19 Apr Pevensey Castle
Projecting out in what was once a peninsula of the Sussex coast, Pevensey Castle is an impressive ruin which stands on high ground. This naturally defensible site was first fortified by the Romans and was most famously the place where the Norman Conquest of England began, when William the Conqueror landed there on 28th September 1066.
The castle has been at the centre of protecting England’s shores for millennia, forming part of a defensive network of forts running between Brancaster in Norfolk and Portchester in Hampshire – commonly known as The Saxon Shore Forts. These forts acted on behalf of the military command of the late Roman Empire and saw fortifications erected on both sides of the English Channel.
The earliest ruins point to Roman occupation back in the late 3rd Century under the Roman-Britannic Emperor Allectus and it most recently formed a similar role in providing command and observation posts during World War II. Pevensey became neglected during Tudor times and as explained above, although used briefly once again as a defence during WWII, has remained unoccupied and ostensibly ruinous since the 16th Century.
The outer walls are oval in shape and enclose a ten-acre site, making it one of the largest surviving Roman forts in Britain. Although today it sits 1000 metres inland, it was originally located overlooking the water. William the Conqueror built temporary defences at Pevensey, which were later developed into a more substantial medieval castle, much of which has survived, creating a rich vein of archaeology. Today, Pevensey stands as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and is managed by English Heritage. The boundary walls are readily open to the public, with the Inner Bailey containing a visitor’s centre; allowing the story of all previous inhabitants to be retold.
Vegetation has taken a stronghold around the ruin and in places deep root systems penetrate the masonry threatening to cause irreversible damage. Our team will need to carefully remove this taking care not to destabilise the surrounding material. In order to prevent the monument changing visually, English Heritage in discussion with the design team, have proposed that in any location where the removal of root systems cause the destabilisation of more than 4 stones, then we are to stop and reflect as a team how best to proceed. This project will then require a tentative approach to repair using injection grouting, lime mortar consolidation and localised re-bedding and repointing of the stone.
As with all ancient monuments, inevitably repairs have been completed over the centuries, with some attempts at restoration being rather more zealous than others. The HM Office of Works completed a number of capping repairs during the 1920’s, these were undertaken with very strong cementicious mortar (as was considered the ‘go to’ solution at the time). Many of these interventions are still in place and as can be expected, they remain solid, showing little or no sign of deterioration. They are however responsible for the exacerbated breakdown of adjacent material, bound by softer lime mortars and so where it is possible to remove these without widescale dismantle, they are being replaced. Where stable however, the capping is being retained as current removal processes would be too damaging. This in the hope that future technologies may allow for a less aggressive removal process which will allow the ruin to retain its current shape.
An area has been identified as a test bed for Hot Lime mortars too, although it is not clear how these will fair in the salt laden marine environment.
The project is set to run over 2 phases with works being completed up until the end of the lime season in 2018 and starting again in spring of 2019 – avoiding the colder temperatures. As the location is so exposed, it was considered just too risky trying to complete works over the winter months and better to allow works to be phased. Phase I will concentrate on the Roman boundary walls and Phase II will then focus on the Medieval Bailey.