Gloucester Diocesan Advisory
Architects' Conference 2000
Archaeology and the Architect
Gloucester DAC is fortunate to have recruited Dr David Thackray as Diocesan Archaeology
Adviser (DAA). As Archaeological Officer to the National Trust, he splits his time between the
NT office at Cirencester and working from home near Nailsworth. He is a senior member of
his profession and is currently Vice Chairman of the Institute of Field Archaeologists.
Over the past twenty years both the secular historic buildings system and the ecclesiastical care
of churches system have developed enormously, and very notably in the field of archaeology.
Although their structures are different, their purposes are very similar, namely to ensure that
work done to our buildings does not result in destruction of evidence of the history of the
buildings, or of their predecessors. If such destruction cannot be mitigated or avoided
altogether, then there must be a strategy in place for proper recording.
We are now becoming used to the concept of appraisal, which should take place at the outset
and which might lead to refusal of a proposal, or the possible requirement for an evaluation.
Typically an evaluation will take the form of one or more trial trenches to determine just how
sensitive the area is. As a result of that exercise, a final decision can be taken either to refuse
the consent, to modify the proposals or to allow them subject to proper recording conditions.
An evaluation is not always necessary, as the appraisal may show that the work needs no
archaeological strategy or perhaps a limited one of a watching brief and record.
Most of our architects have now had some experience of these procedures, and the parishes
also realise that archaeology may be part of their project. Funding specifically for archaeological
work is unusual, however many grant making bodies will now quite properly regard it as part of
the cost of the work, when considering applications.
As DAA, David will expect an appraisal where proposals are likely to have archaeological
implications. He is able to help by preparing briefs for archaeological exercises, and can give
advice about obtaining archaeological services. Another important area of his work is to
harmonise requirements where there is dual jurisdiction ie a need for planning consent as well
as faculty. A good example would be for extension of a church, or a new structure in the
What kind of work is most sensitive in archaeological terms? One of the most damaging types
of work is the creation of French drains, or of renewing existing drainage runs. We do not
actually get that much casework of this type, although a recent example at Farmington showed
just how drastic the effect can be. New buildings or extensions in churchyards have obvious
archaeological consequences, and wherever possible architects should plan the work with a
minimum of alteration of ground levels. Moving indoors, almost any work to floors is likely to
By comparison, one of the most common projects involving archaeological conditions will be
the introduction or re-routing of a service trench. David agreed that these often involve quite
shallow excavation in ground which has already been disturbed, and the subsequent reports of
watching briefs may yield little information. As the DAC Chairman remarked, an archaeological
mitigation strategy is not (yet) needed for digging a grave, so there is perhaps a danger of
becoming over-cautious about relatively small incisions.
A common assumption is that "it is all right if we follow the path". In fact the path may well be
one of the few areas which has not been dug over, but on the other hand the likelihood of
stratified deposits may not be that high.
In discussion, Charles Parry, for the County Council Archaeology Department, urged architects
to consult at the earliest stage. Problems are much easier to resolve at the outset, and major
archaeological requirements can still come as an unwelcome surprise late in the day to parishes.
David Haigh, for the South Gloucestershire District Council (a Unitary Authority where
archaeology is dealt with in-house by the Conservation Officer) was concerned about
enforcement. The architect has a role to play particularly in ensuring that subsequent
alterations to an agreed programme are properly reported back to the DAA. In practice a
great deal depends on the integrity of the developer (in our case the PCC) and the professional
adviser, since variations can otherwise be set in hand on an ad hoc basis, and once the work is
done, damage cannot be reversed.
"One foot in the past" or "not above borrowing"
Asked to state his occupation, Rory Young would reply "art worker". Not artist, art worker.
This is not semantics, it's fundamental philosophy to Rory. His opening paragraphs explained it
all - a splendid apologia for the creations he was soon to reveal to us. It is so important that
we reproduce his words here:
"The main objective in my design work - as in my conservation work - is to honour the building
by enhancing its existing qualities, carefully enriching it with humanistic detail and scale. My
work is traditional and figurative; it searches for and pays respect to the appropriate canon and
style. I enjoy the nature of materials - their characteristics and limitations.
"I aim to make a competent work of craftsmanship that relates to its architectural context, and
yet aesthetically will stand on its own two feet. Architectural propriety is important to me. I
attempt an economy of line, leading to a certain cleanness and 'simplicity', whilst it is hoped that
a buoyancy of form counteracts any tendency to sterility. I am conscious that detail, if it is not
carefully edited, can easily descend into clutter.
