Battling the elements


Even during the renovation of Lindisfarne Castle by Edwin Lutyens for Edward Hudson a century ago, we know there were problems with the building and keeping the weather out.

" Of course the Castle is at present a very long way off being in "good and substantial repair", even the roofs are not watertight"
- Edward Hudson, 1902

The issue at Lindisfarne has always been (and will always be) the environment. High on Beblowe Crag with commanding views of the coastline and sea, it is easy to see why a military building was constructed here and indeed why Hudson fell in love with the place. But these enviable features also carry a flipside, with the exposed situation meaning the weather is a constant problem for the building. 

Where there have been problems here in the past, the owners (ourselves included) have tended towards 'quick-fix' solutions. What sets this current work apart is that we plan to run a series of trials around the building; differents methods, different materials, different places. After a period of exposure to the weather, we should know what works best and where. 

The reasoning

The idea behind the work is to try out a number of methods designed to combat the problem we have at the Castle with water ingress. We have leaking windows, issues with guttering and downpipes, and moisture getting in through the walls (and not going out again).

Many of the Castle's 101 windows leak during heavy rain
A window in the Entrance Hall at Lindisfarne Castle leaking during a heavy shower
Many of the Castle's 101 windows leak during heavy rain

Certain materials used in the past during maintenance work are hindering the movement of moisture through the structure, and so causing problems in certain areas.

We have identified a number of key areas where particular methods can be trialled, monitored and evaluated. This will then feed into a major project in 2017 when these methods can be rolled out throughout the building.

Trial areas

Four main areas are being worked on; the Upper Gallery, West Bedroom, Lower Battery and Upper Battery.

The Upper Gallery

Chosen because of its history of high humidity, this room has four external walls and can be treated both internally and externally without scaffolding. Like the West Bedroom below it had been dry lined, given the room an extra internal layer, with a gap behind. Part of the trial has been to find out what lies beneath. We will remove and replace a couple of windows with newly designed fittings to better stop water penetration. 

The West Bedroom

This room was chosen for similar reasons to the Upper Gallery, although given the cost of an external scaffold to the north wall we would not be able to try out new window designs. One of the first discoveries in this room was the presence of two sections of Victorian railway line acting as a structural joist above the window. This suggests that many more windows around the building are similarly supported. 

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

The Lower Battery

Specifically area around the four southern-most Kitchen windows, the battery lies on the exposed Eastern side of the Castle. This is usually sheltered from the prevailing weather, but given the number of window insertions and structural changes made by Lutyens, there are a lot of ways for water to get in.

The wall around the windows have had the pointing hacked out from between the stones. This was found to consist of hard cement pointing on the surface and this has been be removed and replaced with a more porous lime mortar.

Below the windows some samples of possible mortar finishes have been applied and will be tested over the next year or so. This is the rough, spread pointing that we see on the Country Life images, and not the full harling which is present on the North face of the Castle.

Inside the Kitchen the wall above the window has been stripped of its lath and plaster lining and observations could then be made of the inside of the stone work. Four of the leaking windows have been replaced with new designs, but retaining the old glass and leadwork.

The Upper Battery

Work has been carried out to the South Western ‘panel’ of the Upper Gallery/West Bedroom elevation. Here quoin stones which have badly weather have been removed and replaced, broken window mullions have been repaired (ahead of the new windows being installed) and new mortar finishes will be tried here too. 

The masons packed the walls with hairy mortar before adding the new stones
A mason preparing a wall for a new quoin stone at Lindisfarne Castle
The masons packed the walls with hairy mortar before adding the new stones

And then?

As touched on earlier, the plan would be to montior and measure these areas over the next few months at the same time plan a programme of works for the following year. Ideally, we would then be able to attend to the entire building. The methods used would be recorded in our Conservation Management Plan, allowing our successors to understand our reasoning and hopefully continue to protect the building long into the future.