Celebrating 30 Years of Heritage Stories

Published: Oct 6 2022

In 1992, Bernard Dwyer founded a scaffolding and temporary access company in London then called PHD Scaffolding Ltd. 30 years later, we continue to work hard in delivering exceptional solutions and services to a growing list of clients. Our journey has been one of continuous growth, innovation, and change – all of which can be attributed to our ability to adapt and overcome new challenges through technological innovation and world class processes.

As we celebrate this milestone anniversary, we hope to focus future efforts within the heritage sector. Our history is rooted in providing scaffolding solutions to some of the UK’s most iconic structures, including Victoria Tower, Cutty Sark, Chancery Court Hotel, Elizabeth Tower, and most recently, HMS Victory.

Where it all Started

Although all our heritage projects are prestigious, our very first was the Victoria Tower and we’re incredibly proud of it. Named after Queen Victoria, it was for many years the tallest and largest stone square tower in the world, with a height of 98.5 metres (325 feet).

Restoration of the tower was a 4-year process and required over 68 miles of scaffolding tube to provide access to replace 1,000 cubic feet of decayed stonework. The strict project criteria demanded no ties were to be used and the fabric of the building could not be touched. An innovative system of piles was therefore designed and strategically placed. The freestanding scaffold height was 126m high. At the time, PHD’s scaffold solution was the largest independent scaffold in Europe, and the highest temporary roof in the UK.

Across the Pond

As an Irish, family-owned company, PHD Access regularly work in Ireland. We were invited to design and install scaffolding for the restoration of the Palm House in Dublin’s Botanic Gardens. The project was of heroic proportions as the building was taken down piece by piece, then, after usable elements had been repaired, put up again.

PHD’s scaffolding framework was used as a reference grid, ensuring the refurbished glasshouse was re-erected exactly as before.

Synonymous with Specialist Work

In 2010, PHD were asked to provide access to for the Grade II listed Marylebone Station. The works included replacement and strengthening of the steel roof, removal of asbestos and installing three times more glass to improve the light and aesthetics of the building – all while the station remained open and fully functional with commuters.

Our most famously known works has been the temporary access scaffolding on the Grade I listed Elizabeth Tower. In 2017, a four-year schedule of restoration works began to repair and conserve the tower, upgrade facilities as necessary and ensure its integrity for future generations.

Overall, 9.5 miles of Layher scaffold was used, plus a temporary roof, which was installed at 98 meters high. The heritage nature of the building meant that no invasive ties were permitted, and no permanent loadbearing of the scaffold was allowed onto the structure.

The scaffold erection was completed in May 2018 and started being removed after the completed restoration in 2020.

Restoration of Faith

PHD were chosen as the specialist scaffolding and access provider for the St Marylebone Parish Church. This project saw the 1817 church, which gave the surrounding Marylebone district its name, taken off the Historic England’s ‘Buildings at risk’ register.

We provided full external access for the masonry work, which included stone cleaning and stone repair, decorating, and replacing leadwork. The entire building was covered by a temporary roof system so the whole roof could be replaced with Welsh slate. We also designed and erected a birdcage scaffold, which was bolted to the internal walls of the church to offer access to the plastered ceiling. The scaffold birdcage spanned 18m with no support from the ground at all.

The church remained open to the parish throughout the project, not only for church services but also as an NHS walk-in centre. This was all considered throughout the design process and the construction phase.

Preserving the Past for the Future

Our latest heritage project is definitely an exciting one! After a very rigorous tendering process, PHD Access were chosen to work with the National Museum of the Royal Navy for the conservation of HMS Victory.

While the full project is likely to take 12 years, the current phase has put HMS Victory under wraps and fully enclosed the ship. This made the ship weathertight so the conservation work could begin.

Platforms were built surrounding the ship, allowing visitors to see specialist shipwrights at work and view Victory from a brand-new perspective. This scaffolding installation phase took nine-weeks to install a free standing 33m x 33m temporary roof and visitor experience.

Pearls of Wisdom

Over the last 30 years the scaffolding industry has gone through a fundamental shift, with new, innovative technologies at the forefront, and ever higher expectations for exceptional standards and solutions. We have been privileged to work on some incredible projects alongside a diverse range of clients, and we believe that it is our ability to build strong, lasting relationships, and offer award winning services that attracts new business. Moving forward, our focus continues to be on technological investment, and the development of our award-winning safety standards to remain an industry leader.

We pride ourselves on offering solutions to any access challenge, while ensuring that safety is top priority. At PHD, we are not only a team, but fundamentally a family, so we would like to thank our clients, our supplies, and our employees – who are the best in the business! Without them all, we would not be where we are today.

Celebrating 30 Years

In September, we hosted a celebratory party for our employees and clients at the London Irish Hazelwood Centre in Sunbury. The party included mingling with London Irish’s second row Chunya Munga and full-back Tom Parton, a magician, a BBQ, a raffle, and finally a commemorative video featuring Danny Dwyer, Naz Mayadeen, Richard Smith, Zoe O’Rourke, and others from PHD. Throughout the party we had fantastic music from The Biblecode Sundays, and a DJ who coaxed us on to the dance floor until the early hours.

The prizes from our raffle were kindly donated from our suppliers and included:

  • 4 x London Irish vs Harlequins tickets, by Generation
  • A Helly Hanson Jacket, by Workwear Express
  • 2 x Chelsea Football tickets, by Kerry London
  • An Escape Room Experience for 4, by Bennetts Haulage
  • A White-Water Rafting Experience for 2, by Leach’s
  • A Golf Day for 4, by the Directors of PHD
  • An All Blacks Shirt, by TRAD Scaffolding Contractors
  • £200 cash, by George Roberts

Overall, we raised over £612 for the Lighthouse Club Construction Charity and the London Irish Foundation.