Restoring Guernsey’s best known landmark

September 23, 2016 / 

The Little Chapel is Guernsey’s most visited tourist attraction. Built between 1914 and 1930 by Brother Déodat, a French monk, it was continually added to, decorated and embellished until 1965, giving it the unique look it enjoys to this day.tlc-1Having been built by hand, using (even for the time) fairly rudimentary methods and materials, the Chapel is now in serious need of some TLC.

CCD, and director Stuart Pearce, have been involved in the project to restore the Chapel since 2014. Consulting Engineers Dorey, Lyle & Ashman (DLA) had been inspecting the building on a regular basis for the past 10 years, monitoring the patterns of cracking and carefully considering the way in which the building was moving. Although the movement was small, the time had come to intervene so as to avert catastrophe.

At the time of our first report in December 2014 it was clear that the Chapel was leaning, a symptom of poor (or non-existent!) underpinning, particularly given the slope into the valley the Chapel was built on.

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We proposed three actions:

  • Stabilisation works to the piers on either side of the front entrance door, followed by the arch reconstruction to support the base of the tower.
  • Mass-fill concrete underpinning to the right of the main entrance and at the base of the stair case.
  • We also recommended repairs to cracks in the exterior render to prevent further moisture ingress and damage to the structure.

Of course, foremost in everyone’s minds is achieving the above without compromising the appearance of the building, whilst removing only the minimum amount of building fabric to allow us to carry out the works. This has been, and will continue to be, the biggest challenge.

Working with CA Duquemin, the first phase of the project has been successfully completed; stabilising the tower, front entrance and underpinning the key problem areas.

The interior of the mosaic walls was found to be earth, clinker and some brick ‘lumps’. We decided that the best approach would  be to remove this soft filling and use the cement ‘shell’ of the walls as a shutter for a concrete fill – strengthening the walls, but retaining their original shape and outward appearance.

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After protecting and bracing the exterior ‘shell’, soft material was scooped out and then a solid core of concrete was carefully introduced, followed by re-instating the original ceramic cladding.

The building is now largely stabilised, but the next phase of the site development will be an exciting one. The Little Chapel Foundation has been set up, with the aim of raising £500,000 for improvements to the attraction. We are very proud to be supporting their work by providing our services free of charge.

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Details of the project, including how to donate, can be found at www.thelittlechapel.gg