Monday (18 August 2014) is the 18-month anniversary of Ludlow’s town walls falling down.
They date to the mid-13th century. They have suffered a lot of abuse over the years, but Ludlow still has some of the most complete town walls in England.
It is 18 months after a section of the Ludlow’s town walls collapsed on 18 February 2013. The BBC has a good photo of the collapse.
All that has happened to repair the walls in the last 18 months is – exactly nothing. I am told that officers and lawyers are holding meetings, but not a single action has yet been taken to instigate repairs to the walls.
This is a disgrace.
There are signs that the temporary measures to stabilise the wall and the graveyard are failing. Sandbags propping up the structure have split and should have been replaced months ago. Human bones have appeared on the exposed edge of the graveyard, though they are now covered by sheeting.
Last March, cracks appeared in the tower of St Laurence’s Church. It may be that these cracks are not related to the wall collapse. But as a former archaeologist that specialised in church cemeteries, I know how unstable the ground in churchyards can be. Layer upon layer of burials leads to a soft, variable soil. There is every danger that the soil is shifting, further undermining the stability of the town wall and threatening the fabric of St Laurence’s itself.
There seems to be absolutely no recognition of this among those who hold the purse strings at Shropshire Council. The council hasn’t even started to make an application to English Heritage or any other potential funder. Eighteen months ago, it promised prompt action, saying any funding needed would come from its own reserves.
I hear from officers that meetings are being held with the Diocese of Hereford. As far as can tell, all that means is that officers and lawyers are spending money doing nothing but talk. There is no action plan, no timescale and above all, no respect for Ludlow’s fragile heritage.
The town walls can only be repaired in milder weather. The lime mortar that must be used will not set in cold conditions. We have now missed two summer seasons without so much as a trowel being lifted or a stone being replaced. There is no possibility now of work starting until next spring.
This neglect of a nationally listed structure is disgraceful, bordering on the criminal. There is a clear legal obligation to keep listed monuments in good repair. Shropshire Council and the Diocese of Hereford cannot discharge their responsibilities by talking. Shropshire Council must take the lead by acting immediately to repair the walls, as it promised to do 18 months ago.
The Diocese gave their view on in an article in the Shropshire Star:
[Andy Boddington] said he believed council officers were in talks with the Diocese of Hereford about the repairs, but Anni Holden, communications officer at the Diocese, said that they had corrected another section of the wall that they were responsible for a little further down, and that is where there involvement ended. No-one at Shropshire Council was available for comment at the time of going to press.
I will continue to push Shropshire Council to take action.