I’m Kathryn Sayner, one of DIO's Historic Building Advisors. I was recently involved in a conservation project to restore Flimston Chapel.
Flimston Chapel is a notable landmark feature on Castlemartin Training Area in Pembrokeshire. The Grade II listed building dates from medieval times and became part of the MOD estate when the range was set up as a tank firing range in 1938. The single cell building is finished in limestone with a slated roof and bell tower to the west end, and has an interior which feels surprisingly large with the steeply pointed vault giving height to the nave.
Part of the DIO’s role is to look after the MOD historic estate. The MOD owns about 1% of the UK mainland and is responsible for conserving and maintaining around 832 listed buildings and 771 Scheduled Monuments. There is a small team within DIO whose role is to ensure our Historic Buildings are managed successfully, which includes sourcing funds for conservation works where possible.
The history of Flimston Chapel
Flimston Chapel lies approximately half a mile from the cliff face and is exposed to severe weather conditions throughout the year. The building was restored in the Victorian era, and again in 1963 after it fell into disuse after the Second World War. The chapel is now in continued use with public access during weekends and services being held by the local community each month, services held by the visiting units to the range and a service on Remembrance Day. Since the last date of meaningful conservation work and repair, the building was showing signs of weathering and deterioration.
In 2019, work funded by the MOD’s Conservation Stewardship Fund, and managed by DIO, was undertaken with Landmarc Support Services (Landmarc) and Pembroke based conservation architects, Acanthus Holden. An initial survey by Acanthus Holden identified several issues associated with water and damp ingress into the body of the chapel, both through the roof and external walls. The external walls to the chapel were found to be generally sound apart from an area of infill masonry used to block up former cart door openings.
Returning the chapel to its former glory
The repair work took place in two phases during 2020 and 2021. The roof was re-slated and the small bell tower, with its lead flashings, was renewed. The walls were also extensively repaired by removing the sand and cement, and then repointing all external masonry with a traditional and breathable lime mortar. Finally, a lime shelter coat to the West wall was applied. A final task to the external shell was to renew the cast iron rainwater goods and repair the ground drainage channels. Within the chapel the natural ventilation was improved, along with the repairs and redecoration of the internal plasterwork. A new gate leading to the chapel was also installed to replace the original one, which had been damaged.
Collaboration is the key to success
The success of the project was largely down to the collaborative work between myself, Nick Jones (Landmarc’s Project Manager), Acanthus Holden Architects and the contractors Randall and Jane Roofing Ltd and David Siggery Ltd. Working closely with Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority we achieved both phases of the work and ensured that we met the small window of opportunity to deliver the works. Due to the nature of the project, there were very few local contractors with the correct experience, so being prepared ahead of time meant that the conservation work was completed in good time and within budget.
Seeing the chapel restored to its former glory is extremely satisfying and means it can continue to be an asset for the local community to enjoy for years to come.