Restoring the Quay Entrance Wall
The Quay entrance has most likely been part of the Demesne of Westport House going back to the original build of 1730. Regular visitors to Westport House would be familiar with the Quay Wall that runs from the entrance of Church Lane all along the Quay Road towards Westport Harbour (known locally as The Quay) completing at the Quay entrance into the Estate. This wall was built in phases as the estate expanded. The Quay wall would have functioned as an enclosure or boundary wall to mark out the territory of the Demesne – it’s function being to act as a deterrent to poachers and add security to the Estate.
Walkers through the Estate may have notice that major works have been taking place on the Wall over the last few months.
The Quay Wall is a National Monument and taking care of it has to be part of our ongoing restoration works on the Estate. The Westport House maintenance team has worked hard over the last few months prepping the wall for the stone masonry work that is currently in progress.
The preparation work involved removing the ivy, cutting back branches and removing trees stumps that were compromising the condition of the wall. The maintenance team put a huge amount of effort into getting the wall into a safe state, removing all the loose stone and greenery so that the stone mason could start the epic task of restoring the boundary wall.
John Dunne is a stone mason with an incredible 40 years’ experience working with stone and has been focused on conserving and rebuilding the Quay Wall since March 2021. Speaking with John, I asked him how the entire process is progressing and all that it entails.
In the early stage of assessing the wall, it was deemed a health and safety risk as it was in very poor condition in parts. A section of the wall at the Quay entrance projects out into the water and at high tide, the sea had eroded and undermined the bottom of the wall.
The wall is known as a Coursed Wall which means it is made up of all the same heights of stone. The length may vary but the height of each stone remains contstant throughout the wall. The stone is a mix of limestone and sandstone.
John removed the degraded pointing on the outside wall and built-up underneath by repairing all of the stones. He cleaned out the joints of the stone and repointed them with lime mortar.
He removed the coping stones at the top of the wall and,in marking each the stones, was able to reset them back exactly to their original place.
John restored the wall section by section. The entire wall had to be repointed, both the exterior and the interior, with lime mortar. Firstly, he cleans out a section and makes the mix of lime mortar. He then builds in any missing stones and points all of the wall and it is left to set. He then takes a churn brush and taps the pointing which pushes it back into the stone and moves onto the next section. The masonry work should be properly cured after the completion of work, for a period of up to a month.
This is very skilled work and the proof is in the incredible finish on the completed sections – John’s experience is very evident and the wall is now in a stable and safe condition. John will continue to work on the Quay Wall until its completion.
As with all of our restoration work, the approach is to perform only the necessary works to make the wall structurally sound and safe again without impacting the integrity of the wall. The goal of this preservation and conservation work is to retail the authenticity of the historical national monument as much as possible.
Copy with thanks to Kathryn Connolly, Supervisor at Westport House and photographs with thanks to Michael King, Estate & Construction Manager, Westport House.
If you’re an avid reader of these blogs, you will know that we started Phase 1 of this restoration project on Westport House earlier in 2021. It is the first phase of a restoration project that is expected to be completed in early 2022. It will see much-needed conservation work carried out to the Georgian-era home to help prepare it for the larger €75m development project announced earlier this summer.