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Royal Garrison Church, Portsmouth

26 June, 2012

Visiting Royal Garrison Church

Last week, Gareth, Adam and I travelled to Portsmouth to work with the team there on recording some very challenging memorials.

The Royal Garrison Church in old Portsmouth, maintained by English Heritage and a dedicated team of volunteers has an impressive situation.  Nestled behind the sea defensives and located near to the historical dockyards and harbour front of the old city of Portsmouth, the church was built in the thirteenth century.  The church was badly damaged during World War II, and so the nave has no roof.  The chancel is beautifully maintained and has some gorgeous oak stalls from the late 1800s, and I am looking forward to going back there soon to read the memorials there dedicated to famous sailors.

As you can see from this photo that Adam took in the morning, the church has part of its roof missing, which means that the memorials are very badly eroded.  Text that was legible a mere ten years ago has today eroded away to almost nothing.

Royal Garrison Church, photo taken by Adam Chapman from the sea wall.

Royal Garrison Church – the roofless part of the church.

A member of the team at the church contacted us following the presentation that we gave at the South by South West Creative Digifest event in May, and asked if we would be interested in trying out RTI on some of the more problematic  memorials at the church.

The Memorials

Below is an example of the state of the memorials.  Although very well cared for, the proximity of the sea has been taking its toll on many of the memorials fixed to the wall in the uncovered part of the church.

Royal Garrison Church – a badly erroded wall-mounted memorial

There is lots of information about the church on the Memorials and Monuments in Portsmouth website, including a very comprehensive list of transcribed stones.  So we had some great data to work from when we started.

In the morning we met with some of the Royal Garrison team members and gave a demonstration of the RTI method, showing some of the files that we had made at previous sites.  Then we went to the roofless part of the church and identified the memorials that were the most erroded, and for which the team had not yet managed to get a full transcription from.

Recording the RTIs

We had no idea how the RTIs would turn out, so this was an exciting one for us to do.  RTI can only show us what already exists, and in this instance, it was very hard for us to guess at what might remain of the transcriptions.

In the photo below you can maybe get an idea of the situation of the memorials.  They are mounted on a wall, quite high up, and each memorial is flanked on either side by columns.

Royal Garrison Church – Gareth and Nicole recording one of a series of badly eroded memorials.

Royal Garrison Church – Nicole and Gareth recording the memorials.

The columns to either side of the memorials proved to indeed be problematic as it meant that we were unable to record some portions of the object.  I’ve drawn a quick diagram to illustrate what I mean:

RTI – Dealing with Problematic Obstacles

We went back to the University after our visit and ran the photos that we had taken through the software to see the results.  Our fears were confirmed, most of the ghost remains of the letters from the memorials were indeed almost totally eroded away.

However, the RTIs did give us more information than we had been able to get with the naked eye.  I’m going to put together some nice screenshots of the RTIs for you to see, and will write another post on them next week.

As always, we are very grateful to the team at Royal Garrison Church for being so hospitable (and for the much-appreciated cups of tea!), and look forward to returning soon to record some more of the memorials.  I’ve included some images below so that you can get an idea of some of the challenges ahead:

Royal Garrison Church – Some highly eroded memorials.

Royal Garrison Church – The memorial to the left is very badly eroded, with almost no text showing. This is definitely one that we’d like to try!

— Nicole

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Gardner's World permalink
    27 June, 2012 10:03 pm

    Good to see care being taken of this striking and distinctive feature on the coastal landscape

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  1. Postcards from Portsmouth and Memories of Battle | HAROLD WENT TO WAR

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