Journal of Architectural Conservation

Volume 7 Number 3 November 2001

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The magnificent polychrome and marble entrance hall of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, completed in 1874. Conservation work is now taking place.

See: 'Risk Management at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge' by Margaret Greeves


The Conservation of Reigate Stone at Hampton Court Palace and HM Tower of London   Robin Sanderson and Keith Garner

Lime Mortars as a Problem for Sandstone   Joseph Picalli and Dr Elizabeth Laycock

Spitbank - A Solent Seafort  Robin Nugent

Post-Ceausescu Conservation in Romania  Dorothy Bell

Risk Management at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge   Margaret Greeves


Look and learn
David Watt


The subject of architectural conservation is becoming increasingly complex as our thirst for knowledge grows. We seek to understand our heritage in ways that require greater levels of analysis and investigation. Coupled with this is a view that somehow our historic buildings and monuments should be capable of providing greater value if they are to be worthy of retention and future use.

Looking at and learning from our cultural heritage provides some of the greatest challenges and enjoyment for those engaged in such work. This is clearly seen in the papers of this issue of the Journal.

In Risk Management at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge by Margaret Greeves, many of the issues raised by using a historic building as the setting for an internationally-important art collection, offering safe and enjoyable surroundings for both staff and visitors, are identified and considered. In particular, the assessment and management of risk are highlighted in relation to the needs of the objects and staff.

The history of Spitbank – one of three nineteenth-century circular seaforts built between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight – and the conservation challenges that are now being faced, provide the basis for a fascinating paper. Spitbank – A Solent Seafort by Robin Nugent offers a first-hand account of the practical difficulties to be overcome, and the lessons to be learnt, from working in such a hostile marine environment.

The recent history of Romania has been blighted by isolation and destruction, yet so much has been achieved in relation to the country’s historic built heritage. Dr Dorothy Bell provides, in Post-Ceausescu Conservation in Romania, an inspiring account of past and present conservation practices, and considers some of lessons that might usefully be learnt in relation to our own future.

Turning to more technical matters, Conservation of Reigate Stone at Hampton Court Palace and HM Tower of London by Robin Sanderson and Keith Garner provides an important contribution to our body of knowledge relating to the mechanisms of stone decay. This continuing project has already provided much useful information and will hopefully offer practical advice in relation to the consolidation and conservation of this particular stone.

Lime Mortars as a Problem for Sandstone by Joseph Picalli and Dr Elizabeth Laycock offers a current assessment of this little-discussed phenomenon and points the way to future research that seeks to address issues of conservation theory and practice.


The Conservation of Reigate Stone at Hampton Court Palace and HM Tower of London

Robin Sanderson and Keith Garner


This paper describes a research project into Reigate Stone, which has been undertaken by Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) over the last four years. Reigate stone was used extensively at the Royal palaces from the medieval period, and is infamously non-durable. Reigate stone was replaced with more durable stones, such as Bath stone, in the nineteenth century, but more recently there have been efforts at conservation. To date, the HRP's project has concentrated on gaining a more complete understanding of the nature of the stone, which is unique in the British Isles. The project has involved re-entering the abandoned underground quarries in East Surrey to take core samples, which have been analysed by various techniques. Results are incomplete at the present time (June 2001), but much useful new information about the stone has been gained. Some comparative treatment trials have gone ahead in recent months, in collaboration with US-based researchers. Further discussions with academics and practitioners are planned.


Robin Sanderson BSc, CGeol, FGS

Robin Sanderson is an independent consultant geologist specializing in the analysis, identification and sourcing of constructional stone.

Keith Garner BA, Dip Arch, MA (cons Studies), RIBA

Keith Garner is a consultant architect based in London, specializing in the conservation and adaptive reuse of historic buildings.


Lime Mortars as a Problem for Sandstone
Joseph Picalli and Elizabeth Laycock


The potential for interaction between lime mortars and sandstones has been recognized in building and conservation practice for many years, with different mortars are specified for sandstones and limestones. More recently, papers have been published that make explicit the potential dangers of lime to sandstone. This paper provides an overview of the relevant literature and goes on to look at the physical and chemical processes by which lime may induce decay in sandstones. It also provides an outline of research currently being undertaken at Sheffield Hallam University to analyse these processes and devise methods of minimizing their effects.


