May 2022 update. The scaffolding surrounding the church tower is due to be dismantled imminently. Now that the risk of frost has passed the contractors are carrying out some final repairs while high-level access is available before the scaffold is removed. The repaired lime render and limewash will have the full summer to cure, ensuring that by the time winter is upon us, the coating will be sound and able to withstand the winter.
November 2021 update. With the recent heavy rainfall, drying out is taking longer than expected. To avoid saturation during the gales and the risk of frost damage, it has been decided to leave the scaffolding with its protective sheeting in place during the worst of the winter weather.
St Oswald’s Church dates from 1250 AD, is Grade I listed and the tower restoration project won the John Betjeman Award for excellence in building conservation. The project addressed significant issues with the hard, brittle cement render that dated from the 1920s, as well as major structural cracking and a leaking roof.
The 2017 restoration project saw the ‘un-doing’ of the damage caused ever since the original lime render was first removed in the 1890’s. The cement was replaced with a traditional lime mortar, protecting the walls in a way that allows the walls to breathe and dry out, rather like a Gore-tex jacket.
As the body of the wall was so wet, after nearly 100 years of water penetration, the wall has taken a very long time to dry out, indeed drying times in optimal environmental conditions (no rain) are estimated at 1 inch per month. The walls of St Oswald’s tower are nearly 40 inches thick! Unfortunately, Grasmere is not blessed with ‘optimal environmental conditions’ , and no sooner had the scaffold been removed, Grasmere saw several weeks of continuous rain. Since the completion of the project, Crosby Granger Architects and the contractor, UK Restoration Services, have been monitoring the render, reviewing the drying-out and assessing whether there has been any long-term damage caused during that initial winter.
Now, three years on, there has been enough data collected to establish that there is residual damage and the render requires patch repairing. These areas are generally on the most-exposed south-west corner and south elevation, and where water run-off has led to prolonged saturation, preventing the mortar from setting.
Crosby Granger Architects and UK Restoration Services are leading a short programme of rectification works to address the areas that were badly affected during that first winter and to add additional protection at high-level. The technical research into traditional lime mortars has been a key aspect of this, and continues to be at the forefront of the project.
It is estimated that the work will take 3 – 4 months, allowing time in the late summer and autumn for drying out before the winter. Scaffolding will be used for ease of access to the affected areas, but disruption to the public will be kept to a minimum and the Church will remain open. Chloe Granger Crosby Granger Architects