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23Aug91 UK: RISING FROM THE ASHES - JOHN LELLIOTT MANAGEMENT OVERSEES REBUILDING OF UPPARK HOUSE, WEST SUSSEX. (1 OF 2)

Uppark House, the National Trust's pride and joy, has reopened to the public two years after being gutted by fire. Ben Roskrow reports on the work carried out so far and the huge task still ahead.The 17th century West Sussex mansion Uppark House is once again structurally complete after it was gutted by fire in August 1989.The building is now ready for the next stage of restoration - the complex internal works.John Lelliott Management has handled the work on the building since it took over the site in June 1990. At that time the ambitious restoration of the mansion was in some disarray following an accident on the site earlier last year.In January 1990, just five months after the fire, the building was again cursed when the ferocious storms that swept the nation howled across the West Sussex Downs buffeting the building. A temporary roof on a complex scaffold had been erected over the building - with some difficulty - during the winter. The wind caught the roof, ripped it off and it crashed to the ground killing two men working nearby.The accident was a huge blow to all involved in the National Trust's biggest ever restoration/rebuild job. Julian Prideaux, the National Trust's chief agent, explains:'That January morning was a real low for this project,' he recalled. 'In October we had made the decision to go ahead with the restoration. The fire had gutted the attic and upper floor, but the ground floor rooms and the basement had survived quite well.'Encouraged by this we decided we could restore the building. But the accident with the roof was a great blow.'The building had just been braced and was drying out when the storms hit. The accident put the scheme back five months.'We couldn't just unbolt the roof and scaffolding and take it away because it was under tension,' explained Mr Prideaux. 'It had to be lifted by crane.'In that time the building once again got wet and damaged.The National Trust decided that the rebuilding and restoration would best be carried out by a management contractor controlling various package contractors for each of the complex sections of the works. Lelliott won the £9m contract to handle the work, and so far £4.5 million has been spent. The final bill could hit £20 million.Peter Madden, Lelliott's divisional director, described the work to date.'When we came on site the scaffolding was not complete, so our first task was to stabilise and brace the building,' he explained. 'Then we installed a new temporary roof to protect the building against the weather.'Once this was done Lelliott's various contractors set about completing the structure.'We completed the high level brickwork and the chimneys and then moved on to the roof,' said Mr Madden. 'It was effectively top down construction.'