The Palace of Westminster, commonly known as the Houses of Parliament, serves as the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords and is situated on the north bank of the River Thames in London, England. The site is part of the UNESCO Westminster World Heritage Site. The building was constructed of magnesian limestone, selected following a nationwide survey of building stones carried out by a Government Select Committee. However, some of this stone began to decay soon after construction in the mid 1800s. As the majority of the stonework has survived very well the aim of the work was to source a demonstrably durable material with characteristics which align with the majority of the existing stonework. Samples were taken from the building for petrographic analysis in order to identify compatible material in quarries, either working or which could be re-opened. Durability of the magnesian limestone was assessed using both accepted tests and novel methodology. Large scale walls were constructed in the laboratory and exposed to accelerated frost weathering with realistic temperature parameters. The logistical problems with sourcing the original building material, the nature of the transport and the masons‘ unfamiliarity with the stone may all have played a part in undermining its durability. When magnesian limestone is properly selected and used correctly, its reputation for being of poor durability is largely unfounded. Suitable sources for replacement stone were located which provided several options for both immediate and long-term sourcing for repair and conservation.

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Published on 25/09/20
Submitted on 22/09/20

DOI: 10.23967/dbmc.2020.152
Licence: CC BY-NC-SA license

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