A couple, who restored Settle Water Tower, believe they may have saved another piece of railway history.
Mark and Pat Rand spent 18 months converting old water tower at Settle Railway Station into a home - and their efforts were documented by Channel 4’s Restoration Man programme.
Now they believe they have saved a navvy hut – possibly built during the construction of the Settle-Carlisle Railway to house the workers.
Their latest “restoration” came about as they tried to find outbuildings with a railway feel.
“The obvious starting point was Network Rail to see if any S&C structures might be redundant and available,” said Mark.
They approached S&C’s permanent way engineer, Gordon Allen, to see if he could think of any buildings suitable for conversion and he suggested a huge wooden store outside his then office window in the Network Rail yard at Appleby.
It had been derelict for years and was held up by internal braces made of scaffolding and railway sleepers.
“Navvy Hut is what it ‘shouted’ at me the moment I saw it,” said Mark, who admitted that he had been tempted to walk away given the enormity of the demolition and rebuilding task.
The relevant permissions were obtained and the building was taken down piece by piece, with its components plastic wrapped and stacked ready to be transported to Settle.
“There was a moment when we all wondered if the move was futile and whether a box of matches would be a neater solution,” said Mark, a former policeman.
But he persevered and began to rebuild the hut, even enlisting the help of onlookers when he got stuck.
“As each new piece of wood came into use I examined it closely for any clues that might advance the navvy hut theory,” said Mark. “On the very last day of building the west gable I was being helped by former police colleague Peter Bennett. As we lifted the longest and heaviest board onto trestles for preparation we saw, faintly visible through the lime-wash, what appeared to be news print.”
With the help of Stephen Allen, a former paper conservator with North Yorkshire County Council, he was able to discover it came from the Christmas 1878 double issue of The Weekly Budget, published in Manchester.
“We still cannot say with 100 per cent certainty that we have discovered a former navvy hut - but the evidence is almost overwhelming. The building had the look and size of a navvy hut. It had been on S&C railway land for at least 100 years. It was the right sort of building and was from absolutely the right date.
“It was quite a find - and quite a finale to the water tower project. For my part I have derived as much satisfaction and a greater sense of achievement from rebuilding this humble wooden structure than from the tower itself. The Victorians who built both have my utmost admiration.”
The latest project will be featured on Channel 4’s Restoration Man programme next Thursday, January 31, at 9pm following a revisit by presenter and architect George Clarke.