Heritage Treasure Madeira Terrace’s restoration is a cast iron challenge

To mark the week of the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s #HeritageTreasures Day we are celebrating the protection and restoration of some of our local treasures taking place this year.

The biggest challenge

Of all the projects underway perhaps the biggest challenge is to dismantle, transport, restore and then rebuild the country’s longest cast iron structure – Madeira Terrace.

At almost one kilometre in length, the Terrace is the only land-based iron promenade in England. Running along the seafront rather than out to sea, the Victorians recognised that visitors needed shelter and shade when they were by the sea and that a new promenade could offer this.

The build combined wrought and cast iron to provide a technical solution to creating the promenade in a challenging seafront location, and a decorative solution too. At the centre of each arch are cast representations of mythical gods Neptune and Venus.

There are six tonnes of cast iron in each one of the 151 arches, which will be dismantled and taken away from site. Planning permission for Phase One of the project will see work start on the first 40 arches this year. Once the full restoration is completed, over 900 tonnes of cast iron will have been removed and reinstated.   

The deterioration of the Terrace has occurred as the movement of the deck has created small cracks in its surface. These have then absorbed water and allowed the structure to deteriorate from the inside out. Whilst it may now look as if it simply needs a coat of paint, the restoration is far more complicated. Cast iron is a brittle metal which cannot be easily welded or forged, and modern-day building regulations need to be complied with.

Conserving and renovating

In renovating this historic structure, we have committed to conserving the existing cast iron elements as far as possible and we will only recast the iron where absolutely necessary. Decorative elements, such as the beautiful spandrels at the front, are more likely to be able to be repaired as they are not weight bearing. Trusses and balustrades do a different job, and some of these are more likely to be recast.

A special maritime treatment will be applied to every element of the refurbished structure which will keep the cast iron protected for much longer than ordinary paint. Where the cast iron is repaired, with planned maintenance we are aiming to provide the same long life as the original cast iron, ensuring future generations can enjoy this heritage treasure.

Protecting our unique heritage

Council Leader Phélim Mac Cafferty said: ““The city council is marking the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s #HeritageTreasures Day celebrating the protection and restoration of some of the unique and enduring heritage that make Brighton & Hove such a special place.

“Work is underway to restore Madeira Terrace, rebuilding this historic part of the seafront and restoring the country’s longest cast iron structure. Our goal? To return this Victorian landmark to the city, offering facilities fit for the 21st century which welcome all communities, and ensure it is here for generations to come.

“The revitalisation of Madeira Terrace is one of the most significant projects on which the council has embarked for a long time. In November we won the planning consent and the regeneration of Madeira Terrace will enliven the eastern end of the seafront, appealing to residents and visitors alike. The refurbished Terrace will further strengthen our offer to visitors and grow the local economy, in a city where tourism accounts for 21,000 jobs.”

Related news