Council team ‘awash’ with Winchester’s history

Press Release: 09/09/2016

Jet washing church outline at St. Maurice's Covert

One of Winchester City Council’s most versatile teams has displayed new talents this week in support of a project to improve the appearance of the area in and around St Maurice’s Covert on the High Street.

The Special Maintenance Team played a key role in supporting a mini-festival in the Covert on Thursday 8 September.

The afternoon festival – known as Overt Covert - was one of a series of activities designed to elicit public opinion on the future presentation of the Covert.

It included tours of the former church tower (now the fire escape for Debenhams) where visitors were able to gain a new view onto the North flank of the cathedral, through the tower windows. There were also projected screenings of films on the walls and a small exhibition about the history of St. Maurice’s Church.

Noted architect Kate Macintosh, who was invited to speak at the event by ScottWhitbyStudio, said:

St Maurice's Covert is one of three routes linking the linear piazza of the High Street, Winchester's commercial hub, with the sublime tranquillity of its world-famous cathedral close. It is an important space for Winchester, and the Overt–Covert event has been an excellent way of revealing the latent potential of the space to the public.

The team from ScottWhitbyStudio, who are leading on the Covert project, were also keen to mark out on the ground the footprint of the former St Maurice’s Church – and that is when the ever-ready Special Maintenance Team stepped forward.

Using a pressure washer and a site plan, the Team were able to mark out the footprint of the church walls and columns simply by cleaning a layer of everyday grime from the paving slabs. Head of Drainage and Special Maintenance Darren Lewis commented:

This was an unusual request for us. We aren’t known as the most artistic team in the Council, but we were very proud of the way this job turned out – including the straight edges. My team are always game for a challenge, and this was a great way of connecting with a wider corporate project.

The washed area will darken to match the surrounding paving again over time, and in the meantime a notice is displayed on the Covert noticeboard to explain the mysterious markings.

During the mini-festival, around 100 people joined the tours of the Tower. Cllr Anne Weir, Chair of Winchester Town Forum which is funding and steering the project, said:

Winchester people love exploring hidden corners of the City. Debenhams have played an active part in this project already, and we are very pleased that they were able to open the tower during Heritage Open Days. The design team from ScottWhitby have been proactive about testing out ideas and approaches for the Covert, and I am looking forward to hearing their emerging proposals at the next meeting of Town Forum on Wednesday 21 September.

Local residents wishing to follow this interesting initiative have the opportunity to attend the Winchester Town Forum meeting on 21 September at 6.30pm, when ScottWhitby will present their first design suggestions.

There will be an exhibition of proposals for the Covert at Winchester Tourist Information Centre from Thursday 22 to Sunday 25 September.