Recclesia

Wervin Chapel was deconsecrated in the eighteenth century and was very quickly robbed of much of its red sandstone fabric, having stood since before the 1200s as a chapel of ease to the Abbey of St Werburgh’s in Chester. As the building became ruinous and the neighbouring farm grew larger, the chapel was given a new but somewhat less holy function as a cow shed.

  • Client English Heritage
  • Architect Blackett-Ord Conservation
  • Status Grade I SAM

The Full Story

The partially standing remains of the North and East elevations are designated as both a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Listed Building. Despite there being little fabric still evident, English Heritage commissioned much needed conservation works to prevent the total loss of the historic site. Following the extensive process of documenting the site, the objective for Recclesia’s masonry conservation specialists was to conserve as found any sections of the chapel that were still standing, and to uncover and consolidate what was left of the footings of the elevations. The intention was very much to ensure that the monument was not only stable and able to take weather, but that its original form could be read and understood by visitors.

The footings were excavated under archaeological watch and each stone found was carefully cleaned of soil, moss and root growth. A number of worked stones were uncovered, including several sections of the east window and a large kneeler stone from the east gable. Some remains of glazed floor tiles were also found fully intact during the dig. After carrying out a long inventory of material, Recclesia’s stonemasons began consolidating the core of the standing stones and footings. The excavated stones were used to rebuild a section of the east elevation, meaning that all the unearthed original fabric was retained and reused. Hydraulic lime mortars were used with local sands to bed and point and larger gaps in the structure were galletted using excavated smaller stones, slates and tile. The standing walls were tested for water traps and carefully placed lime mortar was used to ensure that the structure was able to shed water as best it could as a defence against excessive weathering.

The remaining elevations were conserved to a point at which the rate of decay has been significantly slowed and the layout of the original building is more readily apparent to anyone visitors. Root growth and surface vegetation were removed from the core and from the footings, reducing the risk of structural damage to the monument and below-ground damage to the archaeology of the site. The masonry itself was given a fighting chance of survival thanks to the use of appropriately mixed and applied lime mortars, descaling of the friable surface and careful introduction of weather-shedding aids.

Without such work being commissioned by English Heritage, the historic remains of the chapel would certainly have been lost. But following the work by Recclesia’s stonemasons, the conserved remains stand as a very clear marker of the history of the site and the local area.