Letters 1

The following pages contain FULL COPIES of important letters which we have quoted in this website, with regards to works carried out.

Detailed below are our comments to Babergh District Council highlighting our concerns regarding the substandard workmanship carried out at Sproughton Water Mill by Babergh District Council.

Letter Dated 9th December 1996

Date 9th December 1996

Our comments regarding the repairs to Sproughton Water Mill.


1. Broken tiles used, when roof was relayed - second-hand matt black Pantiles have been mixed in with the existing glazed black Pantiles on the roof.

2. 4 No. holes in the existing roofing felt have been done by your roofers when re-roofing the roof by putting boot holes through the existing felt. 1 No. hole has been repaired with blue plastic damp-proof membrane into the gutter.

3. White cement used in the gaps in the roofing tiles.

4. Laying of the roof tiles are unacceptable and uneven.

Inside Mill

1. No oak pad, under the main beam to the 1st and 2nd floors on the North wall as in the rest of the MIll.

2. Steel straps going East / West, not let into the brickwork as original on the 1st & 3rd floors.

3. Steel straps going East / West have been cut and repaired with welds only, no bolts or half lap steel joints as the others in the MIll, on the ground, 1st & 3rd floors.

4. Steel ties from the new brickwork are tied into all floor levels, not as original, and it makes it impossible for us to level the existing floors as planned.

5. Above the culvert, where the new Brickwork is, there is a lilne of bricks cut as slithers, it is not as the original and to us it is unacceptable brickwork.

6. No damp course membrane, put in the new brickwork, as asked for by a building controls regulations 1991, and is common sense when building new brickwork.


1. Depth of piles are not as per contract or as specified by a Brian Morton of the Morton Partnership. Reference from Van Elle Southern Ltd, drawings dated 19th June 1996, Job number 94 - 3118, copy enclosed.

The actual depth of the piling which has been carried out by Babergh District Council which the depth was was accurately measured and recorded from the underside of the concrete needle to the bottom of the pile, which are 200mm dia.

The outside pile depths

2     2.500m

3     4.800m

4     5.500m

5     5.500m

7     5.400m

9     5.400m

11   4.700m

12   3.500m

14   3.800m



The inside Mill pile depths

     10   3.200m

Enclosed is Van File Southern Ltd’s contract drawing of the work to be carried out.

The contracted and specified depth of the 200mm dia piles should have been 13.OOOm deep, with steel rebar 2no T12 + 8.Om.

All of the piles have to go a lot deeper than what has been done, as outlined by your test bore, which you did, and by what basis Brian Morton,of the Morton partnership specified that the piles needed to be 13.OOOm deep.

Van Elle Southern Ltd, quoted to and were contracted to put piles in at 13.OOOm deep at 200mm dia, which they have not done. The piles as the work has been done, are still in the soft sediment of the river bed and they do not reach solid ground, as specified by Brian Morton of the Morton partnership based on the Test bore results.

2. The diameter of the piles is not as per contract or as specified by Brian Morton of the Morton partnership.

Reference: -Van Elle’s drawing dated 19th June 1996.

Piles numbers The diameter of these piles are 100mm diameter and not the specified 200mm as quoted and contracted to do. The depth of these piles could not be checked, because they were all piled, steel reinforcement was put in and poured with concrete on the same day?

3. Depth and diameter of piles, the needle size, and steel reinforcement, Van Elle Southern Ltd did not inform the building control department at Babergh District Council to come and inspect, to check the piles depths, and the needles before the pouring of the concrete. As none of this work has been checked by your on site supervisor Brian Morton or the building control department at Babergh District Council to see the work has been carried out as specified. Who guarantees the work and , who is responsible!

4. The steel reinforcement put in the piles is not as specified.

5. Who will give us, and be responsible for the long-term guarantees on the work as it is carried out.

5a. Van Elle Southern Ltd as per the contract, only guarantee the materials they have used in the piles and the needles as existing, but do not guarantee the design or how it has been done.

5b. Brian Morton of the Morton partnership and Babergh District Council can only give guarantees on the piling of the mill, when Van Elle Southern Ltd have done the work as specified and as they were contracted to do to his precise design.

6. We have evidence that before Van Elle Southern Ltd came onto site, it was decided that they would not pile down to the depth specified by Brian Morton of the Morton partnership as per contract and design to. As outlined by the delivery note (Enclosed).

There was not enough materials (steel tubes) delivered to site to carry out the works as specified. I was there when the steel tubes were delivered and there was plenty of space on the lorry (which had come from the West Midlands) for more steel tubes, if they had been ordered. No extra steel tubes were delivered to site from the Midlands.

Van Elle Southern Ltd is not that type of company to carry all these very large and heavy steel tubes from job to job, these steel tubes had to be delivered by a crane, of the back of a lorry they were so heavy and cumbersome, it would be too much work to manhandle the extra 42 number steel tubes needed to complete the work as per contract, as the job was planned only for the duration of five days for the piling.

