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The St Astier Blog – all the latest news on our specialist repair schemes and related activities brought to you with a hefty dose of insight into the inner workings of our humble company.

Cliffords Fort Conservation

Cliffords Fort Conservation

St Astier is undertaking a scheme to clear and consolidate areas of the seaward wall at Cliffords Fort – one of Britain's earliest surviving coastal batteries. Built by Charles II in 1672, the fort was constructed in response to the threat of a Dutch invasion which did not arrive at the mouth of the Tyne but instead at Torbay some 20 years later bringing the rein of James II & VII to end.

The project represents a continuation of works to reveal and conserve 15th century gun emplacements that had been hidden by the working buildings of North Shields' Fish Quay. Although the fort's battery wall was found to be in good condition, the embrasures – openings in a crenellation or battlement between the two raised solid sections or merlons – had been blocked up with brick panels to the front and rear and the voids subsequently filled. The East face of the wall had also been painted.

With the aid of an excavator and banksman, stone masons and the scheme's archaeologist commenced work to the final set of embrasures No. 7 to 12 – carefully scraping the surface material from the wall top. With the agreement and in the supervision of the archaeologist, hand and mechanical techniques were used to systematically remove the fill material between the embrasures in a sympathetic manner. Indeed, to avoid any inadvertent damage to the surface of the historic stone fabric, mechanical aid was limited to the higher profiles only with the remainder few inches removed by hand by skilled stone masons utilising masonry tools.

Once down to the original level of embrasure base and with all side jambs and merlons cleaned of debris and root structures, consolidation of the corework to the wall top and merlons was carried out. This involved lifting and re-setting stones in their original locations and building up firm core to the walls with clean stone which was bed in hydraulic lime mortar to throw water outward towards the faces of the walls. Piecing in of missing stone utilising and masoning material salvaged from the site was also carried out in isolated areas therefore maintaining authenticity and integrity.

The central area to the top of the merlons were backfilled with 150mm bed of brown river gravel to pass 20mm mesh over a fine geotextile membrane which formed a tray within the walls over a sand blinding.

Other loose fragments to stones, which would otherwise have become dislodged, have been pinned into place combating a possible heritage loss. Additional re-pointing of open mortar joints particularly to the side walls of the exposed embrasures is now to be carried out using a compatible lime mortar.

The works at Cliffords Fort represent one of our many prestigious heritage schemes in the North East. Download our Built Heritage PDF for more projects.