The White Tower conservation project

The White Tower conservation project

The White Tower

The largest conservation project ever undertaken by Historic Royal Palaces.

January 2008 – April 2011

The White Tower is one of the most important historic buildings in the world. A royal palace and fortress for almost half a millennium, the White Tower is interpreted throughout the world as a symbol of royalty and of national and civic identity.

After three years of scaffolding and three years of scrubbing and polishing, the White Tower conservation project is now complete.

The project in numbers

  • 5500 visitors to the site
  • 58 operatives worked on the site (38 conservators and 20 masons)
  • 8 Traditional Skills Bursary work placements
  • 8 trainee conservators and stone masons
  • 35 different stone types identified
  • 709 new stones added
  • 1367 original stones re-fixed
  • 36 tons of new mortar used (equivalent in weight to just over five double decker buses – or 400 Yeoman Warders!)
  • 450 miles walked by the site manager
  • 8 team members have become parents or grandparents

The White Tower external repair and conservation project has been the largest conservation project undertaken by Historic Royal Palaces. Work to the south elevation was completed in 1998 but it wasn’t until 2008 with the generous support of our sponsors, Man Group, who contributed £1.5m of the £2m repair cost, that we were able to proceed with work to the remaining elevations to ensure its long term survival.

Tracy Simmons, Project Manager: 'We hope now the White Tower will not need to be scaffolded and cleaned in this manner for at least 60 years. In 1075 Londoners could only stand and stare as the White Tower rose up to dominate their skyline. In 2011 Londoners, visitors and staff can again be in awe of this striking and historic building and admire the Norman architecture in all its glory.'

Why did the project take place?

From January 2008 until April 2011, external repair and conservation work to three elevations of the Tower were carried out to address the following issues:

  • The historic fabric of both the rubble walling and stone dressings were deteriorating and vulnerable to decay.
  • Other key agents of decay included the build-up of sulphation and atmospheric pollutants on the sheltered returns of the buttresses and deeply contoured stones. These created an impermeable crust and were causing further damage to the masonry as well as being aesthetically displeasing.

Meet the team

It takes an array of expertise to complete a project this size and the project team included a project architect who advised on the conservation methods of cleaning and repair, a quantity surveyor who kept track of the project spend, a structural engineer who designed the scaffolding and provided advice on any structural defects, an archaeologist who’s research and observations throughout the project increased our knowledge and understanding of the White Tower and a geologist who identified every stone on the White Tower which not only helped create a greater understanding of the building structure but also helped the project team select appropriate stones for replacement where needed. The team also included a chartered surveyor to project manage the project and our buildings curator to provide historic advice, both of whom came from the Conservation Department within Historic Royal Palaces.

Completing the work has meant not only that the building fabric has been conserved for generations to come, but that peoples’ expectations have been restored and that one of London’s greatest landmarks can live up to its name once more.

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