Lindisfarne project update - October 2017

Barn owls shown at their nesting site at Lindisfarne Castle

Its almost a year since the contractors moved in, so we thought it was time for a look back over what has gone on so far and at the work still to come in the final few months ahead of reopening in April 2018. One of the biggest talking points though has to be the discovery of some rather cute residents occupying an old latrine shaft...


Stone masons have been working onsite since the start of the project to hack out cement from joints in the walls and replace it with porous lime mortar. Before doing that though, any voids in the wall were packed and pinned; using stone ‘pins’ and mortar to fill the core of the wall to stop water tracking into the building

Once the walls are ready, then a final coat of lime plaster can be applied to finish the job. This final coat has now been applied to many areas inside and looks fantastic. 

Outside, masons have also been hacking out cement pointing and replacing with lime. To finish the wall though, a ‘sneck harl’ is being applied. This is a covering of lime and sand with a fine aggregate of small stones designed to act like a protective blanket to the wall, but not totally covering it so the stonework will still be visible.The south and east elevations now have their sneck-harl applied and it looks great, although it'll be good to see it once the scaffolding is removed. 

Watery windows
Specialist glaziers have been working both off and onsite to refurbish all of our 108 windows. We are also reintroducing 19 opening windows which were removed in the 1940s. The three large stone tracery windows on the north side – introduced by Lutyens in 1903 – are also being extensively restored. So far we have about two-thirds of the windows in, and the remaining ones are simply those where scaffolding hasn't yet been constructed around the western end of the Castle. 

The roof at Lindisfarne was often the root of the problems the Castle had with water ingress; in fact, 64% of the roof space once drained into a single downpipe. The roof levels are being altered and new additional downpipes are being introduced to help take water away from the building more efficiently. Much of the work to the eastern side of the roof is now done and we about to start phase two, which covers the Long Gallery and Upper Gallery as well as the pantile roof on the north side. 


Some of the work had to halt earlier this year due to the discovery of a barn owl nest in one of the Castle's Tudor latrine chutes. To eliminate the chance of disturbing the birds, we brought in a 20-metre exclusion zone in the scaffolding enabling the work to continue elsewhere while protecting the owls.

The special treatment of the nesting pair has been a resounding success – four chicks are now just days from fledging.

Matthew Oates, nature specialist at the National Trust, said, “We need to allow nature to move in where it chooses, and give it the time and space it needs. This is not a problem, it’s something we appreciate, and accept. As a conservation charity, we regularly adapt our work due to the opportunism of wildlife.”

A 2016 report collated by the Barn Owl Trust recorded over 6,000 potential barn owl nest sites and over 1,000 active nests across the UK. The report also suggests that climate change, intensively managed farmland and a lack of prey-rich habitats have contributed to low barn owl population density.

Lindisfarne Castle from the west showing project scaffolding

Lindisfarne Castle conservation appeal 

The exposed location of Lindisfarne Castle means that the fabric of the building is under constant pressure from the elements. The resulting problems reached a point where action had to be taken

Stone erosion at Lindisfarne Castle

Lindisfarne Castle Major Project 2016-2018

The exposed coastal location of Lindisfarne Castle means that the fabric of the building is under constant pressure from the elements. The time has come to undertake vital conservation work to safeguard the building for years to come.