"Although I underwent a Fine Arts training I had to realise from student days onwards that I
was not artist material. Instead I fall into the category of Operative Artist, or Art Worker. In
the twentieth century Fine Art has divorced itself from the Building Arts and Crafts, and thus
from the buildings themselves. Twentieth century art has become precious and essentially
egotistical. It says: "Look at me!" By contrast mediaeval art, for example, is usually related to
architecture and is essentially anonymous; it is the result of aggregative effort. "I believe that
working in close harmony with a particular building, and being part of a long tradition does not
preclude the opportunity for artistic expression. My priority is for new work to fit quietly in its
location. If it also conveys a spiritual message, or stirs the emotions, that's a bonus".
Following this high-octane introduction, Rory showed us some recent examples of his work,
commenting on the brief and the constraints of each opportunity and describing the main
elements of his design. Those who were unlucky enough to miss this talk may appreciate a list
of some of the work which Rory described - see below. Since his very major project at York
Minster in 1994/98, he has been doing an increasing amount of sculpture, using the principles he
set out in his opening paragraphs.
It is above all his enormous breadth of art historical observation which delegates will remember
from this talk. "Not above borrowing" is far too modest a description of Rory's ability to draw
in to a project his store of architectural ideas. Who would have expected for example, in a
three-way stone garden seat, to see the "scooped out" curves of the Roman Baroque, inspired
by Borromini's church of St Ivo, and on the same piece, the finest ashlar on the front and
limewashed rubble on the back?
Rory's sculptures embody the most painstaking attention to detail - nothing is left to chance. A
particularly striking example of this is his recent figure of the Revd Nathaniel Woodard at Kings
College, Taunton. The constraints here were numerous, as there was already a figure of King
Alfred in the corresponding niche to the other side of the main door. The only known
likenesses of Woodard are a recumbent effigy, with facial details taken from a death mask, and a
painting. It was Rory's task to bring these alive into a sculpture, accurately clothed but with
hanging drapery "like linenfold panelling". The result, quite simply, must be seen.
We are fortunate to have in Gloucestershire an artist of such versatility and skill. The good
news for those who missed this talk is that Rory has agreed to return perhaps to the next but
one conference to show us some more of his work and to share more of his design philosophy.
Rory Young can be contacted at 7 Park Street, Cirencester GL7 2BX, telephone
List of projects included in the lecture:
Minchinhampton W gable niche St Francis
Stinchcombe N tower niche St Cyr
Southwell Minster N transept - E wall Pilgrim figure, possibly with lettering
Kings College, Taunton Main entrance Revd Nathaniel Woodard
York Minster W portal, 3rd Order Scheme of sixteen Genesis sculptures
Coln St Denys (detached burial ground) - two examples
Buscot, near Lechlade
Sherbourne (Warwickshire) Polychrome Marble S aisle of Gilbert Scott church
Cirencester Processional Cross (with David Hart, Chipping Campden)
Three way garden seat (private residence)
After Rory's talk, it was quite a challenge for Mark Moodie to swing the conference's attention
round to the subject of lavatories. This he managed effortlessly, and held people spellbound
with his breezy approach to this potentially embarrassing subject.
"We've got on for a thousand years without one" is becoming a threadbare argument against the
cost and disruption of installing a loo in or near a church. Men and boys can go behind a tree,
but women can't be expected to, nor can someone in a wheelchair for that matter. Besides,
we could have said the same about electric lighting, organ blowers or fire extinguishers.
The problems of providing loos for churches - particularly rural churches - are several:
It is almost exclusively "pee not poo" so biological solutions may not work.
Archaeology will loom large, and excavation must be kept to a minimum.
Increasingly elderly congregations need something, but ...
On the other hand people are not prepared to accept "bucket and chuck it" solutions.
We want a proper porcelain pedestal, with a proper flush and the waste disappearing
In an endeavour to find solutions to these problems, Gloucester DAC visited on its last outing
Abberley in the Worcester diocese. This was an ingenious arrangement master minded by
Mark Moodie, involving a separator (an hourglass-shaped "wall of death") and a GRP canister
containing a colony of special worms.
The Abberley solution depended on siting considerations - the works is below the floor level of
the church, and the fluids then pass out through an existing drain. The disgruntled parties are
the worms, who are not getting enough nutrient to work on, for the reason already touched
Forget reedbed solutions: these will require a great deal of space and disruption in a
churchyard, and, again, the lack of manure will rapidly reduce the army of bacteria to a
"skeleton staff" as Mark put it.
"Trench Arch" is the name of the solution which may well be the best for church work. It
involves shallow excavation, and relies on the willing help of earthworms for disposal of the
very few solids which are involved. Provided that vehicles do not need to move over the
trench, it can use as little as 300 mm cover, so is far less disruptive than a sealed cesspool or a
septic tank. Unlike both of those solutions, it requires no emptying or tankers, and is easily
maintained. A further refinement would be to fit the loo with a water saving dual flush cistern,
using only two litres for a short flush.
