The three rows of frames with their scallops supporting the roof structure were cast on site, built off a concrete raft covering the area of the basement of the building. Piling into the clay-and-peat subsoil would have been more expensive. The basement was divided into bays with walls, convenient for storing different kinds of sheepskins but also for supporting the ground floor slab and bracing the columns.
Outside the nearly blank walls of the building may not look promising, but the inside is a great open space, 180 feet by 120 feet, divided by only one sparse row of columns. Its arched and curved roof sections, almost like billowing sails, form the north lights. And it is surely an important example of the architecture of its time.
Written by Stephanie Morland, 1998
to whom thanks
When the time came to put the roof on our new dry process building there was tremendous local interest in the proceedings. Six months ago the inhabitants of Wells and Glastonbury had watched the progress through their towns of the special lorries carrying the 60 ft. long, seven ton slabs of pre-stressed, pre-cast concrete, and now the time had come for the slabs to be lifted into position.
The roofing contactors hired two cranes for the job: one of fifty tons lifting capacity - one of the biggest self-propelled cranes in the country - was fitted with a 130 ft. jib for the occasion and the other, looking quite small in comparison, a 35 ton crawler crane. The contractor told us that the job presented several unusual snags: normally the cranes would work inside the building, but they were too heavy for our floors and so they had to work outside. This meant they were working on newly made up ground, and particularly on the river bank side of the building it was feared that there might be insufficient strength there to support them.
News of this operation had reached the B.B.C., and they sent a T.V. reporter down to cover the hoisting of the first slab for the West of England news programme. It took several hours to get everything ready for the first lift, and both cranes had to be moved several times to find the best position, but finally all was in order, and in a few minutes the first of the 48 shells was on the roof in exactly the right position. Having found the right way to do the job, it was much easier to position the remainder of the shells and the roof was completed on schedule in about 10 working days.
This sort of roof is very unusual in this country, but it has many advantages over the conventional factory roof and we expect that our example will be followed by many other firms in the years to come.
'Putting the lid on it' from Morlands Magazine, Spring 1961