Joseph Picalli BA(Hons), DipArchCons
Joseph Picalli is a freelance stone conservator from Sheffield who runs a conservation practice specializing in roped-access assessment and repair of historic buildings. He is currently involved in part-time research at Sheffield Hallam University, leading to a PhD, concerning the interactions between lime and sandstone; an interest that has developed from his work with the gritstones of Derbyshire and Yorkshire.

Elizabeth A. Laycock PhD, BEng (ACSM), MBMS, FGS
Liz Laycock completed her doctorate at the University of Sheffield in 1997, based on the weathering of magnesian limestone. She was appointed as a lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University in 1998, initially with responsibilities for the Building Research Establishment contract on the weathering of masonry materials. Since then the laboratory area in which she works has been involved in various projects looking at durability and performance testing of construction materials. Teaching and research activities focus on the subjects of geology and masonry materials, with a focus on new build and the assessment of repair materials. 


Spitbank – A Solent Seafort
Robin Nugent


The Palmerston Plan, as it was called, proposed in 1860 a massive expansion of the fortifications that guarded the Royal Naval Dockyard of Portsmouth. The plan included three circular seaforts, which were built on the sand shoals in the eastern Solent between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. The two on the seaward station, Horsesands and No Man’s Land, were double-gun deck forts, whilst their landward sister, Spitbank, was a smaller single-gun deck, which was built at the end of Spithead, from which many a naval event took its name. Spitbank was decommissioned in 1956, passed into private ownership in 1982, and was opened to the public as the nearest and most accessible of the three scheduled monuments. This paper follows the history from the technological feat of construction through to the present-day difficulties of restoring a monument that stands 2.4 km off shore and in 7.3 m of swiftly-flowing tidal water.


Robin W. Nugent GradDipArch, RIBA, IHBC
Since graduating from the former Brixton School of Building in London, his work has included the construction of new craft workshops and the dining hall at West Dean College and re-erection of buildings at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum at Singleton. The work at Spitbank Fort was enhanced with projects at Horsesand Fort, Fort Brockhurst, Hurst Castle and the survey of all of the Palmerston Forts for English Heritage.


Post-Ceausescu Conservation in Romania
Dorothy Bell


Everyone knows about the wholesale destruction of Romania’s old towns and villages, however culturally important, planned by President Ceausescu. What everyone does not know is that the safeguarding of the architectural heritage has had a long and honourable history in Romania, and that action to conserve and protect continued even through the worst years, at some personal cost. Today, a decade after the overthrow of Ceausescu and his government, it is time that the Romanian experience stopped being regarded as something alien and, instead, was given its due place in the community of European conservation practice. This paper is intended as a small step to better understanding, by providing a general overview of the situation today in the context of past Romanian theory, legislation and practice.


Dorothy Bell DA, PhD
Dorothy Bell is a registered architect, Director of the post-graduate conservation course at the School of Architecture, Heriot-Watt University/Edinburgh College of Art from 1990–97, and author of The Historic Scotland Guide to International Conservation Charters (Historic Scotland, 1997). Now a Fellow of the Architecture School of the University of Edinburgh, she is currently researching the theory, practicalities and design implications of conserving ruins.


Risk Management at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Margaret Greeves


The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, is a Grade I listed building housing an internationally important art collection of half a million objects. The building and the collections belong to the University of Cambridge, of which the Museum forms a Department. Maintenance of the fabric and equipment is the responsibility of the University’s Estate Management and Building Service with whom the Museum staff work closely to ensure appropriate conditions for the collections and the reduction of risks to objects and staff. Following the drafting of a conservation plan and an examination of risks and their management, this case study reviews the Museum’s risks and proposes the development of a building ‘Bible’ and attention to staff communication as essential elements of the risk management strategy it outlines. A second paper will examine the effectiveness of the conservation plan in relation to maintenance works and an extension of 3000 square metres, which will be built in 2002–03.


Margaret Greeves MA
Margaret Greeves has been Keeper (Administration) at the Fitzwilliam Museum since 1995. Her responsibilities cover the buildings, security, operations, budgets and personnel.  At the emergence of National Vocational Qualifications in the late 1980s, she was involved in the development of standards of competence for a variety of areas of work in museums. She took her first degree at Trinity College, Dublin before an MA in the History of European Art at the Courtauld Institute, University of London, and taught art history before working in the museum field. She is the Project Manager on the Fitzwilliam Courtyard Development Project, a £11.5 million construction project due to begin in 2002.

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