Lindisfarne Castle Major Project 2016-2018

We are undertaking vital conservation work to safeguard the future of this iconic landmark.

The exposed location of Lindisfarne Castle causes the fabric of the building to be under constant pressure from the elements. This is contributing to several problems with the building such as penetrating damp, deterioration of stonework and pointing, and failures of windows. These issues have always been a problem here, but they are getting to a stage where action must be taken. The castle requires significant investment to improve the building fabric and help the structure deal with what the weather throws at it.

The idea behind the work was firstly to try out a number of methods designed to combat the problem. Certain materials used in the past during maintenance work are hindering the movement of moisture through the structure, and so causing problems in particular areas.

We found a century-old metal joist supporting the West Bedroom window
The West Bedroom window with a supporting metal joist showing

We started work in late 2015 trialling specified methods aimed at mitigating these issues in a number of these key areas around the building. This work then carried on up to the start of the main project in November 2016. These works were on display to our visitors throughout the year and some works were carried out during opening hours. Works included pointing replacement, packing and pinning of masonry, dressed stone replacement, render trials, window refurbishment, internal cement render removal and drainage investigations. The trial works in these specific areas of the Castle were critical in our planning of full programme of works throughout the building currently being carried out. 

Paddy from St Astier Contractors removes cement from the Long Gallery wall
A stone mason working inside Lindisfarne Castle

In order to carry out these works the Castle building is closed to the public until April 2018. The shop, garden, castle field, headland and lime kilns remain open. We had hoped to have the castle open to visitors during project works throughout, but as we started undertaking the trails it became clear that the amount of interruption and intervention by contractors would not be compatible with visitors in such a small confined space. We considered a number of partial opening models but each we felt would only prolong the work beyond what is reasonable. We therefore took the decision that closing the Castle was the quickest and most effective way to get the work done.

In terms of the main project itself, the works saw the Castle emptied of its collection – the first time this has happened in over 100 years – and then handed over to the main contractor. They then set about installing protection inside the building; mainly in the form of plywood or hardboard. This has given the Castle a strange 'yellow' appearance inside, and with the installation of festoon lighting throughout, the building more resembles a old tin mine than an Edwardian holiday home! Scaffolding has been erected at the Castle but there won’t ever be a total envelopment of the building; the frames will go up in areas in which they are needed and then be taken down once that work is done. The process of removing cementitious material from the walls began internally during winter 2016 and work commenced outdoors in Spring 2017. Winter 2017 should then see the internal finishes done ahead of the scheduled reopening in April of 2018.

Checking behind the existing pointing is important to establish how water is entering the building
A section of wall after work by stone masons to remove pointing

The work is critical to the long-term sustainability of the Castle as a historic building and visitor attraction. Not to act would compromise that sustainability and lead to a level of deterioration that we feel would be unacceptable Much of the work and investment  is in our specialists seeking to find some long term solutions to remedy or manage some long term problems – not least water ingress. We hope this investment will improve the condition and environs of the castle and help inform our investment in the castle in years to come.