City & Country has been restoring the historic Grade II listed former hospital back to its original exterior design of 1853, with the Ogee Dome one of the key features of the restoration.
This unique structure originally sat at the top of the octagonal tower and is in the oldest part of the building. During WWII the hospital suffered severe fire damage following an incendiary device landing on the roof which all but destroyed the dome. Due to budget constraints, it was never replaced but covered over with a flat roof and used to provide space for a water tank.
Recently passersby will have seen a new structure is starting to emerge, with the first half of a replica dome now in position.
Simon Vernon-Harcourt, Design & Restoration Director at City & Country, explains:
“The Ogee Dome was an iconic original feature of the hospital. It was essential to reinstate it if we were to return the building to the way that was originally envisaged. We have been painstakingly working on a replica dome that will return the building to its original design by local architect W.B.Gingell in 1853. It is truly rewarding to see the dome re-emerge from the 75-year-old scar of the Blitz.”
The replica dome is 10 metres wide by 9.5 metres high and represents a huge design and engineering challenge. Once complete it will weigh over 16 tonnes and over 20,000 nails and screws are expected to be used. The project requires skilled craftspeople who are now incredibly rare - there was not a local contractor that could manufacture the large, complex structure. City & Country subsequently partnered with its structural engineer, Hydrock, and the carpenters on site to build the enormous dome, which has had to be constructed offsite in individual panels due to its size. The first stage of the new dome has been installed by lifting sixteen sections onto the roof using a crane, with each section weighing 780 kilograms. However, the rest of the dome’s construction, including inserting the timber framed windows, cladding and detailing, will now be completed in situ.
Once complete, the dome will be clad in zinc, with eight dormer windows spread over two storeys. These will feature prominently, as the octagonal tower beneath will be home to four apartments. The most impressive of these will be split over three levels, boasting a panoramic viewing station in the top of the dome.
The dome is one of the latest features to be reinstated at The General. City & Country has already restored much of the former hospital, including a replica mansard roof that was added to the building last year, replacing the original that was also lost to bomb damage during WWII.