Company carves out a name for itself in cloisters

A SYMPATHETIC conversion of the eastern arm of Chichester Cathedral’s cloisters, and the adjoining St Faith’s House, has been completed by Sussex-based specialist historic buildings contractor, Cathedral Works Organisation (CWO).

The company was recently commended for the project in the Repair and Restoration section of the Stone Federation’s Natural Stone Awards 2010.

CWO secured the contract to restore the Eastern Arm of the Cathedral Cloisters and the adjoining St Faith’s House in July 2009. The restoration project was funded by the Chichester Cathedral Restoration & Development Trust which relies on donations and fundraising to help preserve the beauty of this famous landmark. It was directed by architects and historic buildings consultants Molyneux Kerr, and Richard Meynell, Cathedral Architect.

The 15th Century Cloisters required essential repairs to the roof and windows.

The stonework on the windows showed extensive signs of weathering; CWO therefore removed the affected areas, replaced the stone and smoothed over and blended it for a homogenous effect.

The leaded lights were restored, with the glass removed, cleaned, conserved and the windows re-leaded.

Removing the entire roof, CWO salvaged as many of the original tiles as possible before retiling with the originals as well as other tiles salvaged from local buildings of the same period to maintain consistency.

With some of the timber also in a state of disrepair new oak pegs needed replacing where old ones had rotted away. In addition, the buttresses required careful restoration work and rebuilding.

To make the East Cloister a more useable space, CWO was also tasked with adding lighting, heating and power. All of these services have been carefully hidden away to maintain the original feel of antiquity.

Meanwhile, St Faith’s House, formerly a medieval chapel that stands adjacent to the cloisters at Chichester Cathedral, also required urgent restoration work to its windows and roof.

This involved careful conservation work on the original stone work of the windows and lead work, in addition to structural work on the roof and retiling.

Again, CWO took care to achieve a subtle end result by using as many of the original tiles as possible, some of which pre-dated the 1477 tile size regulation law. St Faith’s House was also partly re-wired, the insulation improved, and new gutters and down pipes added.

Bernard Burns, managing director of CWO said: “The Cathedral is a huge part of our local life and of our company history. CWO was originally set up back in 1965 by the Dean and Chapter of Chichester Cathedral to carry out conservation works on the Cathedral, so it has been particularly pleasing for us to be back 15 years later.”

CWO is today an independently-owned company with a turnover of £10 million, nine shareholders and more than 115 staff. Most of its team are from the Chichester area and it runs a three-year apprenticeship scheme with three to six apprentices at CWO at any given time.

CWO’s work in the local community includes restoration work on bridges, castles, churches, country walls, famous schools including Roedean and Christ’s Hospital, stately homes including Petworth House, Goodwood House and Wiston House, conservation of Memorial Crosses across the south, as well as restoration work for individuals on bay windows, fireplaces and patios.