1902 proposal for the restoration of The Hermitage
A drawing by Benoist in about 1870, more than 30 years before this report was produced
A report was submitted to the members of the Harbours Committee, under whose care the chapel is, and they decided to place the sum of £30 , to defray the cost of the necessary repairs, at the disposal of the Société, in order that this work should be carried out under its auspices.
The sub-committee was thereupon requested to direct the necessary operations, and at a meeting held by them, at the Hermitage itself, Col Le Cornu, president, being also present, it was decided that Mr N H Harris should be entrusted with the execution of the required works, which were as follows:
- The cleaning out of all loose and soft mortar from the joints on the exterior of the roof and filling in the same with Portland cement mortar.
- A similar treatment was afterwards applied to the exterior of the walls generally; and it may be here stated that on the west side and south gable the original mortar had been decomposed and washed out of the joints to depths varying from eight to as much as 24 inches. In filling up these joints great care has been taken to wedge up the same with stone spalls.
- To prevent the infiltration of surface water, that has caused a large amount of dampness in the roof and consequent deterioration, a cement concrete gutter has been made at the bottom of the east side of the roof, between it and the rock, with the object of intercepting and conveying this water to the north-east corner of the building, instead of allowing it to flow on to the steps at the Ssouth gable and from thence on to the floor inside the building.
- The strength of the original structure having been very much affected by the enlargement of the original doorway in the north gable and the conversion of a very small window into a doorway in the south gable, in the year 1678, by Sir Thomas Morgan, for the purpose of obtaining an easy access to the highest part of the rock which was then being fortified, it was considered advisable by the sub-committee to rebuild the coigns and arch of the former: and also to build a jamb on the east of the opening in the south gable (still leaving it as an opening to pass through). By this means the outward thrust of the stone saddle roof, on the north-west and south-west corners is lessened. Furthermore, the south coigns of the window in the west wall, as well as the sill, having disappeared, these have been rebuilt so that the lintel is now supported at both ends.
- The whole of this masonry, as well as the pointing, has been done in such a manner as to indicate a difference between them and the original work. The stones used, taken from the beach, are all hammer cut rectangularly, whilst the mortar is mostly of Portland cement. The inside face of the new work to the doorway of the north gable has been intentionally built within the line of the face of the old work. It should not be forgotten that the mortar used in the old work was made of shell lime.
It was further considered advisable to prop up a part of the rock near to the south side of the chapel and it will be seen that a strong retaining wall has been built for this purpose. The thick walls visible on the west side, and at a much lower level than the Hermitage itself, are certainly indicative of having once formed part of a structure of no mean importance, and it certainly would seem a great pity if these remains were allowed to disappear entirely. A slight examination was made by excavating a trench close to the retaining wall of the upper flight of steps leading to the chapel. At the top of the mound of masonry where a portion of the old vaulting remains, over what was apparently a circular recess, the loose débris being removed, a portion of an old pavement composed of blue (diorite) pebbles was found and traced westwards, where it terminated against a thick wall, the remains of which are still three or four inches above the pavement itself.
The only things found in this débris were a couple of round pebbles, about 2in diameter. These might have been projectiles. A few small pieces of unglazed earthenware were also discovered.
I have to add that, previous to the work being commenced, Mr George Alexander Piquet was good enough to take a series of photographs of the chapel, from various points of view, in order that some record of its condition, prior to the restoration, should exist. This task, not an easy one, was ably accomplished, and the photographs are now to be seen in the Museum of our Society.
It would be impossible to conclude this article without placing on record the kindly manner in which the Harbours Committee recognized the importance of the work of restoration, and the valuable assistance afforded to the sub-committee and to the contractor by the Harbour-Master of St Helier.
- Adolph Curry