Lincoln Cathedral : the evolving perception and practice of care in an historic masonry structure

Lincoln Cathedral : the evolving perception and practice of care in an historic masonry structure

By Michael O’Connor

PhD Dissertation, De Montfort University, 1997

Abstract: The study concentrates mainly on the circumstances that surround Lincoln Cathedral, a major masonry structure that appears always to have possessed an in-house maintenance team. During the past century, several significant campaigns of repair have produced sufficient documentation to examine the evolution of changing attitudes in caring for the masonry structure. Examination of such records, combined with study of the relevant areas of the building itself, are influential in addressing the needs of the building by forming a critical awareness, not only of the actual work applied to the structure, but of the nature of the skills that are available to carry the work out.

In carrying out effective maintenance it is necessary to gain an intelligence of the structure itself, in its historic context. This will help to identify the likely weaknesses in engineering design as environmental conditions change and the constructional materials weaken due to attrition and the passing of time. An intimate knowledge of limestone, the principal structural material, and the agencies of deterioration and decay, is essential in combating what may be perceived as inevitable failure. This is assisted by understanding the local systems of decision-making, as policy is formulated within national perceptions of cathedral care.

The thesis is structured in six parts, the first five covering areas of necessary understanding, both in the technical and historical sense, prior to outlining methods of initiating maintenance action. Case studies present illustrations of relative success and failure in understanding and implementation. It can be seen that failure can impose serious consequences that reach far into the future. Practical examples are presented of areas of difficulty in the routes of communication and approval. The question of skills is addressed, and the main methodologies associated with care of historic buildings are described. Part six identifies and defines deficiencies in these skills, and recommendations are made for improvements.

Click here to read this thesis from De Montfort University

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