Safety fears after stonework falls from historic tower at Hartlepool Art Gallery - scaffolding will be in place for several months

Scaffolding work is set to be in place for several more months outside a historic Hartlepool building to protect public safety after a piece of stonework fell from the tower.

Wednesday, 10th April 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 10th April 2019, 7:49 am
Scaffolding around the entrance to Christ Church, Hartlepool. Picture by FRANK REID

Temporary scaffolding and perimeter fencing has been in place around the entrance to Christ Church, in Church Square, which is almost 170 years old, since before Christmas.

It was erected as a precautionary measure after a piece of masonry fell from the 100ft tower of the building which is now home to Hartlepool Art Gallery, tourist information office and Vestry Cafe.

Scaffolding around the entrance to Christ Church, Hartlepool. Picture by FRANK REID

Specialist repair work cannot take place until the summer as it needs to be done in warm weather.

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And council chiefs who operate the building can not say how long it will take until a detailed survey has been carried out.

Despite the scaffolding, the building is open as usual.

A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesperson said: “Temporary scaffolding and perimeter fencing has been in place around the tower of the building since just before Christmas after a small piece of masonry was seen to fall from the tower.

“Our initial surveys have revealed some weathering to the stonework of the tower, which dates from the early 1850s.

“We will be commissioning a stonework specialist to conduct a detailed survey of the tower and carry out any repairs.

“Due to the age of the building and its listed status, a special type of mortar would be required in any repairs and this cannot be used in cold weather.

“As a result, subject to obtaining the necessary consents and securing the necessary funding, we anticipate that repair work will start in the summer, when temperatures are warmer.

“Until the detailed survey has been carried out, we are not in a position to say how long the work might take.

“The other parts of the building are not affected and the Art Gallery and its cafe remain open as normal.”

The scaffolding has forced a new monthly market to temporarily find a new home.

The market, which launched last month, had been due to be held in Church Square, which has just undergone a multi-million regeneration scheme.

But while the work is ongoing, it will be held at the National Museum of the Royal Navy car park.

One of the market’s organisers, Councillor Dave Hunter, said: “We fully understand the need for the work to be done and we look forward to it being completed and returning to the original site of Church Square at the first opportunity.”