Delicate operation to make Cupola House facade safe

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With a deceptive delicacy the operator of a 40 tonne excavator last night started dismantling part of the 400 year old facade of Cupola House.

Fire fighters could not get into the building or remove fallen debris inside until the unsupported parts of the front wall were made safe. A fire service spokesman said the facade had become increasingly unstable during the day.

But just getting the massive long reach Volvo 360BLC excavator into position was a major operation because the low loader carrying the 36ft long by 11ft wide machine had to be reversed into Cornhill and round in front of the Halifax offices, watched by a gathering crowd.

Street lamps were removed and heavy timber laid on the ground before it could go to work. It can dismantle buildings at up to 34ft above the ground and the grab seen here being manoeuvred through a top floor window weighs about two tonnes on its own.

Though Cupola House looked like stuccoed brickwork, the grab revealed only timber covered in lathe and plaster and much of the supporting woodwork appeared blacked by smoke.