New permanent solution to save bulging wall at ancient Chester church from collapse


Matt Warner

A PROPOSAL to fit a permanent exoskeleton to protect a wall at an ancient Chester church from collapse has been submitted for approval.

For years, St Olave's Church in Lower Bridge Street has been surrounded by “unsightly” temporary propping to protect bulging and bowing walls at the 11th century place of worship.

There are fears that if no action is taken the west wall could ultimately collapse with the loss of important archaeology.

The west wall of the forecourt of church, which is owned by Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC), has experienced “bulging” of 250mm and there is slight bowing and vertical cracking in the north wall.

The temporary “propping” efforts to support the walls have been called inadequate and unsightly.

Now, CwaC's joint venture company Qwest has submitted planning and listed building applications for a long-term solution.

The plan would see six vertical metal posts, or kingposts, erected on the pavement against the bulging wall with 1.7m gaps between them, with concrete infill between the steel and the existing stonework.

The posts would protrude 0.5m on to the pavement and be clad in red sandstone, similar to the existing wall with the appearance of stone piers or buttresses.

In addition, a new load bearing barrier will be built to protect the historic railings. All metalwork, existing and new, would be painted one colour – probably jet black.

The forecourt, which has been blighted with litter in recent months and is a consecrated burial ground containing numerous skeletal remains beneath, will be restored to the former paved/cobbled surface.

The church was founded in the 11th century and named after the patron saint of Norway, St Olaf.

At the time that the church was founded, the area around Lower Bridge Street was largely occupied by Scandinavians, and it is thought that this is the reason for the dedication.

The present red sandstone church building dates from 1611. In 1841, the parish of St Olave's was united with St Michael's, and the church closed. The building was restoredin 1849 by James Harrisonand converted to a school.

It was declared redundant by the Church of Englandin 1972. It has since had many uses, including housing the Chester Revival Centre, a Pentecostalchurch, and an exhibition centre.


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