An update from Helen Sharp NT on 19th Feb 2018
I’m pleased to update you on some significant progress for plans at Wellington Monument that mean its future is beginning to look more secure. In short, we are going to be starting repairs to address the worst affected parts of the structure using nearly £2million that has already been secured. We will also be raising awareness of the issues faced and aiming to get more people engaged to help us raise money towards the additional £2million needed to undertake a full programme of repairs.
The nearly £2m already secured is from the Libor Fund, several individual gifts, War Memorials Trust and a significant commitment from the National Trust.
A detailed design work that is vital to inform the repairs will continue for the rest of this year and we expect to tender for the main contract in December. Repairs would then start on site in early summer 2019 and continue for most of 2020.
Currently we will only be able to repair the most badly damaged areas of the monument. Starting at the top we will repair the upper third, as well as correcting the bulging north face and starting to tackle some of the failing blade stones. But we will continue to work hard to raise the additional £2m needed to keep working down the structure – eventually reaching ground level and the plinth and thereby completing the full conservation repair. The more we can raise the more work we can undertake and the more cost-effective the work becomes.
The monument is now a national fundraising priority for the Trust and it has the full support of our senior team. The profile this gives us should support the campaign over the coming few years.
We are hugely grateful for all the help and support we’ve already received without which we certainly would not have reached this point. This includes you, our volunteers, Wellington Town Council and Rebecca Pow MP. We’re going to need to keep working closely with the local community if we are going to engage more people with the site and reach our target. We will imminently be recruiting a full-time Community Fundraiser & Engagement Officer to lead this aspect of the project – please do keep an eye out for the advert.
As well as completing the detailed design work, myself and the project team will explore other fundraising opportunities this summer, getting out and about talking to people locally about the problems faced by the monument, listening to why it’s important to people and letting the community know how they can help and get involved.
Many thanks for your continued support and interest.
Best wishes, Helen Sharp
Important role of the champions
The role of the Champions was developed to be the first and important step towards thinking about how to enable the local community to have more ownership of the site. In the first instance, the role takes us to Christmas and the Champions are being asked to support work required for the HLF application. This includes some work on the ground to help with surveys and events in addition to helping us plan the detail of the project and how best to develop community engagement. If we are successful with the HLF bid we hope the Champions will then be instrumental in developing and implementing many elements of the project as we proceed with increased confidence.
The Wellington Monument is the tallest three sided obelisk in the world and was built to celebrate the Duke of Wellington’s successes. It is much-loved by the local community and well known by users of the M5, from where it is visible. However, the condition is deteriorating and the risk of falling masonry has led to it being fenced off. We need to apply to the HLF for £3m of the total £4m project but will need to raise a minimum of £0.5m from other sources to secure its future. We would use every opportunity afforded by the project to bring a wide range of benefits for people and leave a legacy of involvement and participation.
Wellington Monument is a striking obelisk on the edge of the Blackdown Hillls, near the town of Wellington in Somerset. It is recognisable to hundreds of thousands of people travelling along the M5 motorway every day. At 175 feet tall, it is of international importance as the tallest three sided obelisk in the world and commemorates the victory of the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The surrounding landscape is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and 22 acres around the Grade II* Monument are owned by the National Trust.
40,000 local people visit the Monument and the surrounding countryside each year, to walk their dogs to enjoy the views and to play with their children. It is an important landmark and symbol for the town of Wellington
The Monument’s History
Whilst the Duke of Wellington is now considered a national hero, the Wellington Monument might be considered a very British underdog. Many local people donated money to build the monument and the foundation stone was laid in 1817. However its construction has faced continuous difficulty. Money ran out, the Monument was hit by lightning and the Duke fell out of favour having entered politics so the project sat incomplete until a second phase of building was prompted by Wellington’s death in 1852. A local architect was commissioned to finish the Monument cheaply, radically altering the original design. This work deteriorated and in 1892 more architects were brought in to repair and complete the obelisk to the full height we see today. It has needed repair almost constantly ever since.
The site was given to the National Trust in the 1930s. The mixed quality of the construction, its exposed position, failing repairs and water ingress meant that loose stone started to fall from the Monument and the Trust was forced to close it in 2005 after cracks were found in the masonry. Barriers were placed around it to stop people getting too close. With no endowment fund and in need of constant investment to maintain it, the Monument is now fenced off with no access via the 232 internal steps to the viewing platform at the top. The site is due to be placed on Historic England’s Risk Register in October 2016.
Over the last 18 months, The Trust has appointed specialist teams to conduct surveys and monitoring studies to help understand this unique and complex structure. A giant cherry picker and even abseiling have provided access for closer inspection. A photogrammetric survey of all three faces identified where there are cracks and which stones are loose. There has also been a monthly monitoring of new stone loss from the monument to show the size of the problem. Wind and movement sensors have surprised us by showing that the Monument doesn’t flex in the wind quite as much as we expected, and ground penetrating radar has given a detailed picture of the thickness of the stone cladding, and helping to spot voids and gaps behind the cladding. The evidence from all these surveys has been assessed with experts from the University of Southampton, who have processed the data and used computational fluid dynamics to help to identify where the stresses and strains are.
Information tent at the Monument were builders met the Public in September