Structural Repairs, the leading Berkshire-based repairs and renovations specialist, has been tasked with transforming Eton’s oldest building, located near the historic market square. Estimated to require in excess of £9 million in urgent and critical repairs, the structure will need extensive work and niche expertise to make it safe and secure and bring it back to its former glory.
The Cockpit is a Grade II listed building located at 47-49 High Street and has become an iconic landmark of the Berkshire town. The timber-framed building, believed to have been built in the mid-15th century, is the oldest surviving structure in the area. It is known for being the home of tallow chandler William West, who began making candles at The Cockpit in 1661.
Over the years, The Cockpit has held many purposes. It once belonged to the College of St George, before being transformed into an inn, a tearoom, and even an abattoir. Today, however, the building is occupied by William West Candles; a company that’s proud to honour the history of the site by using traditional processes to make candles with scents inspired by the local region.
Kellie Botha, Office Manager at Structural Repairs, says, “As we’re based in Berkshire, we’ve long had a deep interest in The Cockpit, and we were thrilled when plans were announced to renovate the building. However, work on the project ceased, and last year The Cockpit sadly became one of 20 buildings to be added to the Heritage at Risk Register. Fortunately, The Cockpit was sold, and we’re thrilled to be working with the new owners to restore the building and protect an important part of Eton’s local history and heritage”.
It is anticipated that a number of large-scale works will be necessary to renovate, repair, and restore The Cockpit, including brickwork repair, timber repair, and work to the traditional lime plaster and rendering. Additional challenges are expected to emerge as the Structural Repairs team will be required to implement solutions that align with heritage and conservation standards due to the building’s Grade II listing status. Overall, the team predicts that repairs will take approximately 12 months to complete in full.
While the team certainly has a big job ahead of them, the finished results should certainly be worth the effort. Current owners of The Cockpit, William West Candles, have announced plans to move all candle making into the building to honour the structure’s history, and begin hosting candle making classes and workshops to enable the public to experience what life may have been like for William West and other tallow chandlers back in the 1600s.