Scope of the project

We’re blessed in the North East with a plethora of historic monuments and buildings.  They’re so woven into the fabric of our everyday lives that many of us are probably guilty of taking them for granted. Millions of tourists travel to Las Vegas every year to lay their eyes on fake Eiffel Towers and Venice’s Rialto Bridge – whilst here in England we’ll casually walk past a Norman-built church approaching 1000 years of age on our way to the newsagents.

We love heritage survey projects. Whilst we are still passionate about producing topographical survey reports for brownfield sites awaiting a housing development, there is something extra special about being part of a heritage, archeological or conservational project.

Warkworth in Northumberland, even by North East standards, punches above its weight when it comes to heritage sites.  This small, coastal village boasts a medieval castle, but our survey skills were required to feed into a different kind of fortification project – that of preservation works at the somewhat beleaguered Church of St. Lawrence, colloquially known as “Warkworth Church”. 

Standing on the site of an original Anglo Saxon church, the Norman place of worship saw a Victorian roof added and that relatively modern renovation has contributed to the tower falling away from the main building due to the weight – perhaps “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” isn’t always a compliment after all.

Our measured building survey report was needed to feed into plans for preservation work relating to the tower and a single room upstairs which used to be home to a priest but was then turned into a boy’s classroom at the end of the 1700s.  The measured building survey was to include floors plans, elevations and stone-by-stone elevations of the tower and both sides of the porch area beneath the old priest’s room.

Site and technical challenges

They say that for an easier life try to avoid discussing politics or religion.  We’re more than happy to oblige regarding the former, but our team doesn’t always want an easy life.  We love a challenge and much of the ecclesiastical survey work we’re involved with presents unique challenges – the Church of St Lawrence didn’t disappoint.

There is always the chance of a “last minute” church service but thankfully this didn’t happen on this occasion.  But one challenge throughout this measured building survey was the close proximity to other buildings – we almost had to get our old geometry sets out at times to figure out how to find the right space and angles to capture all of the required data.

As you might expect with such a historic church, there were some very large mature yew and horse chestnut trees in the churchyard which whilst beautiful did also obscure visibility at times – but we’re used to working with and around nature so took this in our stride.

In order for us to produce the required orthophotography we had to utilise a very high resolution camera due to high contrast lighting whilst scanning the north faces of the church.

The main challenge for this survey project were the tower stones themselves.  Firstly the sheer number of stones used in each face, but also the colour of the mortar had been chosen to match the stone colour – so determining where one stone finished and another started required some eagle-eyed attention to detail – it’s a good job that detail is what we’re all about.

Points of Interest

To be honest – the whole of this church site is of interest to anyone interested in architecture or history – every square metre seemed to present something new but a couple of highlights included:-

Stone effigy – this is apparently from around 1330 and depicts a knight with a shield.  The shield bears the arms of the de Aubyn family from Durham.  Considering the age it is in amazing condition, lying atop a 17th century tomb.

Cross in a window – As Northumberland was at the heart of the birth of Christianity in England St Lawrence bears one of many local examples of a pre-conquest cross on one of the window sills.

If you need a measured building survey or survey advice relating to your heritage project please get in touch with one of our friendly team and we can discuss your specific needs.

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