Four giant stone pineapples – each weighing around a tonne – are to be taken down from the Charles Church tower as part of a maintenance project that’s now started on the important Grade I listed Plymouth monument.
Contractors have set up on site of the church which is the city’s memorial to those who lost their lives in the Blitz.
And they will be working on a project designed to repair deteriorating stonework and structural items to protect the building.
Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets, Councillor Ian Darcy said: “This monument is very important to the people of Plymouth.
It has been deliberately left as a ruin as a lasting reminder of the Blitz, but we have to look after it and make sure it does not deteriorate further.”
The £100,000 maintenance project, which is expected to run until the end of September, will see the stone pineapples taken down, cut into sections to create a mould so that the crumbling ones can be replaced with replicas of the original shape and pattern..
Survey team leader Gordon Kinvig said: “We believe the pineapples were post-war and made of a mixture of cement bound stone. Unfortunately they are crumbling, causing safety concerns.”
The tracery – which is the more fancy stonework within the window frames – will also be repaired as they are beginning to fall apart.
Further works include re-texturing (scabbling) the flagstone walkways to form a non-slip surface around the outside of the church, removing unwanted foliage that harms the structure of the church, along with repointing stonework in those areas to stabilise the walls.
There is a chartered historic building consultant specialises in this type of work on hand, along with a Plymouth-based stonemason company that is already working on several major projects within the City Centre
As part of the exploratory enabling works ahead of the programme, the team found two lead lined coffins in a crypt, which indicated either a wealthy occupant – or someone who may have died from the plague. These have since been reburied in their original locations and capped.
Gordon added: “It may be a ruin, but we still need to make sure the structure is safe. Its position on a roundabout means that some of the more fine stonework is affected by vibration from the heavy traffic over a long period of time.”
Charles Church was left as a ruin to honour the 1,200 civilians who lost their lives in Plymouth. It is a scheduled ancient monument. It was built in 1641 and named in honour of King Charles I. It was destroyed during the night of 20 to 21 March 1941 as a result of incendiary bombing.
When peace came it was decided not to rebuild Charles Church but instead to leave is as a permanent memorial of the 1,200 civilian deaths in the air raids.