Last year repairs took place to the wall of the Second Marshalsea Prison, at the northern edge of St George's Churchyard Gardens. I lead local history walks, and many times have visited the gardens with a group or as a walker to view the prison remains. I shared the concerns several people raised here about the extent of new brickwork: Had this historic wall had been altered unnecessarily? How had this happened to a listed structure?
I emailed an enquiry to the parks manager. Subsequently a structural engineer from Southwark Council
phoned and explained in detail the problems which had been faced in repairing the wall and making it safe. He mentioned the churchyard and wall belong to the Diocese of London. I asked if the council would provide a statement on the works for sharing on the Forum, and it was arranged that I’d put a request in writing. The questions I asked were:-
a) Why was so much brickwork replaced?
b) What are the management arrangements between the Diocese and Southwark Council
c) Which body paid for the repairs?
d) Does the Diocese have any ongoing responsibility, and if so, what?
e) Could extensive rebuilding have been avoided if the Diocese had maintained the wall better?
f) Finally, a local history colleague noticed parts of the wall had been ‘over-pointed’ (too much mortar had been applied), so I added that issue.
Just before Christmas area parks manager Nina Chantry sent the following response:
“The wall comprised a 91 m length mass brick construction of up to 4.5 m high, 550 mm wide, in Flemish Bond clay bricks. Piers were located along the northern elevation varying from 4-10 m spacing, approx 225 mm deep, and of varying sizes.
Following concerns from Council staff at the Gardens, an inspection of the wall was carried out which determined it to be structurally unsound and in parts leaning over towards St Georges Garden at distances between 450-650 mm. There was also evidence of the wall rotating due to saturated ground and possible inadequate foundations to prevent this failure mode. The wall was considered to be a danger to the public with the options to either close St Georges Gardens or to refurbish the damaged sections of the wall.
Additional defects included:
• Leaning and bulging to extensive areas of the wall.
• Large structural cracking present throughout the length of the wall.
• No expansion joints giving rise to expansion and contraction issues during hot and cold periods respectively.
The wall had suffered continual water saturation with extensive frost damage to the bricks, causing a large percentage of the mortar and bricks to disintegrate. There was extensive plant growth on the wall that, combined with the cracking, was leading to accelerated further damage. The original coping stones were beyond economical repair and contributing to the above mentioned problems.
The refurbishment was intended to be sympathetic to the original build and where possible, all bricks that were not damaged were reclaimed and used in the wall refurbishment, with areas of the original mortar failure being were raked out and repointed. However, I note your concerns for over-pointing and have arranged for an inspection to be carried out as soon as possible.
A full drainage system was designed and installed as part of the refurbishment works.
As part of the design and consultation process for the refurbishment works, we liaised with the following bodies:
1. Council Conservation team
2. English Heritage
3. Council Planning department
4. Ministry of Justice
5. Coroners Office plus consultant archaeologist
With respect to your specific questions, the Diocese have advised that the council is responsible for maintaining the St George’s Garden including the boundary walls. The Council have accepted this and there is therefore no on-going responsibility to the Diocese for the wall. Obviously the extensive refurbishment could have been less if there had been an on-going maintenance regime for the wall but unfortunately this was not the case. During the refurbishment the wall, it became clear that previous repairs had been undertaken at different times with varying techniques, brick types and mortar strength variations. However, there are no Council records of these repairs. Going forward, the wall has been added to the Council stock of maintained structures and will be subject to both General and Principal Inspections at 2 and 6 year intervals respectively.
The works were funded through Council capital funds allocated for this purpose.
I hope the above addresses your questions but please do not hesitate to contact me if you should require any further information.”
Nina’s email address is Nina.Chantry@southwark.gov.uk