Saturday, June 23, 2007

Baltic Exchange sold to Estonia for £800,000 through an ad on

Above: The Baltic Exchange carved stone pediment at last year's Salvo Fair 2006 at Knebworth. Above that: Dennis Buggins with a load of Baltic Exchange stonework in a farmer's barn outside Canterbury trying to sell it in early 2006. You can see the chips in the cornice in the foreground caused by the IRA bomb.

THE Baltic Exchange has been bought via an ad on for £800,000 from a UK salvage business by two Estonian businessmen and has been shipped to Talinn where it will be rebuilt as part of a prestige office and housing development.

"This is the largest chunk of architectural salvage to have found a home via the internet," said Thornton Kay, one of the two partners of Salvo Llp, the London and Bath based global information network for parts of demolished buildings. "SalvoWEB was set up in 1994 and is the oldest salvage site on the web. We were there before Yell and eBay, and we still attract more visitors than either - around 14,000 a day - in our sector of the market. It has been a labour of love keeping the whole thing running, especially since my partner, Hazel, who in 1991 had helped me start the business, died in 2002. Salvo has always been a bit of a family business, and luckily for me my daughter Ruby Kay has since helped keep everything afloat and is now my new business partner, even though she is in Bath and I am in London."

"The Baltic Exchange was the world's shipping exchange with a massive marble-clad trading hall, and a classical frontage, which was photographed, marked up, carefully dismantled and trucked to warehouses in Reading after the blast from an IRA bomb knocked it off its footings in 1992. The plan was to rebuild it, but during that period the shipping floor became an anachronism, so after a lot of umming and ahhing the insurers were given permission to build the Gherkin on the site."

"Then English Heritage tried to sell the old building intact, but failed, so eventually it was put on the market and bought first by North Wales salvage dealer Derek Davies, who shipped the 50 or more artic loads from Reading to Cheshire. Derek advertised the Baltic Exchange in SalvoNEWS where it was seen by restorer and dealer Dennis Buggins, of Extreme Architecture in Kent, who moved the whole lot to various farm buildings and barns around Canterbury."

"Every year we hold the world's only architectural salvage fair at Knebworth in July, so last year Dennis booked the biggest stand at the fair and brought some of the Baltic Exchange, including the 40ft long stone pediment carvings. We commissioned performance artist Mark McGowan to highlight our 'Reclamation before Recycling' campaign, and he chose to do this by somersaulting from the Gherkin to Knebworth, which took him an arduous two weeks, arriving at Knebworth during the Salvo Fair."

"Salvo Fair is organised by Ruby Kay with the help of siblings Boz Kay, Beth Kay, Poppy Kay and Lily Kay, and of course me - the ageing Dad. It is on next weekend (Sat 29 June and Sun 1 July), with the hope that it will not only encourage people to think about reuse of old building materials, rather than their destruction in landfill, but persuade them to go out and buy. Five hundred tons of materials will be available for sale on five acres of Knebworth's deer park just of the A1(M) in Hertfordshire. This year there will be a load of interesting stuff including parts of the old Royal Box at Ascot, flagstones from Paternoster Square and Lord Snowdon's London Zoo aviary, a possible Roman stone aqueduct from France, a pillar box from Mortlake and ten brutalist 1960's stone planters from Stevenage town centre."

"Eerik-Niiles Kross, the Tallinn businessman who at one time ran Estonia's secret service and represented Estonia at NATO talks, was trawling the internet for reclaimed flooring at the time of last year's Salvo Fair, which is why he saw the Baltic Exchange. He is the son of one of Estonia's most famous authors, Jaan Kross, who was incarcerated as a patriot in 1944 by the Nazi's, before being captured by the Red army in 1946 and spending eight years in a Siberian gulag, only being allowed home when Stalin died."

"I had not realised quite how good the Estonians had become on the web. For example they invented Skype, and they are now the most informed state in Europe on state-wide ddos attacks after Russian government server tried to bring their network down last year. This was after the Estonians moved a prominent Russsian war memorial into a cemetery, upsetting many Russians who now live in Estonia."

"I guess that Kross and his partner, Heiti Haal, see the rebuilding of the Baltic Exchange in Tallinn as a kind of bricks-and-mortar political statement, establishing a feature building that not only creates another dimension to the architecture of Tallinn, much of which is Soviet, but also pointedly brings a physical part of the financial culture of the West bang up against the Russian border. The Baltic countries have put on a brave face against intimidation by the Russians for decades."

"Interestingly, the movement of reclaimed materials around Europe has been gathering momentum, partly due to the stupidity of countries like the UK spending hundreds of millions in the past ten years crushing bricks and chipping reusable demolition wood as mulch. The shortage of local materials that has been created means that we now import reclaimed flooring and bricks from Estonia, so it is fitting that we should export an architectural icon back to them. Although you could argue that it makes no sense in climate change terms to move materials long distances, moving old bricks 1000 miles by ship expends a fraction of the energy used in making new ones, so it is still beneficial to the environment. The UK salvage trade were world pioneers and are still, despite the difficulties, probably world leaders."

"We use 3,000 million new bricks a year in the UK, and we destroy 3,000 million old ones, and every 12 bricks embodies the energy of a gallon of petrol - so where's the logic of that? The UK salvage trade rescue around 130 million of these bricks, for which they receive no subsidy, while WRAP - the UK government quango - gives millions of pounds towards crushing old bricks. We have written to successive ministers of state, including David Milliband, but without success. The government would be better off tipping the bricks whole into landfill, because then at least they could be mined and reused in 100 years time, and they would not be wasting the huge amount of fossil fuel that it takes to crush them all."

"I think that Dennis Buggins should be congratulated for his tenacity in taking on this project and successfully concluding it. Three times he has nearly sold the Baltic Exchange, for a home in Long Island NY, for a housing and office scheme at Greenwich UK, and to the developers of Batterseas power station. The combined forces of the City of London, Swiss Re, English Heritage and UK conservation movement failed to achieve its relocation. At one stage it looked as if the fabulous marble would become kitchen work surfaces, and the stone would be landfilled. Now at least the building has been kept intact and will be appreciated. When it is no longer required in Tallinn in a hundred years time, who knows, someone may buy it and bring it back to blighty!"

1. Thornton Kay has been involved with salvage since the 1970's. Ruby Kay has been involved with Salvo since 1997, and Boz Kay has been involved with salvage since 1987.
2. Thornton Kay, Ruby Kay and other Kay's will be available for a photo call at the Salvo Fair on the morning of Friday 29th June 2007, at Knebworth House J7 A1(M).
3. Tel Thornton on 07971 217842 or Ruby on 07855 010960.
4. Salvo has high resolution images of most of the photos on the Salvo blog, and Salvo Fair site, and some on Please call if you would like some emailed.

Baltic Exchange ad on SalvoWEB from 2003

Baltic Times article about the Baltic Exchange, Haar and Kross

Baltic Exchange at Salvo Fair 2006

Dennis Buggins of Extreme Architecture and Mark McGowan performance artist at setting of for Knebworth from the Gherkin in June 2006.

Baltic Exchange in Wikipedia

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.