Each steel tube is 2.OOOm long with a 10cm collar sleeve on top and bottom, this makes the steel tube 1.800m long when joined together with other steel tubes. When calculated together you need eight lengths of steel tube to reach I3.OOOm deep, the specified and contracted depth as per the test bore.

In total there should have been delivered to site, 112 steel tubes from the West Midlands, and it will take time to order more steel tubes, the contract time for compaction piling was five days. Delivered to site were only 7Ono lengths of steel tubes at 200mm diameter. The number of steel tubes used on site was only 36 lengths of 200mm diameter. I know this because I counted them in and personally counted them out and recorded it on film, and in writing. This also confirms the depth of the piles and can be calculated exactly allowing for the wastage for cutting the top of the steel tubes.

7. Fundamental Design Fault which we confirmed that we were not happy with, was compaction piling of only part of the mill. Also using compaction piling around the mill, which it is not suitable for using this type of piling, as it is a listed building, and it has lime and putty mortar joints between the soft red bricks, and it has increase the cracks around a mill substanially.

External Brickwork

1. New Brickwork on the East gable side is not upright or straight on the corner

2. The level of windows and blank windows on the North elevation are not level with the windows and blank windows on the East gable elevation as they were before Babergh District Council started works. Before this works all the windows were level with each other, but now in this corner they are 12” to 9” out of a level. This is totally unacceptable workmanship and out of character with this listed building.

3.The size of the window and blank window on the top floor of the North elevation at the East Gable end. These windows are now after your works, odd sizes, the blank window is now 38”high x 47”wide and the open window is 44”high x 47”wide. All windows and blank windows around the mill are 47”high x 47”wide, but now you have changed the character of the mill, now putting in a odd size window and blank window into what was a symmetrical mill, this workmanship is totally unacceptable to us.

4. The vertical mortar joints in the new brickwork are to large & out of character with the existing English bond brickwork on this important listed building. The vertical mortar joints should be a between 1/8” to ¼” maximum wide, but the new brickwork is a lot wider anything between 1” to 1½” wide all over the new brickwork.

The narrow vertical joints are part of the historical and architectural features of the mill in Flemish and English bond brickwork. Badly laid brickwork can significantly affect a look and the durability of the brickwork itself, badly done it can damage the brickwork beyond repair and create a visually discordant effect and ruin the brickwork forever with the introduction of widened vertical mortar joints, it affects the appearance and the historical fabric of this mill, and this standard of workmanship is totally unacceptable to us.

5. On the ground-floor on the north elevation, the first horizontal mortar joint above the arches of the ground floor window and blank window, is three times thicker than any other horizontal mortar joint on the mill, and it sticks and out like a sore thumb, this standard of brickwork is totally unacceptable.

6. The overall look of the new brickwork is very heavy with mortar, it’s not in keeping with the existing style of mortar and it looks out of character. A successful example of rebuilding brickwork with soft red bricks is where the brick retains its prominence over the mortar, not vice-versa as at Sproughton water mill, an unacceptable standard of workmanship.

7. With regards to the existing internal floors, because of the new levels of brickwork and new levels of the windows and blank windows, this has caused major problems when it comes to the existing floor levels and ceiling heights in regards to where the windows are now. As you know from our drawings, we are very tight when it comes to ceiling heights from the existing floor to the main beams it is only 1.850cm clearance, which its only 6f 1” and it gives us no room to play with in the height.

As you have moved the levels of the windows on one elevation, this means now the floors will go across some windows covering up some windows by up to 12” at the top. If we raised the floors to compensate for the new window levels in the new brickwork at the North East corner, all the other windows on the South East corner and elevation will be effective with odd window to floor levels, not as original. There will be a major cost increase in having to sort out this problem in the conversion of this mill.

8. Stainless steel strengthening has been built into every four courses of brickwork, this is not as original, and out of character with this listed building, it will make the corner of this building so hard and inflexible, (combined with cement mortar) as has been carried out. When the rest of the mill can breathes and moves together during summer / winter and wet periods and dry periods as all 200 year-old brick buildings do, the result will be major cracks, will appear in the most vulnerable areas, between the new hard brickwork with cement mortar and stainless steel reinforcing and the original brickwork with the original lime and putty mortar, this problem cannot ever be resolved successfully unless you remove the hard corner of brickwork.

9. New brickwork to the original brickwork is not toothed together on the north elevation, to give maximum strength to this area.

10. Mortar joint finish, it is also very important that the joint finish is historically accurate and aesthetically appropriate to the appearance of the wall. Replacement mortar should match the colour and texture of unweathered portions of the original mortar. This has not been done and the distinctive modern forms of pointing such as“ bucket handle pointing” which has been carried out at the mill, must be avoided at all cost, however sure, the bricklayer, the structural engineer, and the senior conservation officer, may be about their merits.

