Celebrations were in full swing on Thursday 17 October when staff, supporters and all those involved with restoring the Cathedral’s South East Transept project gathered together to mark the completion of the project.
The Very Revd Dr Robert Willis, Dean of Canterbury, said a few words of thanks at the ‘topping out’ ceremony and blessed the work while pouring a bottle of beer at the foot of the Transept.
It is a wonderful feeling when a major piece of work in which all have been involved comes to a triumphant conclusion and this is the case when, in the afternoon sunshine, we are able to top out the work done on the Oculus window and the South East Transept. The Caen stone looks magnificent and I know that every member involved in the project gathered here feels a sense of great pride in a job well done.
The Dean of Canterbury, the Very Revd Dr Robert Willis
The South East Transept has seen several restoration projects of work in recent years.
In 2009, conservation and protection was started to preserve the Cathedral’s South Oculus window, which is a masterpiece of Romanesque art and the largest circular window of its date in Europe. Situated 22 metres above ground, the beautiful 12th century circular window is one of the earliest and most important windows at the Cathedral. South facing, the window had been exposed to the elements for centuries. The glass has corroded, and the leadwork has distorted and been leaking heavily which, in turn, has affected the surrounding stonework. Engineering students from the University of Minho in Portugal researched the structural behaviour of the unique wrought iron frame that supported the stained glass. By attaching vibration sensors / accelerometers (very similar to seismometers), and measuring slight vibrations in the metal framework, the students were able to create a virtual model of the structure from their measurements. This helped them to understand the behaviour of the window when subject to wind pressure, and to assess its structural strength. Surface treatment of the medieval iron was carried out by Hall Conservation, a specialist metal firm, and colourless leaded glass was inserted into it. These panes took the place of the historic stained glass and provided a weather tight seal that will protect the precious medieval glass housed behind. The historic glass was set into an exact replica of the medieval ironwork, which was re-installed inside the window. The new framework is linked to the original ferramenta to create an space with ventilation gaps which will allow air movement between the two layers of glass, giving the historic stained glass a far less challenging environment and helping to prolong its life. Installing the window back to its rightful place was a detailed and specialist project and so, it was necessary to restrict the public’s access to the South East Transept from July to September this year.
In 2010, a full archaeological report and dendrochronology analysis of the South East Transept spirelet was carried out. This proved that the spirelet roof timbers were the oldest part of the Cathedral’s roof. It also showed that the timber was rotting and generally in a poor condition. Specialist conservation firm McCurdy were employed to carry out all the timber repairs, and special batons were attached to the spire’s timbers. The work to replace and relay the lead tiles was carried out by CEL, a Peterborough based specialist for heritage restoration and architectural roofing projects. The original lead tiles, dating back to the 19th century, were removed and taken to Peterborough where they were smelted and re-cast in the traditional fashion on sand. Only 30% of the original lead is lost when using this method. The new tiles were cut onsite and fixed in a herringbone fashion to match the original design. Every tile was cut individually to incorporate the spire’s twisted timber structure. A new stainless steel gutter was fixed to keep the roof free from sediment and the restored gold-leafed weathervane was fixed to the apex. After two years of renovation and conservation, the South East Transept spirelet was completely refurbished and even has the welcomed addition of a brand new lightning conductor!
In the Press
Click below to view related coverage from the local, national and international media.
’12th century window restored’ – ITV Meridian (03/09/2013)
‘Rare medieval cathedral treasture saved’ – Kent Reigional News – Canterbury Times (12/09/2013)