Landmarks in Lockdown

How we’re caring for our precious empty buildings, by head of historic estate, Susan McDonough.

Landmarks exist to be inhabited and enjoyed. So it’s been so disappointing to have to cancel customer bookings due to Coronavirus and leave our 200 buildings across Britain standing empty. Some have been occupied by, nurses, doctors, paramedics and other critical workers as part of our NHS stays scheme, but most have been standing empty since the last guests left in March. And for much of the shutdown period it has been unclear when they would be able to reopen again. 

Pondcottage-exterior-doorway-600x400.jpgPond Cottage, Devon.

Our remarkable portfolio of buildings is the nucleus of our charity, so we rapidly implemented a weekly inspection programme to prevent deterioration and decay. We’ve been checking that each property hasn’t suffered vandalism, theft or damage, but also that a pipe hasn’t burst or started leaking, birds have started nesting or mice or squirrels have been looking for a new home. As we’ve moved closer to summer, Mother Nature starts to take over and it isn’t long before tendrils of plants and shrubs, particularly those close to buildings start to slowly come in via wall vents or small cracks around windows or gulleys if left unchecked. We check for blocked gutters outside and water ingress or damp/mould developing on ceilings/walls inside. Tcirculate cold water through the pipework system and drains we flush all the toilets and open the taps.  

Flushing the water system by running baths at The White House, ShropshireFlushing the system at The White House, Shropshire.

All our buildings are unique and different in their construction, but as old buildings with mainly lime-based mortars, they need to regularly breathe. Opening windows and allowing cross ventilation through the building is important so they don’t become dank and dusty. 

View from Swiss Cottage, DevonThe view from Swiss Cottage, Devon.


A national team effort  

Our regional surveyors and property management team have carried out the inspections. Due to the geographical distances and locations of some of our buildings and mindful of the government’s travel restrictionssome of our more remote properties have been harder to get to. We pulled in the help of local trusted building contractors, such as Mark Roberts, who carried out the award-winning restoration of Coed y Bleiddiauwho is checking on seven Landmarks in north Wales.  

As details start to emerge on the lifting of the lockdown restrictions, we hope to be able to open over the summer and welcome guests again. Our buildings are safer and better cared for when they are inhabited. I’m really looking forward to it.  


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