During 2017 and early 2018 the Nave, Choir and West Front of the cathedral will be undergoing a programme of repair work, funded by the Welsh Government’s Historic Environment Agency, Cadw, and the Friends of Llandaff Cathedral.
Background to the Project
The Bathstone ‘detached’ shafts at clerestory level are splitting due to internal corrosion of iron cramps used in the re-construction of 1859 to tie the shafts to the surrounding stonework.
When iron corrodes it expands considerably, with enough force to split stone. It is likely that moisture got into the stone following the bomb damage in 1941 (when the clerestory was left exposed to the elements until the current roof was installed in 1953), and this moisture has accelerated corrosion of the iron.
Each of the 84 Nave and 12 West Front internal detached shafts will be carefully dismantled to remove the embedded ironwork and repair the stonework. New stainless steel cramps and dowels will be inserted, and the shaft stones will be repaired and reinstated in their original positions. The surrounding stonework will have a light clean to remove the worst excesses of carbon encrustation.
The dowel hole and cramp inside a shaft
The cost of scaffolding the entire Nave and Choir is considerable, and it will make sense to do as much work as possible while the scaffold is in place.
The clerestory windows will be repaired and cleaned as part of the project. The leaded windows are secured to horizontal iron tie bars. During the 1950s restoration the tie bars were attached to brass spigots which were embedded into notches in the reveals of the windows with hard mortar. Most of these fixing spigots are now loose. This causes the windows to rattle with wind pressure and even when the organ is played, which in turn leads to cracking of the glass.
Stainless steel angle sections will be installed to hold the existing brass spigots against the stone reveals, to avoid dismantling the windows (a very expensive process). The brackets will be toned-down to make them less noticeable – the recipe involves a mixture of gold size, pure turpentine and burnt umber pigment. The plain glazing also needs a thorough clean inside and out, and this will be done carefully with cotton swabs.
The 1953 hardwood ceiling is stained in places from past roof leaks, and these stains will be also removed in areas that can be accessed. Render will also be repaired and re-decorated.
The project includes a training programme of five three-week training blocks for trainees who are considering a career in building conservation.
Scaffolds will be erected in phases between June and November 2017 and from January to April 2018, with breaks for key events and festivals in the cathedral. The work will mean some disruption to visitor access and services at times, and this will be communicated to visitors and the local community throughout the project.
Advent is a season of waiting and preparing. Do we know what we’re waiting and preparing for? In one sense, yes; we’re waiting and preparing for the commemoration of Jesus’ birth at Christmas and, by extension, for his prophesied return or Second Coming. But, in another sense, no; we are waiting and preparing for something beyond our imaginings. Mary knew she was expecting a baby, but she didn’t know who he would turn out to be. The Magi knew the stars foretold the birth of a king, but they didn’t expect to find him in a cattle trough. Strangely, it was the shepherds – the least prepared for any cosmic event – who received the clearest and most direct message about what was happening. In Advent, we may be waiting and preparing for God to show up, but perhaps it will be in ways we least expect.