Southampton Bargate

Southampton Bargate on a day with clear skies

2024 update

Investigations into the leaks along the parapet and raised walkway on the north side of the Bargate were completed in 2023, as part of phase one of the Heritage Assets Repairs Programme (HARP).

For phase two, major work will be undertaken on the roof, repairs to the exterior stonework (including the medieval shields on the north face), and the metal railings and gates on the ground floor. We hope this will keep out the rats and the pigeons that are damaging the ancient building.

Inside, cracks and small areas of stonework will be raked out and repointed in lime mortar. Some stonework around the inside of south facing windows will be refaced and repinned.

Medieval shields

We are often asked where the medieval shields on the north face of the Bargate have gone. It is a complex issue that dates back over 50 years. They were carved in the 1380s from Ventnor Stone, which weathers badly.

The shields have decayed and the damaged areas were repaired with mortar, painted with heraldic designs, and repainted as necessary. They had a major refurbishment in 1946.

In 1971 the old roof was replaced with a flat concrete roof. This might be when the problem we are dealing with today really started. The problem was that the rain was getting into the parapet somehow and the north face has not been able to dry out properly for decades.

The 1946 repainting lasted until 1998 when an historic buildings conservator replaced the damaged areas of the shields and repainted the designs. The special paint was supposed to last 20 years, but within five, much of it had gone and the mortar repairs had begun to drop off. There have been three attempts to solve the problem, the last in 2023.

We hope this, and the further work on the roof in 2024, will allow the stone to dry out so that the shields can be rebuilt and repainted once again.