The Building Conservation Directory 2024

28 THE BUILDING CONSERVATION DIRECTORY 2024 CATHEDRAL COMMUNICATIONS SAFETY NETTING An emergency works case study ELENI MAKRI IN EARLY August 2023 protective netting was installed from a MEWP (mobile elevated work platform) to several areas of the tower and spire of St Mary’s and St Stephen’s Church Hornsey Rise, in the London Borough of Islington. The installation was carried out in locations already identified as being at high risk of stone fragmentation and collapse, and of producing falling debris. The aim was to provide short term but adequate protection for both the building and the general public, until full repairs could be funded. This article outlines the process which culminated in this installation. The opportunity is also taken to provide a brief note on the wider application of protective netting in the conservation and preservation of historic fabric and in ensuring public safety: as we will see its use is not limited to places of worship alone but also includes historic secular buildings in urban contexts and archaeological sites alike. The value of close-up surveys of highlevel masonry using drone photography and a MEWP is also highlighted, including cases where biological growth is present. ST MARY’S TOWER AND SPIRE The Grade II listed church is dated 1860 and designed by Alexander Dick Gough. The south-west tower and spire date from 1868. The tower is in four stages, displaying first a double-chamfered south door and a pair of one-light windows with cusped heads to the west at the lowest stage; then cross loops to the second stage on the south and west; followed by cast iron clock faces with stone lozenge surrounds on the east, south and west facades to the third stage above. The bell stage is set back and has paired louvered openings with cusped lights, trefoils to heads and crocketed gable hoodmoulds, offset angle buttresses, and corbel tables on all four facades. The broach spire is in four tiers with symbols of the evangelists to the base, shafted and gabled niches on top of broaches and two tiers of lucarnes to the cardinal directions. The church forms part of the urban fabric of Ashley Road, the residential street in which it sits, with the tower and south entrance through the tower set only slightly back from the public pavement. The condition of the tower stonework, in combination with its location on the street front, became the cause of serious concern in recent times when half of each of the two string courses on the south façade, below Safety barricades in place at St Mary’s during the installation of protective netting (Photo: Eleni Makri) the clock face, sheared off and collapsed on the pavement. Fortunately, the loss of original historic fabric aside, nobody was hurt. However, and rightly so, the event caused alarm, instigating investigations into the condition of the tower and spire stonework. There had been several slow leaks from the roof into the interior of the church. A professional photographic drone survey was therefore instructed to document at first the condition of the roof and then that of the tower and spire masonry.