Tower Restoration, 2017

Autumn view of the re-rendered tower

In December 2017 a project was completed to repair the Church Tower and restore its former white lime render.

In the early 19th century, St Oswald’s Church was covered with a cement based render. In 2010 a large piece of this fell from the top of the west wall. Five years elapsed before a clear strategy was reached on how to repair the wall.

In 2017, the old render was completely removed from the tower and replaced with lime render. At the same time, other essential repairs were carried out, largely to its pinnacles, castellations and roof. Advantage was taken while the scaffolding was in place to refurbish the clock dials.

St. Oswald’s Church prior to the restoration of the tower

Background to the Tower Restoration

In the 19th century, the church walls and tower were finished with lime render. For aesthetic reasons this was removed towards the end of the century, but this resulted in the underlying stonework becoming susceptible to water ingress.

In the 1920’s, the church was completely re-rendered, this time using cement based mortar. The new, grey coat of armour succeeded in protecting the church, keeping water at bay for a considerable number of years. However, there was little to admire aesthetically.

Structurally, problems were in store. The rigid cementitious casing was unable to flex with the natural movement of the stonework beneath, and only surrendered its grip at points of greatest stress. Cracks started to appear in both the render and stonework, and again, water seeped in. Encouraged by weathering and surface vegetation, the render on the tower pinnacles and highest parts of the walls began to break up. In 2010, a large area of render near the top of the tower completely came away.

Surveyor’s photograph of damaged west wall (Courtesy of James Brennan Associates)

Some of the other challenges

  • Crack in west wall

  • Cracked window lintel

  • Inadequate drainage hoppers

  • Ageing clock dials

  • Damaged lead windows

The repairs

  • Stonework packed with lime mortar and stone gallets

  • Tower pinnacle rebuilt and dubbed out

  • New, enlarged gutter hoppers

  • Rafters repaired

  • Roof reslated

  • Clock dials cleaned and regilded

  • Window lintels with stainless steel

  • New lightning conductors installed

  • Clock winding mechanism automated


  • Limewash colour chosen

  • The end result

The Team

ArchitectsCrosby Granger Architects Ltd (Kendal)
Principal ContractorUK Restoration Services Ltd (Burnley)
Grasmere PCC Buildings Committee Richard Beskeen (Chair), Paul Adkins
 Lin Allen, Melissa Harwood
 Rev’d Gill Henwood, John & Sonia Rickman


The original, agreed contract sum was £223,850 (excluding VAT). Architects’ fees were an additional 10% and further expense arose due to the extra work involved in removing render, leading to an eventual project total of £270,749. The majority of funding had been underwritten by a Grasmere PCC buildings repair and maintenance fund (the Alene Hackett Bequest) and The Friends of St Oswald’s, Grasmere, each of which vouched £100,000. Grant applications for lesser amounts were submitted to a number of funding organisations. Grasmere PCC organised fundraising activities and raised the project profile within St Oswald’s Church to encourage visitors’ donations.

Grasmere PCC wishes to express gratitude to all the fund providers including many individuals who wish to remain anonymous:

Alene Hackett Bequest

Friends of St Oswald’s, Grasmere

ChurchCare (Wolfson Foundation)

The Headley Trust

AllChurches Trust

Jill Franklin Trust

Hal Bagot, Professor Paul Betz, Derek Hall, Eira Leach, Rt Rev’d James Newcome