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CERAM Investigates Historic Market Fire

Ashton-under-Lyne market had enjoyed the position of being one of the premiere market locations in the North West of England, so when the famous Indoor Market Hall was gutted by fire in 2004, there were many calls to investigate the cause of the fire and to return the market to its former glory as soon as possible.

In order to aid this project, experts at CERAM Building Technology (CBT) were called in by Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council to carry out important investigations. In the first instance, the aim was to distinguish what damage had been caused by the fire to the brickwork. This was to assist in ensuring a justified insurance claim was made.

The CBT team carefully inspected the walls, which were subdivided geographically and chronologically and sampled by core drilling and taking individual bricks and mortar samples to try to characterise the various areas. This is not straightforward as in some of the more recent areas the mortar was clearly cement based, in the older areas, hydraulic lime based and in one area, a significant amount of brick dust was used.

The hall occupies a central position in Ashton just a stones throw from the Town Hall and has clearly formed a great landmark and centrepiece to the shopping area. Parts of the building date back to 1830 with further additions in 1867, 1880 and 1930. The fire destroyed all of the roof structure and stalls and all that remains are the walls which are primarily brickwork with some stone features.

Geoff Edgell of CBT explained; “The building is a Grade II listed building. As with all buildings that have been built over such a long period, there are a range of different materials, which range from glazed brickwork in what was the fish market area, to dense hard facing bricks externally, although the sources of what were essentially similar products have varied out the years.”

By piecing together the various clues, a report was provided which recommended engineering properties for each area of the building, which should assist Atkins, the engineer engaged by Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council, in designing a replacement structure retaining as much of the historic building as is possible.

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