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Precast concrete castle vies for Restoration cash

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ENGINEERS ARE being urged to vote to save a crumbling 'concrete castle' in Somerset in the next series of the BBC's Restoration programme.

Bridgewater's 1851 Castle House is said to be one of the earliest surviving examples of precast concrete construction in Britain.

The derelict building is owned by heritage body the SAVE Trust, which bought it in 2002.

SAVE has entered it into the Restoration competition in the hope of winning the £500,000 it reckons is needed to renovate the property and convert it into three modern flats.

The castle will be up against many other UK restoration projects.

Only the project with the most viewers' votes will get all the money it needs.

But SAVE believes civil engineers should support it, as the building is a significant milestone in the early history of modern concrete technology.

An early form of modern Portland cement - Parker's Roman Cement - was used to precast cladding, stairs, banisters, skirting boards and architraves.

Different coloured aggregates were also tried out and the castle became a showcase for local cement manufacturer Board & Son, even though the structural core of the building was mainly brick.

'Basically we're talking about early artificial stone here, ' said SAVE concrete conservator Simon Swan.

'Most of the cladding, which is up to 200mm thick, is unreinforced, although there has been some limited use of hoop iron in the window mullions.

'The main problem is expansion due to sulphates in the Lias limestone aggregates - otherwise most of the concrete is in surprisingly good condition.'

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