The Hall in February this year.

Westgate Hall February 2010


Today, three red-finned ventilation cowls — wind catchers —  are proclaiming the roof refurbishment is complete!  The Hall is now 100% watertight.  Dancing in the slightest of breezes, their rounded cheerful shapes bring a smile…and Canterbury can’t miss them.



Westgate Hall, 8 August, 2014

How did we achieve this?

As a quick reminder, Westgate Hall was built by public subscription around 1912 as a drill hall for the Territorial Army, and adapted for community use over the century.  But eventually a leaking roof, crumbling tiles and increasing water damage were set to seal its fate. Feeling it couldn’t justify the maintenance and repair expense in the midst of the economic recession, Canterbury City Council, as part of its February 2010 budget, voted to demolish the Hall to make space for more cars in the Pound Lane car park.

As you’ll have followed through these blogs, a handful of enthusiasts who met on Facebook formed the Westgate Community Trust and with support from Canterbury’s community succeeded in developing and making the case for an alternative future for the building.  Through the process of community asset transfer, the Trust negotiated a 99-year lease for the Westgate Hall complex with the Council.

As of this October, the Trust will be running the drill hall side as a community venue while subletting the former administration block to Curzon Cinemas, which is currently installing a three-screen art house cinema.

In addition to wanting to make the Hall safe and weatherproof, the Trust’s refurbishment plans aimed to restore the Hall’s original features as Canterbury’s example of early 20th century military architecture and use contemporary sustainable building techniques while doing so.  Sound insulation and energy conservation were key components.

Our thanks go to the following for having helped us achieve these ambitions.

Canterbury’s Paul Mallion, director of Conker Conservation, and conservation architect, Tim Ellis, have been guiding us, working with us, researching, sharing their knowledge and helping us achieve our objectives from the start of this project in 2010. They have helped us balance visions of the past with today’s technology.  A brilliant, imaginative team!  Cheerful, kind and funny too.

The roof we are enjoying today has been created thanks to the phenomenal skill, good humour, experience and teamwork of our contractors, Sittingbourne-based B.W.May, with Alan “Oz” Hughes and Mick Howard leading the teams; and St Dunstan’s based BSF Consulting, our structural engineers.  These are Canterbury and Kent men with their hearts in the project.

And the jewels in the crown — the three ventilation cowls — are a 21st century take on our local oast house tradition developed by VISION Environmental Innovation  Gorgeous.

As you can all tell by now it’s taken particular resilience to repair, engineer, insulate and re-slate the Hall’s 750 square-meter roof.

Here’s how things looked in February:



Drill Hall roof with the Marlowe Theatre in the distance, February 2014.


Crown of the Drill Hall roof, February 2014.

And what has been happening since:






STEICO I Joists being positioned.

The engineers and architects chose STEICO’s I Joists seen here. STEICO specializes in natural building products; the joists are lighter than solid timber.

As Paul Mallion explains, “We were looking for a means of raising the roof to accommodate 300mm of insulation, support a new slate roof and the new ventilation cowls, whilst permitting the use of an uninterrupted airtight layer below the insulation.  Working with engineers BSF Consulting we developed a relatively lightweight solution that allowed the existing roof trusses and boarding to be retained.  The Steico joists were long enough to span the ridge to eaves in one section, and light enough to avoid the need for cranage.”


Insulation arrives!

Insulation arrives!

The insulation is natural — the entire roof is insulated with 300mm of British sheepswool.


Insulation being inserted.

Slates in place.

Slates in place.




Ready for the ventilation cowls.

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Installing the ventilation cowls on 8 August, 2014.

These roof cowls –or wind catchers! — are the modern equivalent of oast house ventilators, extracting stale air and introducing fresh air while gently rotating away from the prevailing wind.


Westgate Hall, rear, August 10, 2014

View from Pound Lane car park.

Westgate, August 10, 2014

Suddenly, saving the Hall is no longer a dream or a plan.  It’s real.  And the potential of the Hall’s future is becoming tangible.  A real community achievement.

The next report — the interior…coming soon!