The Future of Venn's Arch
A large and comprehensive report, assessing how best to preserve this important piece of heritage gives well drawn options as to the best way to proceed. To read our article in PLACE Magazine Winter 2014 just click the image on the right.
Venn’s Arch is a Grade II listed structure, in Commercial Road “a pretty Jacobethan archway by E.H. Lingen Barker, 1881, an entrance to St. Peter’s Cemetery erected in memory of Emelia, sister of the Rev. John Venn; it looks ancient, so badly has its red sandstone weathered.” (Brooks & Pevsner 2012) Emelia Venn worked actively with the church and aided Hereford’s poor with her brother Reverend John Venn. On the death of Reverend John Venn in 1890, the archway was re-dedicated with a plaque placed on the archway to commemorate his passing. Both Emelia and John Venn are buried in the cemetery, with Reverend John Venn (1823 – 1890) known as one of the greatest benefactors of Herefordshire. Both Emelia and Reverend John Venn’s work within Hereford influenced social reform and changed the way the poor and underprivileged were cared for. Reverend Venn was involved in many projects during his time, including the formation of The Hereford Society for Aiding the Industrious, which is still operating today.
Today the Arch is in a parlous state in need of restoration to preserve this important piece of heritage. The report suggests three possible options for the restoration and remedial works necessary.
Option 1 – Heavy Intervention: This option carries the most impacts to the significance of the structure as a result of “creating heritage” by replacing and re-carving architectural motifs and taking the structure back to a particular point in time. The main archway is the most significant component of the archway and the re-carving of the motifs could be seen to be detrimental to the heritage significance.
Option 2 – Medium intervention: This option would be a half-way approach which takes elements of heavy and low intervention, whilst maintaining elements which are important contributors to the structure’s significance. The option preserves the archway in its current state, with the removal of elements such as cement render which impact upon the weathering and decay of the structure. The option also allows some ability to replace and restore stone, such as re-carving elements such as side scrolls and the replacement of stones along the plinth to enable re-bedding of missing rails. It would also result in the application of a protective layer which would help preserve the stone in its current state. Lime mortar would hide more details than a lime wash, and the lime wash would require further maintenance and applications.
Option 3 – Low Intervention: This option conserves the structure in its current state with works done only to preserve the structure. The main problem with this option is that the stone will continue to weather at a high rate due to the lack of protection which is required to continue the life of the stone, which would come from the application of a lime mortar or lime wash.
Conclusion: It is recommended that Option 2 is appropriate in the restoration of the structure due to the level of impact this option has to the heritage significance. Whilst estimates of costs have not been provided clearly it is the logical way forward. A positive intervention with the best chance of reducing future costs.
When carrying out remedial action in order to preserve the structure, Amorosso & Fassina 1983 identify a 6 step process which could consist of all or some of the following stages:
• Diagnosis: An in-depth study of the causes and mechanisms of the decay processes and the history of the object in need of restoration;
• Cleaning: The mechanical, chemical, and physical removal of weathering crusts and dust deposited on the surface of the stone;
• Pre-consolidation: The superficial consolidation of the stone and is applied before cleaning in cases of advanced decay where cleaning would cause considerable irreversible loss of stone;
• Consolidation: The in-depth treatment of stone that has lost its cohesion to such a degree that its physical survival is imperilled;
• Surface Protection: Consists of the application on unweathered stone of a superficial film which acts as a barrier towards atmospheric pollutants and rainwater;
• Maintenance: The periodic inspection to assess the state of the conservation and to check the efficiency of protective treatment
Other Issues to Consider
Timing of Works: In order to minimise impacts to the structure caused by remediation and restoration works, works should be done at one time – particularly when scaffolding is involved.
Scaffolding: When undertaking works to the main archway, scaffolding will be required. A scaffolding plan should be required when obtaining quotes for work. It is crucial that the scaffolding is free-standing and must carry its own weight and not be attached or affixed to the archway or railings. This will avoid causing damage to the archway.
New Stone Selection: When replacing the archway stones, the new stone must be a cacite based sandstone. A slightly weaker stone should be chosen as existing surrounding stones have had more weathering and as such the new stone will be able to weather at a similar rate. Before placing stones in the structure it is recommended the stone be allowed to dry out first as re-rendering new stones can bring out salt. Research has shown that stone in the Worcestershire and Shropshire region may be a suitable match.