11. The wrong mix of mortar has been used, the mortar mixture used by the bricklayers was 9.sand, 2.lime 1.cement, with a squirt of happy shopper concentrated washing up liquid. I personally watched and counted the mixture being used, on three different visits to site, while the bricklaying was being carried out, also confirming this with the lad, who was mixing up the mortar.

We would have hoped and expected that a very important listed building, which had lime and putty mortar originally between the bricks, that this type of mortar and would have been use in any rebuilding, but quite clearly it has not been.

A mortar mixture of 9:2:1 with a squirt of concentrated washing up liquid, is not recommended by any professional building authority in the British Isles. So why has it been used at Sproughton Mill, under the supervision supposedly of Brian Morton of the Morton partnership and Richard Ward senior conservation officer at Babergh District Council.

A mortar mixture of 9:2:1 it is the type used on present-day modern houses with kiln baked hard bricks, which goes of extremely hard and suits the very hard modern bricks. To used this type of mortar mixture with cement, with 200 year-old soft red bricks is unsuitable and unacceptable practice, the mortar should be as porous as the brickwork around it. The cement based impermeable mortar, which has been used will create the tapping of moisture in the brickwork, thereby accelerating the deterioration of the bricks and increasing their vulnerability to damage and major spoiling of the face of the bricks. This has resulted in of visual mess and will cause the rapid deterioration of the brickwork and ultimately a big repair bill.

The mortar should be subservient to the brick, insuring it is weaker than the bricks, which it bonds together, much damage to the brickwork is caused by the use of cement mortars with soft red bricks.

Lime putty mortars is preferable with 200 year-old soft red bricks, because their elasticity can yield to very slight structural movements, Where as a cement base mortar would crack, also with lime and putty mortars there porosity allows the wall to breathe. We have checked with the Bricks and Mortar section of English Heritage at Fort Brockhurst and they would never allow a mortar mixture of this type with soft red bricks on any listed building in the United Kingdom.

11a. Normally the drying procedure with 200 year-old soft red bricks is, they absorb water when its damp or it’s raining, it soaks into the brick through its face, soaks through the brick to the bottom of the brick, into the softer lime putty mortar, which allows the very fast disbursement of the water, out of the soft mortar joints. This is the normal wetting and drying cycle for a brick building of this type and period.

Now as the original 200 year-old soft red bricks have been re-used, with a mixture of other second hand bricks, because the mortar is a lot harder than the soft red brick, the water soaks through the face of the brick to the bottom of the brick as normal, and at this point cannot soak away it into the mortar as normal, so there is a build up of water at the bottom of the brick and the only way out is through the face of the brickwork. This means the face of the 200 years old soft red bricks are working overtime, or twice as hard as they normally would do in the wetting and drying cycle. This will lead to the premature breakdown in the face of the soft red brickwork, in the future major damage will be seen to be caused in winter with the water and frost damage causing the bricks to Spall, this will lead to major maintenance in the future.

12. Fundamental design fault Creating a hard corner in a listed building, where there was not one before, changing the character of a listed building.

Before all the lime and putty and mortar in the walls and foundation, where of equal consistency, the building could move and breathe together, as it has done for the last 200 years.

But now Babergh District Council has created a major problem to this mill, they have added a solid (none moving or breathing) corner, made out of a different mortar mixture with steel reinforcement in it, which does not breathe or move equally with the rest of the building.

This is now a major problem for this mill, where one old part of the mill meets the new part, at are the weakest point there will be at major cracking occur, and you will be only able to resolve this problem for a good, by removing the solid corner. This is totally unacceptable to us to inherit from Babergh District Council this major problem caused by  Babergh District Council, we expect you to resolve it as soon as possible.

The work carried out by Babergh District Council designed & Supervised by Richard Ward senior Conservation Officer at Babergh District Council and Brian Morton of the Morton partnership, Bethnal Green, London, is not as outlined in your schedule of works, attached with the section 54 (5) notice dated 22nd may 1996.

Items, Incomplete before inspection as outlined in previous letters dated 30th September 1996 ,works still to be carried out at Sproughton Water Mill are listed below.

A.Reinstate concrete floor at East End

B. Fill in holes in the Brickwork where the scaffolding was put through.(East End).

C. Remove structural scaffolding from around and inside the mill. (West End).

D. Remove boarding from windows and replace all windows as original.

E. Repair or replace the lock to the mill.

F. Reinstate the West gable and East gable rainwater down pipe with appropriate ones, in keeping with a listed building, or put back what was removed.

G. Reinstate the drain gully at the East gable and reconnect it to the original rainwater drain of pipe, into the river.

We are very concerned, at what we have seen to be completed works carried out  by Babergh District Council.

We will be holding Babergh District Council and these people involved accountable for their actions, and responsible for what has been done at Sproughton water mill, under section 54(5) of the planning (listed buildings and Conservation areas) Act 1990.

Enclosed is 14 photographs of ours to highlight our concerns at Sproughton Water Mill


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