The refurbishment of Dorrian Chapel within the Mater Hospital, Belfast required a building firm with a very specific set of skills. O’Hanlon Bros Construction Ltd has a wealth of experience when it comes to working on sensitive, heritage buildings like chapels and churches.
Built in the Gothic Revival style, the Mater Infirmorum Hospital is a grade B2 Listed Victorian building dating from the late 1890’s.
Located within the Dorrian Building the chapel comprises a simple rectangular nave, three-sided apse and sanctuary and is overlooked by a gallery on three sides.
The refurbishment of the chapel had become necessary due to the building’s age and general wear and tear. Its various mechanical and electrical installations had reached their end of useful life and were also in need of replacement. A comprehensive scheme of improvements and repairs was developed which included external works such as brickwork replacement, brick cleaning, repointing and slate replacement and consequential leadwork. The stained glass windows were refurbished to repair physical damage to the leadwork and replace broken panes, with new frameless external ‘storm-glazing’ panels set into the existing window apertures. Internally, there was a strong emphasis on integrating the new services installations (heating, power, lighting, plumbing, PA, door automation, fire alarm and emergency lighting, etc.) within new ducts and voids in the interests of maintenance and to remove unsightly cables and pipework from the walls and ceilings wherever possible. A sophisticated lighting installation was also developed to take full advantage of the chapel’s architectural features.
Although the chapel sits inside the hospital, a number of live wards are located very close to it. “When you walked out the front doors of the chapel, you basically walked into the corridor of the hospital so we had to be mindful at all times that essentially, we were working within a live environment. There were also a number of external walls that also had to be refurbished while brickwork had to be repointed and cleaned.” In order to paint the ceiling, scaffolding had to be erected within the chapel. “That meant carrying it through the hospital corridors during quiet periods. Getting the scaffolding into the chapel and erecting it was a challenge.” Painting the ceiling of the chapel required the painter lying on his back for almost two weeks. “Logistically and physically, it was a tough job but we got there in the end. The most important aspect was ensuring an excellent finish.”
All surfaces were redecorated using strongly-contrasting colours to create drama and to complement the new hardwood parquet flooring, terracotta-coloured carpet and fitted furniture within the sacristy. A feature stencil band in red and gold based on a Pugin-inspired pattern also highlights the top of the new painted timber wall panelling and give focus to the ‘Stations of the Cross’.
The original marble altar table was refurbished and now combines surviving elements of the original altar with new sections of Carrera marble and Armagh limestone to create a dramatic new altar. In addition, minor alterations were made to the original pews and kneelers while new fire rated panelled hardwood doors were provided.
Over the years, O’Hanlon Bros has worked with numerous specialist contractors capable of achieving the specific high standards required for a project like the Dorian Chapel. “We’ve formed good working relationships with all the leading specialist which enables us to choose the very best specialist team for the job. Every single company involved in a job like this must maintain the highest possible standards. You simply can’t go in and cut corners.” Architects on the Dorian Chapel project, Hall Black Douglas, has praised O’Hanlon Bros for its stellar work on the building. “The project has exceeded our expectations in terms of the workmanship and finish achieved by O’Hanlon Brothers Ltd. and its sub-contractors.”
Thanks to O’Hanlon Bros Construction, Dorrian Chapel has been restored to its former glory.
“We’re very proud of the job we did and the fact that the refurbished Chapel has been so well received. All of the companies involved in the project worked hard to achieve the end result, with the over-arching aim to reach and maintain the highest possible standards.”