It was clear there was a problem with the ceiling – it came to light when plaster was found on the floor of the church. A visual examination of the ceiling identified several areas where there appeared to be damaged plaster work; These areas had netting installed as a short term safety measure, after which a thorough survey was carried out by David Slattery Conservation to identify the extent of the problem and what works would be required to make good the ceiling.
They identified the cause of the damage as damp ingress through the porous limestone and the failure of the lead tray under the castilations, limestone is naturally porous and the lead was in place since the 1830’s. Using the repot from David Slattery associates we trawled through an extensive library of and old carpentry manuals, historic manuals, conservation documents. This allowed us to visualise the timber work behind the plaster work in greater detail.
The next process was how to access the work – the ceiling is 11 metre high with a rise of 4 metre from base to ridge. One of the early decisions was to install stairs within the scaffold allowing us to carry efficiently and safely material, tools and equipment. It also allowed access for the client to see the condition of the works and later in the project it played an important part of the public open days allowing members of the public to view the works at first hand.
St. Muredach’s Cathedral is a busy place morning masses, confessions, weddings, funerals, confirmation, first communion and vigil/sunday masses. After consultation with the parish an arrangement was agreed that would limit restoration activity while allowing the essential operation of the church to continue. Morning mass was limited to 10.00, when we would all take our morning break. We were given a list of weddings and would not work at these times; funerals were diverted to St. Patrick’s Church and with so many other events were on at the weekend it was agreed that we would not work on Saturdays.
It was always going to be important to maintain the integrity of the Cathedral during the works. This was achieved after consultation with the client, the architect, our own staff and the scaffolders. It was agreed to erect a plywood hoarding pained to match the colour of the church and with a neutral colour plastic/ barrier to the roof.
All construction works create dust and grime!! The next challenge was how to have the church fit for mass every morning and at the weekends. We devised a system of negative air pressure to remove dust from the work area to outside. We installed a second layer of plastic inside the neutral colour barrier. This was linked to the plastic on the floor, this gave a reasonable dust seal which as time went on we improved until we were satisfied that we had achieved our aim.
Contents – the seats and statues were removed to a secure compound to allow for the erection of the scaffolding with the existing floor covering protected with plastic and plywood to prevent any damage.
Windows – the stain glass windows were created in Germany by the company “Mayer” a famous stained glass workshop. All of the designs and pattern for the windows were lost during the bombing of Germany towards the end of World War II. To protect these valuable windows discussions were held at an early stage and all agreed that they must be protected. The windows were carefully covered with plywood for the duration of the works.
Lighting – one of the consequences of covering the windows was the lack of natural light and required the installation of temporary lighting in all the work areas a complex process due to the different levels of the scaffolding lighting was required, ground floor access ways etc. and of course the additional lighting required for the detailed restoration works.
How could we get the best deals from suppliers, who had the right skills for a heritage project that required applying the skills and materials used over 200 years ago!! We believe that the right team came together – managed by O’Malley and Sons;
And of course our own team!!!! Many of whom are still working on the project..