber Castle holds a prestigious position on the hill above Derbyshire’s administrative capital, Matlock.

A Return To Splendour

In 2008, Gowercroft Ltd. were contacted by Ivan White, from Cross Tower Ventures. His company had purchased Riber Castle and the grounds, and were planning a major redevelopment into luxury apartments. The castle had no roof or floors, so Ivan’s strong vision was critical to success.

The location and the type of building presented other major challenges:

  1. The wind loading at the top of the hill would generate pressures of up to 500 pounds.
  2. The large windows, when fully glazed, weighed over 400kg or almost 1/2 a metric ton!
  3. The accessibility for external glazing is very difficult. Internal glazing with a full drained and vented system was required.
  4. Strict planning permission on the site expressed that windows should match the original 19th Century style. This included bespoke, slender mouldings and no mastic shown externally on the building.

David Brown, Technical Director at Gowercroft Joinery, worked closely with Ivan to design a new interlocking beading system with an ingenious tapered tongue. This locks the beading into the sash, and can withstand the extreme wind loading. In the photo above, you can see five Gowercroft employees testing the strength of a trial unit – where the glass was secured only with our double-sided glazing tape; this is 700 pounds of sheer pressure. When backed up with our glazing bead system, these units will perform well for many years to come.

The challenge didn’t stop there. We also needed to get special gaskets and keeps to ensure that the windows were draught proof under the extreme conditions. Extra strength hinges were needed to carry the weight of the exceptional window size and the whole window had to be made to fit behind stone reveals inside the 4-foot thick castle walls.

Work on the external joinery is now complete. Below are images of the Cross Tower team, with Gowercroft assistance, installing an arched window at the top of a corner tower, along with images of the finished windows in the building. The project was so different and interesting, that the Derbyshire Life even chose to do a feature on it. Click on the picture of the article to read the full story from that magazine.

Our craftsmen love a challenge. We pride ourselves on providing excellent solutions to difficult questions and to delivering results to deadline. By avoiding potential pitfalls, we help keep your costs down and your timeline secure. For a no-obligation quote or just a discussion with a experienced joiner, call us today 01773 300510.

To see Gowercroft Director, David Brown, explaining some of the complexity of the design process, please watch the video below.

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