Conservation Project Facts & Figures 2005 – 2007
The project contractors were Stonewest Ltd (Croydon, Surrey).
Stonewest also used St Blaise – specialist conservators and part of the Stonewest group of companies.
The conservation of Cowdray involved the installation of 540 metres of stainless
steel ‘anchors’ to stabilise the fabric of the building, and over 3,000 micro pins used on isolated sections of the stone and brick.
In keeping with the Conservation approach only a small amount of stone was replaced. 1 cubic metre of Midhurst Stone was quarried only half a mile from the site, a similar amount of Chilmark and Caen was also used. There are strong indications that some existing stone came from the adjacent Castle on St Ann’s Hill in Midhurst and incorporated into the 1520’s building, therefore the emphasis was on preservation rather than replacement.
70 tonnes of local Pendean sand were used for the lime mortar repairs.
10,000 ‘creasing tiles’ were used to protect the tops of the walls from further weather erosion. The tiles were fired especially for the project.
Local hand made bricks from Pitsham Brickworks were used. These were clamp fired and hand picked to match the existing brickwork, and distressed by hand to give the a “weathered” look.
95% of the St. John Hope (1913-1919) lintels had failed and were replaced. Where ever possible the original timber lintels were preserved and protected. The removal of invasive roots of yew, elder and ivy presented the need for some localised rebuilding work.
Extensive tests were carried out on the existing pointing to enable the recreation of original mixes used in the building. Around 100 samples were produced to create a “pallet” of seven basic mixes which were then “adjusted” with the inclusion of charcoal, chalk, crushed slag and coloured sands to match the existing colours. Some of the hues were created by the heat of the fire which destroyed the building in 1793.
Conduit House (locally known as the Round House)
The Conduit House roof was discovered to be 17th Century construction but infested with Death Watch Beetle and suffering from rot to such an extent that not one bearing remained intact and the roof sat on the internal walls and a central support introduced by St John Hope. Being of historical importance the oak structure was repaired and extensively conserved using local oak.
The causeway was given a new hogging surface and repairs were carried out to the stone work of all the bridges. Heavy growth of plant matter including ivy was removed and some stone was repointed and some replaced.
New gates have been installed around the perimeter railings and the original main gates and railings have been conserved and re-fitted.
Exciting new archaeology dig confirms existence of earlier building on Cowdray site
During recent work at Cowdray representing the concluding stages of a major two year conservation programme and prior to it being opened this spring as a major new visitor attraction, the Cowdray Heritage Trust is delighted to announce the discovery of some exciting new archaeology which confirms the existence of an earlier building on the Cowdray site.
Jody Morris of Oxford Archaeology, consultants to the conservation project, who cleaned and recorded the discovery, said “An earlier building under the Cowdray Ruins is very exciting news as this is potentially the earlier 13th century manor house.” The archaeology uncovered shows walls and a very nicely laid cobbled floor area and have now been confirmed as from an earlier building which had been demolished prior to the site being levelled and raised up by tonnes of soil before the 1520 building phase of the current ruins began.
The Heritage Trust commented, “This is a terribly important archaeological development for both Cowdray and Midhurst. It could perhaps shed some light on the one fact that has alluded historians and archaeologists such as St John Hope in the early 20th century over the years (see historical timeline). Although there are no plans to expose any more archaeology at the moment, this is something that will be conserved for the future and one day we may be able to fund further investigation with permission from English Heritage. Just to know that it’s there, however, gives one such a powerful link with the continued use of this landscape and at the same time illustrates the changes brought about by personal, political and social influences.”The Cowdray Heritage Trust is Heritage Lottery Funded