Soft Capping on Ruined Masonry Walls

Author(s): Chris Wood, Alan Cathersides, Heather Viles

The motivation for initiating this research in the 1990s was to find an answer to the extremely high costs of repairing and maintaining hard caps, a number of which had failed. English Heritage¹ looks after over 400 of the nation’s most important historic monuments, many of which are now ruined. The many miles of walls that survive at these castles, monasteries, and priories date back a thousand years; most of them originally carried a roof and the wall tops were never intended to be exposed to the elements. Many lost their roofs during the Dissolution in the mid-16th century, or as a result of the Civil War a century later. Other structures in the care of English Heritage were constructed as defensive walls: some of these are Roman, and these wall tops are extremely important in protecting England’s oldest and most significant masonry. The Building Conservation and Research Team (BCRT) at Historic England (formerly English Heritage) provides technical advice to help those repairing and caring for historic buildings. Where answers are elusive or the problems complex, the Team carries out or commissions research to provide answers. Much time had been spent trying to improve the quality and performance of hard caps but many were unsuccessful, so some of the regional works teams started to experiment with soft caps in the 1980s and 90s, particularly on low walls. However, none of these were monitored or assessed so no conclusions could be drawn on their success or otherwise. This had to be done if soft capping was to prove to be a successful alternative to hard capping.

Report Number:
Research Report
Building and Landscape Conservation Ruins Walls


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