CoPAA – Conservation of the Priory Alabaster Arch

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Conservation of the Priory Alabaster Arch

The Alabaster Arch, which forms part of the outside of the West Door of the Grade 1 Listed Priory Church of St. Mary, Tutbury, is unique.

Built from local alabaster, it is the only external alabaster arch in the country and the earliest example (circa 1160) of alabaster carving. 

In the early 19th century it was described as being in “a state of perfect preservation”.  In the 1960s it was described as being “in a remarkable state of preservation”.  But in 2013, Hirst Conservation noted that the general environment is having “a catastrophic effect on the stone”.  A cursory examination today will show many of the alabaster blocks that make up the arch are badly weathered and almost all the arch is badly discoloured.  

The first picture shows a block in reasonable condition, the next picture shows one of the more weathered blocks, although not the worst.  The arch is made up of 30 blocks, almost half of which have significant weathering.

The discolouration can also be seen – the near white colour in some parts of the pictures is what it should look like.

To protect and preserve as much of the Priory Arch and its unique architecture as possible for future generations will require that it is cleaned (with a laser!) and the worst of the fissures that let in the water sealed (consolidated).

Therefore, St. Mary’s Parochial Church Council launched a project to conserve the Alabaster Arch.  The project, known as the Conservation of the Priory Alabaster Arch (CoPAA), is raising funds, has obtained the necessary ecclesiastical and secular permissions and subsequently has carried out the Condition Survey and the physical Conservation.  An earlier smaller  Condition Survey and separate Cleaning Trials were carried out in 2013 and 2015 by Hirst Conservation at a cost of £3,312.

It is expected that the total project cost will be about £80,000 and will complete in 2018 (the actual on-site work by Hirst Conservation will take 8-9 weeks).  The money will be raised from grants, donations, events, collections and gifts – it is reliant on the generosity of the people of Tutbury and the surrounding areas and those who care about the preservation of irreplaceable church architecture and craftsmanship from over 850 years ago.  So far, approximately £76,000 has been raised leaving £4,000 still to be raised.

If you would like to help, you can find out how to donate here