Much-needed repair work for historic Winchelsea gate

Pipewell Gate after restoration work SUS-170602-205443001
Pipewell Gate after restoration work SUS-170602-205443001

The Pipewell Gate in Winchelsea has withstood years of damage, from cars crashing into it and weed growth, and various methods of restoration.

These factors meant that the stone structure, while not in danger of falling down on its own, did require some TLC.

Pipewell Gate before restoration work. SUS-170602-205432001

Pipewell Gate before restoration work. SUS-170602-205432001

After failing to receive a grant for £7,500 to pay for the closure of one lane of the A259 and £5,000 to undertake any relevant archaeology, the project was put on hold.

However, with some help from Winchelsea Corporation, it was eventually put right back on track.

John Spencer, of the Corporation, said: “One resident was so concerned that the Gate might be in serious danger of collapse that he invited the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings in to urgently examine the Gate.”

With some funds from the Corporation, donations from residents of the town, and 10 years of accumulated fees from visitors on cellar tours, the most important repairs were able to be carried out.

Following the reduced plan of relevant repairs being agreed by the architect, Historic England for the Secretary of State, and Heritage Stone, the aim was to improve the longevity of the structure by removing the hard cement which had been used as a temporary fix.

Mr Spencer said: “This work replacing hard cement with lime mortar allows the walls to ‘breathe’ better.

“The lower halves of all the walls already had lime mortar in and, as you can see in the photos the new lime mortar approved by Historic England, was used higher up where hard cement was present.”

The saplings and weeds on the roof were sprayed three times to kill all vegetation.

This dead vegetation was removed, and lime mortar applied to residual holes and cracks in the cemented areas of the roof, which resulted in more extensive work than planned for.

Four Quoin stones that had been put in 15 years ago, had been described by some as an eyesore. After several attempts, a much more sympathetic matching of these un-weathered stones with a vegetable dye was achieved.

They now blend with the rest of the Gate’s stonework, and the feedback from local residents has been overwhelmingly positive.

Some new quoin stones also replaced very worn ones in the arch facing the A259.

The work was completed on time and within budget, with the total spent on increasing the longevity and improving the appearance of the Gate finishing at £36,000.

The Corporation is now looking into repairs to the Court Hall fabric.

This project is expected to be more expensive than the Pipewell Gate repairs, therefore an appeal may be launched soon, as well as an application for a grant.

The Corporation says it is very important that these monuments have careful maintenance in the interest of generations to come.

Mr Spencer added: “These wonderful monuments to a bygone age are so important nationally that they are deserving of high-quality, careful maintenance for future generations.

“Who knows if a future artist equivalent to JMW Turner might not pass by and be moved to paint our Gates again.”

For more information about the work of the Winchelsea Corporation, visit the website at www.winchelsea.com/corporation.

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