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Repairs to stop Tower Hill Memorial crumbling away

PUBLISHED: 16:52 02 September 2019

The Tower Hill Memorial bears the names of 12,000 Merchant Navy servicemen and women who died during the First World War. Picture: CWGC

The Tower Hill Memorial bears the names of 12,000 Merchant Navy servicemen and women who died during the First World War. Picture: CWGC

Archant

Work to stop one of London's largest and most intricate war memorials from crumbling is under way after years of planning.

The memorial will be cordoned off while restoration work is completed and will reopen in time for Remembrance Sunday. Picture: CWGCThe memorial will be cordoned off while restoration work is completed and will reopen in time for Remembrance Sunday. Picture: CWGC

Water damage has been a persistent problem at the Tower Hill Memorial, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) said, and ways to combat it without altering the appearance of the Grade I listed landmark had stumped engineers for decades.

The structure, opposite the Tower of London, opened in 1928 and bears the names of 12,000 Merchant Navy servicemen and women who died during the First World War.

It was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the architect behind the Cenotaph in Whitehall. A sunken garden extension commemorating 22,000 personnel who lost their lives in the Second World War was unveiled in 1955.

Andrew Stillman, area director for CWGC UK, said: "Restoring the memorial without changing the design has taken a lot of planning. Thanks to modern materials we can now make good on the original architect's solution to avoiding water damage. While our work continues temporary exhibition panels on the outside walls will help to bring to life the stories we are preserving."

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Every Portland stone slab is being removed from the roof of the memorial so a new waterproof layer made from a synthetic rubber compound can be installed.

Engineers have also designed minor restructures that will allow air to flow better and further protect it from damp.
Each stone will be inspected and those still in a good enough condition will be replaced.  New stones will be carved to replace those that have crumbled.

The whole memorial will be deep cleaned and the name panels rebronzed in a project expected to last three months.

Mr Stillman added: "The memorial stands at the heart of an incredibly busy corner of London. It's an important part of the city's heritage and a hidden gem which we are proud to look after.

"These were ordinary people, often much younger or older than military personnel, doing a civilian job that suddenly saw them facing the same extraordinary dangers as soldiers on the front line."

The memorial will be cordoned off while restoration work is completed and will reopen in time for Remembrance Sunday.

This year's Merchant Navy Day commemorations will still take place at the site on Sunday, September 8.

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