Eastgate opening. Image - Andy Marshall
Chester City Walls are Roman in origin but largely post-medieval and form an almost complete circuit of approximately 3km around the former medieval city. Chester is the only city in Britain that retains the full circuit of its ancient defensive walls and is a recognised Scheduled Monument. Under the responsibility of Cheshire West and Chester Council, the co-ordination of repairs to the Eastgate, its clock and adjacent walls got underway in Autumn 2014.
The Grade I listed Eastgate was constructed in 1768, it replaced previous gates and formed the main entrance to the city, with its wrought iron clock tower erected later, designed by architect John Douglas to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria.
The Eastgate repairs and adjacent walls resulted in necessary interruption to the normal walking route around the City Walls, while much needed conservation and repairs were carried out as the result of years of water ingress and progressive movement along this stretch.
Conservation and repair work included; significant masonry repairs, removal of the existing bituminous surfacing and replacement with stone paving on a new waterproofing layer, improvement to drainage, and altering of the walls centre of gravity.
Specialist Eastgate Clock repairs
Specialist repairs carried out on the Eastgate clock, included a complete repainting of the decorative wrought ironwork and the clock. Previous poor quality repairs to the ironwork were replaced, and the original paint scheme and gilding painstakingly reinstated. The clock was given a new mechanism and improved lighting.
Previous archaeological investigations and excavations on a section to the North of Eastgate were temporarily and sensitively backfilled in 2014 whilst consent was gained for proposed works, which included the permanent masonry repair to help prevent further rotation of the structure. Further archaeological excavations resulted in an additional design solution submitted to Historic England for Scheduled Monument consent, which was approved on a further section on the City Wall, completing the conservation work on this 30 metre stretch.
Minimising water ingress is critical to the ongoing preservation of this Scheduled Monument. Diversion and improvements made to the existing drainage, alongside waterproofing measures and masonry repairs to the City Wall to the South of the Eastgate were also carried out, in additional to improvements to access along the way, with tactile paving and additional handrails.
Hemmed in by buildings and accessible only from one end, the linear shape site in the busy city centre location required careful planning and management. An image of Eastgate was printed onto a scaffold wrap to maintain the appearance of the main street and proved almost as popular a photographic subject as the real thing.
Fay Newham, Conservation Engineer and Ramboll Associate says: “This project is the latest in a long-standing involvement in the conservation of Chester City Walls, going back to 1990. It is a testament to our relationship with the Council that we have been trusted with the repair of the most iconic landmark in the city”.