Melville, Royal William Yard, Plymouth

Project: Melville, Royal William Yard, Plymouth

Material: Lead, Copper, Felt and Slates

Project brief

Constructed between 1825 and 1831 and designed by Victorian architect, Sir John Rennie, Royal William Yard is a destination steeped in history and considered to be one of the largest collections of Grade I listed buildings in Europe. Lovingly bought back to life over the years regeneration specialists, Urban Splash, the Yard is now one of the region’s top destinations, welcoming thousands of visitors every year.  

Located in the heart of the Yard, and as one of the last buildings to be redeveloped, Melville was a building originally designed to impress and a jewel in the destination’s crown; featuring countless original features. However, the roof was in derelict stat and required urgent attention, with its restoration not only protecting future building residents, but also the structure’s heritage and character.  

Covering a total slate area of 1,461sqm, as well as featuring extensive lead and copper detailing, DFR Roofing was instructed to sensitively restore the roof to modern build, UV and safety standards; while protecting its historic design, which included the need to use and replicate historic methods and materials.  


One of the first steps in the project was undertaking a full thermal upgrade of the roofing area, as well as extensive material replacement; from fitting new louvred panels and replacing failing sarking, to installing a new high performing felt system and replacing damaged gutter framing. The team also set about removing damaged slating as carefully as possible, replacing with close Welsh natural slate match, Cwt-y-bugail; installing between 20,000 – 30,000 across the roofing area. 

A big part of the job was taking the time to remove and reinstall its aging copper sheets; with extensive fabrication and hand-dressing required to meet the existing build style, which also included creating double-lock standing seams. With lead detailing also a necessity, including the creation of ornate cornices, roof lights and copings, an onsite workshop was required to ensure materials could be created and fitted to the structure’s exacting specifications. 

With work commencing in 2019, a large majority of the roof is already completed, however works are still ongoing on the monumental structure. Soon set to open its doors to visitors for the first time in over 150 years, DFR Roofing is playing a key role in bringing one of the South West’s most iconic buildings back to life; creating a roof which isn’t only functional, but also a stunning architectural feature in its own right.

Get in touch today

Plymouth: 01752 255616

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