There is no reason why rainwater should not be collected and filtered for flushing and hand
washing, thus offering an independent and low cost option for the church that needs a loo and
running water, but is prepared to continue importing drinking water for tea urns (or
alternatively use an existing churchyard standpipe if there is one).
Mark explained that his company is able to design and advise on such projects and may be
prepared to physically install them if necessary. He has the expertise to secure agreement from
local authorities and the Environment Agency, both of whom are sometimes in need of briefing
and/or persuasion depending on the attitude and experience of the officers concerned.
The DAC is following these developments with great interest as a means of cutting down the
capital and archaeological costs of bringing loos into churches.
You can contact Mark Moodie at Elemental Solutions, Oaklands Park, Newnham GL14
1EF, telephone 01594 516063, fax 01594 516821, email email@example.com (see revised note
Mark is co-author of a book entitled "Sewage Solutions: Answering the call of nature"
published by the Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth, Powys SY20 9AZ, telephone
01654 702400, ISBN 1 898049 13 0, price £8.95.
Revision note as at January 2007:
Mark Moodie is no longer involved with Elemental Solutions: contact Nick Grant at Withy
Cottage, Little Hill, Orcop, Hereford, HR2 8SE, telephone 01981 540728,
fax 08707 628417, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Fungal Phobia - Understanding dry rot
Those who heard Dr Brian Ridout talking about wood boring pests at the 1998 Conference
were most certainly not disappointed with his sequel on dry rot. As before, Brian set the scene
by explaining what a tree is (namely a factory for making sugar) and explained the factors that
led to the depletion of high quality softwoods and their replacement by modern forest
products. Last time, Brian described modern softwood as "a nightmare material"; two years
further down the line he added that it had "the durability of rhubarb". The lesson is that we
cannot use modern softwood like old softwood, hence the vital importance of isolating new
timber repairs from sources of dampness.
The core of Brian's message was that dry rot will only flourish in damp conditions ie
where moisture content exceeds 28% and relative humidity is above 95%. Nothing can
therefore be done until these conditions are remedied. If you can't find the source of the
moisture, you are not looking hard enough, says Brian. Once the source of moisture has been
remedied and the building has started to dry up, the rot MUST die. After two years of dry
conditions, the dry rot will be dead. But - reverting to the points made above - "the worst
problem is not what you take out, its what you put back". Whilst it is easy to specify a DPM
underneath the bearing ends of new timbers, unless everyone involved on the job understands
what is being done, one simple error can enable the problem to restart - Brian showed a slide
of builder's spoil which had been swept to one side and allowed to bridge the membrane below
the new timber.
Brian Ridout is appalled at the vast amounts of chemical which have been used since the war in
misguided attempts to eliminate recurrence of fungal or beetle decay. In almost all cases the
culprit has been lack of basic maintenance. Even the National Trust has been guilty in this
respect, as was clear from his slides. Clandon House in Surrey was for decades saddled with
the reputation as a "dry rot building" but was in fact suffering from basic neglect to rainwater
goods. Brian modestly says "you don't need to be an expert - you just need to ask questions".
Speaking of wood boring pests, he revealed that he is developing traps for adult beetles, which
should eventually retail for a few pounds.
Answering a question about the pyschological need for a guarantee, Brian replied that there
were now some firms in the remedial industry prepared to offer guarantees for work done in
accordance with emerging non-interventionist principles. Guarantees, he noted, were originally
a sales gimmick produced by Rentokil in the 1950s, but have unfortunately become
regarded by churchwardens and others as a sine qua non.
Brian's own firm is willing and able to undertake work in churches at any time, and is covered
by an indemnity policy!
Brian Ridout can be contacted at Ridout Associates, 147a Worcester Road, Hagley,
Stourbridge DY9 ONW, telephone 01562 885135, fax 01562 885312.
His book "Timber Decay in Buildings (The Conservation Approach to Treatment)"
was jointly commissioned by English Heritage and Historic Scotland, and is published by E and F
Spon, 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE and costs £30. ISBN 0-419-18820-7. A copy
should be on every architect's bookshelf. It is fully illustrated and includes a valuable analytical
appendix, with a key to treatment.
Secretary's Note: Architects may be interested to hear about a church near Stroud where a
faculty was sought for spending £3,000 on applying "Sovereign Deepkill" paste to all exposed
timber work, the decorator contractor having discovered what he believed was evidence of
rampant wood boring pests. At the suggestion of the DAC, Ridout Associates were consulted,
and were able to assure the parish that the infestation had been dormant for some 150 years,
and that no action was required, other than a very limited amount of live woodworm at low
level, which could be dealt with on a DIY basis.
N.B. See CH017 for more information about “sewerage solutions”.