YOUGHAL TOWN COUNCIL is currently considering a Conservation Plan conducted with regard to the refurbishment & development of the Clock Gate. The Youghal Socio-Economic Development Group (YSEDG) commissioned Youghal-born consultant Margaret Gowen to conduct the plan, assisted by, amongst others, local architect Dan Noonan.
The work follows last year’s feasibility study, which proposed that it be adapted for multi-purpose uses. That study, conducted by consultants KPMG for the Heritage Council (of Ireland), in conjunction with the Irish Walled Towns Network, outlined four options for each of the tower’s floors: Floor 1: Interpretive heritage centre; F 2: display of local crafts and wares; F 3: Recreation of original tower use as a jail; F 4: Virtual observation desk.
The latest plan analysed the internal and external condition of the building and considered what action needed to be taken prior to proceeding with the recommendation of the feasibility study. This included ‘a preliminary analysis of former works, including the impact of fixtures and fittings installed internally and externally, mostly during the 1970’s.’
Amongst the report’s findings and recommendations are the following:
External walls are generally plumb and there appears to be no problems with building’s foundations.
The elevations facing Cork and Waterford (N & S) are constructed of random old red sandstone in a lime mortar. The East & West (E & W) sides are compiled of random rubble with Cork limestone quoins and string courses.
Cement mortar, which was used to point the exterior sandstone, has become loose in various sections and is damaging the external stonework. Corroding metal fixings are causing further stonework damage. Water ingress (dampness) on the E and W elevations was almost certainly addressed by cement renders at some stage but caused further problems additional research is needed.
The NW parapet wall is leaning significantly back in towards the cupola (the small, dome-like structure on top of the building), narrowing the gap and preventing access between the two. It is not thought to be ongoing, but copper cladding may be concealing movement. Significant structural works carried out in the early 20th century saw steel bar supports installed in the roof and also to support the decayed timber legs of the cupola. Possibly the leaning parapet was addressed then or even at a later time during further works. Also, there is a slight dip in the middle of the main arch, but this seems also not to be ongoing.
The potential movement of the Western side parapet wall should be investigated and any necessary repairs conducted. The interior dry lining should be removed to allow assessment of the nature of water ingress at the external walls, which would also reveal any decayed lintels or bonding timbers therein. Removing floors and ceilings would also identify any decayed joist ends that may have been corroded by contact with damp walls. Also, research the nature of past external works on the E & W elevations. Remove all fixings that are damaging stonework. Remove vegetation and clean out joints. Replace cement pointing with lime mortar and pinnings. Assess stability of all stonework and repair and restore where necessary. Address moisture penetration issues and replace existing ineffective rainwater goods with more robust cast iron equivalents. Ensure rainwater is removed from base of the building by gullies.
It is also recommended that the galvanised steel hand railing bordering the approach on the jail steps be replaced. It is noted that it “a stair handrail” and is both damaging the steps and a safety risk.
There is much evidence of water ingress and corrosion of steel angles within. The interior of the internal walls are dry lined with plasterboard and consequently it was not possible to access or assess the walls’ interiors, or lintels, bonding timbers, etc. Floors are finished with modern timber and the ceilings with modern cedar. The upper floors are accessed by a spiral, 20th century stairway that diminished space. It is was found, unusually, that the floor to ceiling height was constant for all floors and further exposure works is needed to ascertain whether new floors were installed coincidentally with the staircase.
The dry lining should be removed to assess the lintels, joist ends, etc. If plasterwork is required internally, then lime plaster onto the stonework is recommended.
The existing windows seem to be copies of the original windows. The lower two floors have four rows of panes over two while the upper floors have three rows over two. Some cills and bottoms rails are decayed but remain suitable for repair. Again, dry lining prevents assessment of the internal perimeters and indications as to the original window installation.
Remove the dry lining proximate to the window openings. Remove existing window sashes for repair and repainting. Review condition of lintels and replace if necessary. Review condition of window jams, arches, reveals and cills and repair where needed.
EXISTING BUILDING FABRIC AT ROOF LEVEL:
A 20th century pitched roof access hut over a 20th century roof access stairs is in very poor condition and needs repair or replacement. As it is above the parapet line it may best be replaced with a lower structure.
The roof, finished with trowelled asphalt, is in good condition. Copper sheet that over-clads the parapet walls seems in good condition too but it was not possible to assess it for leaks. Holes in the cladding however, formally light holders, are probably permitting water into the stonework. Copper flashings to the cupola are in good condition generally.
The timber to the cupola is finished with brown paint and needs re-finishing. The roof to the cupola is clad with copper and this has been over-clad with a modern roofing sheet, which can be considered temporary.
The structure of the roof of the cupola is in remarkably good condition considering the degree of decay that previously occurred down lower. The surface of the timbers has been weathered by wind and rain but this is superficial. Much dust and dirt has gathered on the timbers and around the base of the rafters and should be removed a sit holds moisture. The roof is a two king-post truss with a section cut out of each bottom chord where they cross. The bottom chords were fixed by nailed wrought iron straps that have fully corroded and need replacing. Low-key timber elements added to the roof structure are pretty useless.
Repair or replace existing roof access. Strip cupola roof finishes and reinstate copper sheet finish. Inspect the weathervane and repair as necessary. Clean loose debris from interior of roof structure. Assess whether the soft timber on the surface of the roof timbers should be removed to minimise risk of decay. Design and install new metal structural straps to replace corroded straps. Repair parapet copper-work and copper flashings to the base of the cupola. Repair asphalt where needed. Sand down the external timberwork to the existing cupola and redecorate to a suitable colour. Replace existing insect mesh with finer version.
Finally, given the outgoing government’s recent 70% reduction in grant funding to heritage projects across the country, it can be assumed that the necessary remedial and restoration work indicated above will involve longer rather than short term projects.
Click on image to enlarge – plans are from previous renovations to the Clock Gate