The Charnel House

DBR Conservation

The Charnel House is a fourteenth century stone building, and part of the Scheduled Monument of The Priory of St Mary Spital.

It survived the Suppression of the Monasteries in 1538-9 by becoming a domestic house but was demolished around 1700. Much of the fallen stone was deposited within the structure, along with a great deal of rubble from the Great Fire. This rapid infilling and complete burial secured its survival, as the Charnel House

has not been modified, bombed or badly restored, like so many other medieval buildings in London. It is a remarkably authentic medieval ruin.

It was discovered and excavated in 1999 and has since been preserved in a dedicated space within a Norman Foster designed sunken courtyard in Bishops Square. Although it is protected from the outside elements, there are substantial RH fluctuations inside its enclosure, and consequently there has been some deterioration over the last decade, primarily to the pointing and the softer stone.

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In September of 2017, DBR Conservation carried out the conservation treatments recommended by Odgers Conservation Ltd. During the programme, allowance was made for public and private tours for interested parties such as the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and Historic England.

In summary, the work consisted of the removal of all loose friable materials, re-setting of loose stones, which were a mix of Reigate and Kentish Ragstone, decorative flint and later brick additions, re-pointing of friable mortar, grouting and consolidation of friable stone and plasterwork with nanolime, and the introduction of supports to precarious stone structures. One exciting discovery during the consolidation works was decorative polychromy on the Romanesque spolia: a scheme of four distinct colours black, white, dark red, and a light pink.

 

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