Clitheroe Castle Pinnacle Project

In 2014 Clitheroe Civic Society (CCS) embarked on the first live project in their 50-year plus history. In the absence of funds from the Local Authority (Ribble Valley Borough Council) to carry out urgent repair works to a Grade II Listed monument in the Clitheroe Castle Gardens, CCS decided to step in and see if they could raise sufficient funds to carry out the works on behalf of RVBC – and the wider community. The monument came from the Palace of Westminster to Clitheroe in 1937 during the last major phase of fabric repair works there. It was a gift, to the then Borough of Clitheroe, from the town’s longest modern day member of Parliament, Sir William Brass, and was donated by him to commemorate the Coronation of King George VI.

After a twelve-month period of fund and awareness raising activities, CCS secured sufficient funds including an 89% HLF Heritage Lottery Fund award and we were ready to go out to tender on the Project.  As a Conservation Architect and Project Team Leader I had previously worked with Michael Goulding on a number of Listed Churches in the Blackburn Diocese. This was prior to the formation of HCRL but when the company was brought to my attestation during the preparation of the Tender Invitation List I was keen to have his newly established firm tender for our project and I am pleased to say that they submitted the successful tender and were appointed as our Conservation Contractor for the works.

By comparison with many of the Projects I knew that Michael and his fellow Director and staff had worked on, the repair of the ‘Clitheroe Pinnacle’ was a very small contract indeed.  However, the size of the monument belays its social and historic significance as it directly links our small East Lancashire Market Town to the national capital – and the ‘Mother of Parliament’s. Being constructed from Magnesian Limestone to designs by Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin the project also presented some very significant technical problems.

As a condition of our HLF Award we were committed to ensuring that this project could also serve as an educational vehicle for craftsman training. We also wished to that during the works we achieve a greater awareness among the local community of the Pinnacle’s significance.

These conditions were taken on board enthusiastically and effectively by HCRL. From commencement to completion of the project a young apprentice stone mason was engaged throughout. He benefited from first-hand experience of working on a delicate and highly decorated masonry structure under expert supervision and our Society benefited from his skills and knowledge of working on Magnesian Limestone while training in York – where many of the city’s most important buildings, including the Minster, are constructed from the same material. This was particularly important on this project as this type of limestone is quite uncommon on this side of the Pennines.

Throughout the works HCRL accommodated numerous visits from interested School and University groups as well as members of the public and actively participated in an open day as a part of the 2015 ‘Heritage Open Day’ initiative. The works were meticulously planned and executed and were also completed on time and under budget. The latter was much to the relief of our Members for whom this was a first venture into the world of project management and financial administration.

Whether our Society undertakes a similar venture in the future remains to be seen but if we do we would ensure that HCRL were on the tender list and commend their services to any groups or organisations contemplating work to repair and conserve our historic buildings and monuments.