Restoration of Chester’s world-famous Eastgate clock and bridge will begin in the New Year.
Work will start on January 5 to build a scaffold around the structure in preparation for the next phase of a major £500,000 scheme to conserve the ancient City Walls.
The work will see Britain’s second best-known clock behind Big Ben encased in protective plastic while specialist contractors William Anelay carry out restorations to sections of its ornamental ironwork, which is beginning to show the effects of the ravages of time.
The protective covering will depict a photographic image of the bridge and clock, showing tourists and visitors Chester’s world-famous landmarks hidden behind the wrap.
The restoration will also see sections of damaged sandstone on the Eastgate repaired, and heraldry on the bridge – including the arms of the County Palatine Richard Grosvenor, the sword of justice and three sheaves – re-gilded.
The Walls walkway will be closed throughout the works - due for completion in the summer – from the access steps behind Milton’s jewellery shop to the ramp and steps at Bell Tower Walk.
A short pedestrian diversion will be in place re-routing the City Walls walk along St Werburgh Street and Bell Tower Walk.
Cheshire West and Chester Council, which is carrying out the work, has been working closely with all businesses who may be affected to keep them informed and to minimise disruption as much as possible.
This includes local artist John Donnelly - a familiar sight to visitors to the clock from where he has sketched and sold his artwork for more than 20 years - who will be temporarily relocated to the newly-restored King Charles Tower.
The latest edition of visitor publication Chester Area Mini Guide features a walking guide to the Walls with updated information about the restoration and the temporary pedestrian diversion.
Council leader Mike Jones said: “The New Year will see the second phase of this major conservation project, which began in September as part of our ongoing investment in the Walls to protect the future of this Scheduled Ancient Monument.
“We have scheduled the restoration of the clock and Eastgate Bridge for after Christmas to avoid one of Chester’s best-loved landmarks being wrapped in scaffolding during the busy festive period.
“I would like to thank residents, businesses and visitors alike for bearing with us while we work to safeguard the future of one of our city’s most prized assets.
“I would particularly like to thank John Donnelly for his co-operation, and I am sure his temporary new home at King Charles Tower will prove an excellent alternative spot for passers-by to stop awhile and marvel at how he uses his intimate knowledge of the city and its Walls in his art, capturing some of the most beautiful and memorable local scenes.”
To allow the scaffold to be built safely, the road for 15 metres either side of Eastgate Bridge will be closed from 10.30am-4pm Monday to Friday for up to eight weeks from January 5, with the following provisions:
St John Street will be made two-way for access only and a marshal will be provided for safety purposes and to control access.
Northgate Street will be made two-way between Princess Street and St Werburgh Street. A priority system will be in operation over this length.
Blue Badge holders will have access but will only be allowed to turn right from St Werburgh Street. Access to the Grosvenor Hotel will be maintained.
A temporary traffic diversion to St John Street will be in place from the manned barrier via Princess Street, Nicholas Street, Grosvenor Street and Pepper Street.