English Heritage is delighted to announce a substantial grant of £200,000 towards urgent repair work at Cabot Tower, Brandon Hill.
The grant will go towards a £400,000 - £420,000 project by owners Bristol City Council to restore the tower to its former glory and allow it to be re-opened to visitors.
The grant offer is based on a careful calculation of the likely costs of the repair work, the contribution from Bristol City Council, and the likely contribution from fund raising.
The exact nature of the repairs and the cost may not be known until scaffolding is erected around the tower and further investigations made.
The tower, a grade II Listed building, which stands atop a medieval fortification, is a commemorative public viewing tower built between 1896 and 1898 as a monument to the 400th anniversary of John Cabot's voyage from Bristol to America in 1497.
It was closed to the public in November 2007 due to health and safety fears after cracks started spreading in the tower's masonry. The cracks appeared on all faces of the tower at high level extending from under the lower balcony to the roof of the octaganol upper tower in the balconies, ballustrades and arches.
Investigations by English Heritage showed that the cracks were caused by severe corrosion in the steelwork set in the concrete floor slabs of the tower's viewing platforms.
Now, the grant from English Heritage will help fund vital repairs including rebuilding and reinforcing the concrete floors, stabilisation work above the lower balcony arch and stonework repairs and the clamping of steel-reinforcing bars to the ballustrades.
Cabot Tower was funded by public subscription and built to the design of Bristol architect, William Venn Gough in Tudor Gothic Revival style. Until its closure in 2007 visitors could climb the spiral staircase inside the tower to the viewing platforms to capture some spectacular views of the city and surrounding countryside.
Brandon Hill, on which the tower sits, has been a public open space since medieval times. In the 17th century it formed a key part of the outer fortifications of the Parliamentary defenses of Bristol in the First English Civil War. The sandstone bastion and curtain wall and ditch survive to the north-west of the tower. The fortification is currently on the English Heritage 'At Risk Register'.
Andrew Vines, South West Regional Director for English Heritage, said:
"Cabot Tower is one of Bristol's best-known landmarks and one that has attracted city residents and visiting tourists for many years. It is an iconic building providing an important link to Bristol's rich maritime history.
"These substantial repairs will ensure that further damage is prevented and that this magnificent tower with its panoramic views is restored to a condition where it can be enjoyed by generations to come."
He added: "I am very pleased that English Heritage has been able to help repair such a significant historic landmark.'
Simon Cook, Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Capital Projects said:
"We have been working tirelessly with English Heritage every step of the way and it is excellent news that they are supporting Cabot Tower's restoration with this significant grant.
"Together with the £150,000 the council has committed, this will go a long way towards the expected final costs of the project.
"Work has been ongoing since the start of the month and will continue now in stages through the year and into 2011 on this complex restoration project. But the end result will mean that this much-loved landmark will be re-opened then for all to enjoy once again."
Further investigation work will continue on the tower before full restoration work can begin. Bristol City Council, as the owner of the Grade 2 listed building, will lead and schedule the work.