The Brief

Sewell Construction was appointed, through competitive tender, to upgrade the structural stability of four buildings known as Rutland Mills in Wakefield on behalf of client Opera PM for City and Provincial Properties.

Rutland Mills had been in a state of dereliction for 20 years. During this period, the condition of the seven Grade II Listed buildings had significantly deteriorated, leaving many in a state of disrepair.

The vision for Rutland Mills – soon to be known as Tileyard North – is to create a rich mixed-use, inclusive, creative, and cultural cluster, with a programme that includes artists, designers and musicians; digital and tech industries; artisan craft and makers; studios and commercial space; retail; restaurant and hotel offers; event and gallery space; and provision for education.

This vision also seeks to deliver a significant offer of new public realm including a new central courtyard and a route through the site to the River Calder and riverside pier. This project aims to become a significant cultural destination for the North of England.

The Solution

Four of the nine buildings were identified as needing urgent attention:

– Buildings 7 & 9: three storeys

– Building 10: four storeys

– Building 11: two storeys

The following works had to be completed across all four:

– Surveys and exploration works

– Full clean and decontamination of the building, including asbestos removal

– Stabilise the structure of the building, carrying out both aesthetic repairs and alterations to the masonry

– Install new windows, M&E, drainage and required services

– Fit-out the new “central core”

The Challenges

– Grade II Listed Building: structurally unsafe and in a state of disrepair, meaning access to the buildings themselves was also difficult at times

– Collaboration with conservation officers, damp and rot specialists was key throughout, having to be appointed to undertake numerous surveys to ensure the environment was safe to work in

– Mitigation strategy in place working in and around pigeons and nesting pigeons, working closely with ecologists

– Location: bordering the River Calder, subject to regular flooding

– Extensive presence of guano: having to be cleaned systematically so as not to disrupt programme

– Survey for asbestos and high level of lead content led to its removal from painted surfaces, window frames, steel frames, walls, floor timbers and roof structure

– Red brick structures built in 1800s with natural slate roofing: having to restore and maintain them as much as possible

– Mixture of timber roof constructions, light steel frames, and timber roof constructions

– Predominantly timber floors with a mixture of concrete and paved flooring

– Started during the height of the pandemic when restrictions were high. The team had to be managed in secure bubbles, isolating elements of the work and reducing numbers on sites. This also led to difficulties with material availability, lead times and inflated costs

Other unique working practices included:

– Introducing secondary steelwork to support the floor joists which sat either side of the main structural timbers

– Hardwood timbers had to be sourced from Germany due to lack of material availability in the UK

– Roof level: existing timbers needed to be supported in place whilst supporting the rotten sections of timbers that were removed – new timbers then spliced and connected using bespoke steel connectors

– Decorative brick arch lintels needed to be strategically dismantled and rebuilt using recycled brick and newly cast, handmade bricks to match

– All masonry re-built including new infills utilising lime mortar in keeping with the existing lime mortar

– Retaining as much of the existing fabric of the building as possible

The Results

Across all four buildings, a huge 4,089m2 has been repaired and revitalised ready for fitout. Considering the complexity of the job, and the structural instability of the buildings, the project was delivered with zero accidents. The team also managed to leave a legacy in the community during the project including:

– Repairs and refurbishment works to neighbouring building home to the Wakefield Sea Cadets

– Collaboration with neighbours Spectrum People:£1,578 raised in Three Peak Challenge, food bank, easter egg and selection box collections, as well as gifting furniture and white goods to help people in need

– Engagement with local primary school, Sandal Magna Community Academy: including site visits and hoarding designs as part of their geography project

– Mental Health Awareness for the site team: Andy’s Man Club, Suicide Awareness Training, Prostrate Cancer, and Rachel Alexander session

– Our Industry Partnership with Wakefield College saw us take on several work experience placements throughout the duration of the project


The North is going to be one of the biggest centres for growth and culture as we move forward, and exciting developments like this in Wakefield will help incubate our talented creatives and show our potential to the world.

Tracey Babin MP