Spire needs safety work

St Robert's Church at Morpeth.'REF 1702154656
St Robert's Church at Morpeth.'REF 1702154656

Urgent surveys are under way at a Morpeth church to safeguard its 100ft spire.

The Morpeth skyline has changed in recent weeks after the steeple of St Robert’s Church, which can normally be seen across the town, was covered in scaffolding.

A five-yearly survey of the Oldgate building last year identified the need for roof and masonry repairs, and when a closer inspection was carried out, it was found that the spire needed immediate attention.

Now specialist masons are investigating the best way to tackle the repairs to ensure the landmark is safe.

Parishioner Ken Wilson, a member of the project’s steering group, said: “There were signs from the ground that the spire had loose masonry and some of the stonework looked to be cracked so to find out more the scaffolding had to go up and there was a closer inspection.

“The deterioration of the masonry was worse than we thought. At the moment we are waiting for further examination of what needs to be done to make it safe.”

And it seems Morpeth could have its own, less obvious, version of Pisa’s famous tower.

“You can’t tell from the ground, but there is a slight twist at the very top of the spire,” said Mr Wilson.

“We might have to take off some of the masonry for the top to be re-made. It looks as if some of the stonework will have to be removed and replaced, but we haven’t got a programme of work yet. It is a fairly early stage of deciding exactly what needs to be done, but our church has to be made safe in the first place, and then we can restore it.

“It was built in 1850 so it is 165 years into its life and some erosion is perhaps inevitable.”

The work has been attracting much interest from residents and visitors to the town.

“Wherever you are in Morpeth you can see the spire. We tend to take it for granted most of the time, but when it is covered with scaffolding it really stands out,” said Mr Wilson.