On a grey morning in late May, the first glimpse of the restoration project could be seen on the ridge at Gersit Law. A mobile access tower (or as everyone calls them “a cherry picker”) was hauled by tractor up the new road to the mausoleum. Our Works Manager Ernie Smail had arranged to hire this monster with it’s 30 metre reach when Lothian Estate's own cherry picker proved inadequate for the job of accessing the top of the domed roof. The aim of the exercise was to accurately measure the four rows of glass stars, and inspect the condition of the roof and it's invasive vegetation.
Joining us that morning was Mark Douglas, Head of Planning and Built Environment at Scottish Borders Council. Mark has a long-time interest in the monuments of the Scottish Borders, and has been instrumental in encouraging the Friends to seek restoration of the Monteath Mausoleum. As part of his professional duties, Mark was able to confirm that Listed Building Consent would NOT be required for our project, provided we followed current best practice and used appropriate materials and techniques, a decision which will be of enormous benefit in terms of both time and costs.
The cherry picker operator was able to manoeuvre the platform within inches of the dome while Ernie took a series of measurements to confirm the dimensions of the stars. They then moved to the corners where young tree saplings appeared to be growing in the joints between the roof and the walls. After removal of a considerable amount of debris, Ernie was able to examine the structure in detail, and discover that the saplings were only rooted in the accumulated debris and had not penetrated the structure to any great extent. There had been some speculation that the debris could be covering hidden internal drainage pipes, but it turned out that the roof and wall intersections were completely flat and intact once the debris was removed. Surprisingly perhaps, there has been no provision made to drain rainwater from the huge area of the roof, it was clearly intended simply to let it fall down the sides! While we were amazed at this, Mark Douglas assured us that this was a common practice in Victorian times, and as there is no water staining on the walls or major erosion of the stonework, it obviously worked!
After several hours aloft, Ernie returned to terra firma and declared himself satisfied that he had enough information to fill out the missing details for the Works Tender documents, which were sent to contractors in the final week of May.