A Multi Proxy Investigation of Moisture, Salt, and Weathering Dynamics on a Historic Urban Boundary Wall in Oxford, UK

Isabel Egartner, Oliver Sass, Heather Viles, Martin Dietzel

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Boundary walls are neglected but important parts of historic urban environments, and they are often prone to serious deterioration. Understanding moisture and salt dynamics within boundary walls can help infer the causes and dynamics of deterioration. This investigation investigates the patterns of moisture, salt, and deterioration on a 300 year old limestone boundary wall in Worcester College, Oxford. Multiple methods to assess moisture and salts within and across the wall (electrical resistivity tomography, handheld resistivity-based moisture meter, paper pulp poultices, scanning electron microscopy, inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry, and ion chromatography of small scale sampling of deteriorated limestone) were used in conjunction with decay mapping of both sides of the wall. The salt weathering strongly correlates with severely weathered zones at the wall and salts, mainly sulfates, seem to be the main agent of decay processes. The combined results demonstrate that the environmental influences driving stone decay can differ on a very small scale even at a comparatively simple structure like a boundary wall, and that repairs can have adverse effects if the patterns of salt and moisture dynamics are not sufficiently known.

Original languageEnglish
JournalStudies in Conservation
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019



  • Architectural heritage
  • formation of weathering features
  • moisture
  • multi-method approach
  • non-destructive investigation
  • salts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Conservation

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