Galway’s medieval churches could be under threat from ivy and an increase in rainfall, according to the author of a new survey.
Surveyor Simon Large was contracted by Clare County Council to carry out a comprehensive study of the churches in County Clare and found that a third of the 170 churches examined had disappeared in the intervening 173-year period, while a third are in a dilapidated condition and at serious risk of disappearing.
Mr Large said that Galway was likely to be facing a similar fate, as the county is home to a large number of medieval churches.
“Having spent some time in Galway, travelling around, I have seen churches that are suffering from degradation,” said Mr Large.
The surveyor said that this could be as a result of a number of things.
“It could be weather-related, it could be from vegetative growth, which are the two things we focused on in Clare,” he said.
As Galway and Clare are equally wet counties in terms of oncoming rain, Mr Large said Galway would have very strong parallels to the vegetative and weather damage seen in Clare.
According to Large, an increase in rainfall in recent years has accelerated the washing out of lime mortar, while ivy has also caused considerable structural damage to many of the churches.
Due to the invasive nature of the ivy, removing it is actively discouraged, as the removal can pull down large sections of upstanding walls.
He suggested that the ivy growth could be inhibited by frequent, tight trimming, while capping the church walls, where appropriate, would prevent further damage caused by heavy rainfall.
While conservation works to buildings of this nature can be lengthy and complicated, the key survey recommendation indicated the need for detailed archaeological records to be kept in the case of the churches in an advanced state of collapse.