Renovating 'listed' premises is not easy. Building regulations limit changes to those that do not compromise a site's historical significance, and plans are subject to intense scrutiny from local councils before approval. This often makes it hard to incorporate access routes for wheelchair users.
Downside Abbey is a Roman Catholic monastery in Stratton-on-the-Fosse, Radstock. It is home to a community of Benedictine monks who live together in prayer and run Downside School, an independent boarding and day school for pupils aged 11-18 that forms part of the building.
Downside Abbey and School began nearly 200 years ago in 1814, when monks expelled from France arrived and established the community. Numbers increased and extensions to the building were made to accommodate the growing school. It gradually developed into what it is today, a fully equipped educational facility with 400 pupils. A bookshop, formerly an agricultural building, doubles as a church meeting room and pastoral community centre.
The school needed to make the bookshop accessible to people with mobility problems as stipulated by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), but faced challenges caused by the building's 'listed' status.
Stuart Forsey, Clerk of the Works at Downside Abbey, explains; "We carried out a £300,000 refurbishment, which included developing the first floor to include a new chapel, meeting rooms and toilet facilities. To meet DDA requirements we opted for a platform lift and chose movemanSKG as the supplier. The company has an excellent reputation and came highly recommended."
"The trick was choosing a unit that blends with the bookshop's historic appearance, and installing it without compromising the building's structural integrity. movemanSKG recommended Prestige, a free standing platform lift that comes in a range of colours and materials. It was perfect."
movemanSKG installed Prestige inside a winding staircase, carefully adapting roof beams to safely incorporate the shaft. The lift looks modern and contemporary, yet simple enough to melt into its surroundings and avoid being an eyesore.
Stuart further commented; "Our new pit-mounted wheelchair lift carries up to 400kg and travels 2.75 metres between ground level and the first floor. Users can operate it independently and enter the carriage by means of a shallow ramp. Windows in the doors make for superb visibility and add to the unit's aesthetic appeal. movemanSKG understood our requirements perfectly and provided a first rate service from initial consultation right through to installation and commissioning."
Thanks to movemanSKG, Downside Abbey and School's bookshop can accommodate less able pupils, teachers, monks and visitors. movemanSKG has nearly 30 years experience in the lift industry and regularly installs units in 'listed' buildings, a testament to its versatility and professionalism.