Wardour Dome Project, March 2024
entering Wardour Chapel cannot fail to notice the exquisite shallow dome over
the altar in gold and white with the Dove of the Holy Spirit at its centre. It is however a serious
cause for concern as cracking in the plasterwork has been identified and was
highlighted in the Quinquennial Inspection report carried out in 2022. The extent of the cracking is being monitored
but the QI report made it clear that restoration should be carried out within five years. Since then,
Philip Hughes Associates has been employed to develop and implement the repair
and restoration of this unique and beautiful dome. Philip is a fully qualified
conservation accredited surveyor; his practice focusses exclusively on
repairing historic buildings, and he has run many successful repair projects at
outstanding buildings in the southwest.
cracking that has appeared stretches across the entire saucer dome in a crazed
pattern, rather than in a single line or along a single angle as might be more
normally expected in a historic building subject to structural movement.
Photograph of plaster
dome over the altar marked up to show crack lines.
priority is to gain a proper understanding of what is causing the unusual
cracking, and Philip Hughes will lead the required investigative works. The
Chapel trustees are immensely grateful to the Wiltshire Historic Churches Trust
for its generous 70th anniversary grant which will enable this
investigative phase of the works to be undertaken.
A team of specialists has now been appointed by the Trustees,
including a structural engineer, quantity surveyor and specialist conservator
who will assess the extent and likely cause of the damage. We hope that in the
next couple of months an internal scaffold will be erected to gain a greater
understanding of the structure and of the causes of the cracking in the
dome. It is anticipated that the roof coverings will need to be opened up
for inspection on the eastern side of the dome.
It is likely that we will have a summary report of the
investigations and a review of cost estimates in the spring. This will
inform the level of funding required, and a major appeal will then be
launched. Once funding is secured, we will be in a position to prepare
specifications and drawings, apply for planning consent, and appoint
contractors to carry out the restoration
work on the Dome.
This is likely to be a highly complex restoration scheme: the
great height of the dome above the altar is a challenge in terms of providing safe
access to the underside of the dome and its plasterwork, therefore scaffolding
will be required with beams to span above the altar, which itself will need
careful protection. Unfortunately access to the roof space above the dome is
extremely limited and with lightweight curved timbers (mostly approximately
20mm to 25mm in width) supporting the plasterwork it is not safe to climb into
the space without there being protection erected below in the event of a
structural failure or fall. It is hoped that the
works will begin in November 2024, and be completed by May 2025. We will
endeavour to keep you updated with developments in terms of the timing of work