The Structural Engineer > Archive > Volume 8 (1918) > Issues > Issue 1 > The care of ancient monuments
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The care of ancient monuments

It may well seem to members of this Institute that the problems which confront them today have little enough to do with the matters on which I propose to speak, and indeed the limitations of material under which the old builders worked confined their idelas within much narrower bounds than ours. Bu thte art of construction is a very ancient art, and many of the results of modern science have been anticipated by rule of thumb centuries ago, to be forgotten and rediscovered in different surroundings. A knowledge of such things is essential in dealing with ancient structures, where a mind in sympathy with the methods and ideals of the past is the only sure guide to a right treatment. It will be obvious at first sight that this will limit our choice of expedients; we must rule out treatments which are convenient and advantageous enough in new works, but incompatible with the old. I hasten to add that I do not for a moment suggest that the results of modern science are inapplicable to ancient buildings, or tbat we should use no processes which were not known to their builders. Far from it; our claim to be a generation which values its inheritance of history must rest on our employment of all the means which are at our disposal, for the preservation of that inheritance. Buthey must be used in the right way, and from this spring the limitations which must be observed. An ancient monument, speaking generally, has three precious qualities: its history, its beauty, and its educational value; in attempting to prolong its existence we must not obscure or destroy these qualities. If something must be sacrificed to preserve the rest, the distinction between essentials and non-essentials must be clearly defined, or perbaps it would be more accurate to say that the relative importance of parts which are all by the nature of the case important must be apprehended. The monuments under the charge of the Department of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings rahge from earthworks and megalithic monuments to seventeenth century houses, and demand an equally wide range of treatment. They present in infinite variety examples of the ills to which antiquity is subject, but their dilapidatison, when not due to intentional damage, may be said to arise from two main sources, damp and structural weakness; the accumulated shortcomings of nature and man. C. R. Peers