Jan.'19 Bob Humphrey-Taylor - ‘STORM Gathers over Mellor!’

ephesus ruins

Ephesus, Turkey


An acronym was originally just the initial letters of an institution or a project, used as a shorthand by people involved. However, the modern trend is for governmental agencies to think of the acronym first and then find a mission statement that can fit (or sort of fit).

STORM is the contrmnr baths diocletian cortileived acronym for an EU programme designed to assess the impact of climate change on archaeological sites. The full title is -

Safeguarding Cultural Heritage through Technical and Organisational Resources Management.

As you can see, some words had to be shoehorned into the title and others were omitted but the end result is a simple and memorable name for a complex research project. Bob Humphrey-Taylor, the chairman of Mellor Archaeological Trust came to explain the reality behind the name.

As a matter of policy the EU tries to take an integrated approach. Historic and archaeological assets both encourage and depend upon tourism so protection is important. However, as sites are made more accessible, there is inevitably more damage and therefore more need for protection. Another sort of damage is natural - the damage caused by the weather (short term) or climate (long term.) It is this that the STORM project is concentrating upon.

Five contrasting sites have been selected from across Europe.

As well as Mellor there is:

        Ephesus in Turkey

              Ephesus is a World Heritage site dating back to the 10th century BC.

        Baths of Diocletian in Rome

              The Baths of Diocletian were built in 300 AD as public baths for the people of Rome but over the centuries they have been greatly modified by building both a basilica and a monastery within its footprint as well as more recent constructions.

        Rethymno in Crete and

              Rethymno originated in Minoan times but is mainly known for its Old Town built by the Venetians between the 13th and 16th centuries.

        Tróia in Portugal

             Tróia is the site of a settlement from Roman times involved in fishing and salt production.

 All three of the sites for which Mellor Archaeological Trust is responsible are included in the research - the Bronze Age burial ground at Shaw Cairn, the Iron Age to medieval fortified encampment at the Old Vicarage and the newly excavated Mellor

aerial 2

Aerial View of the excavated Mellor Mill

These sites range in size, in age, in geographic location and, above all, in the nature of the long term threats to their fabric. As such they present a wide range of problems and conditions. Air pollution, flooding, earthquakes, vegetation growth, too much rain, too much sun. (Mellor does not have the latter problem). Problems such as these are present on almost all archaeological sites and the work carried out on these five sites in measuring, testing and researching will be of use to all of them. Not just the current threats but also the longer term threats of climate change and increased human activity whether incidental such as traffic pollution or planned such as tourism.

Shaw article 00During the three years of the project a wide range of sensors, gauges and surveys are being employed at all the sites by the various universities and research institutions associated with the project. The Mellor site is working closely with the University of Salford and Historic England but many other partners are also involved.

(left: Shaw Cairn)

In time various schemes tailored for the individual site will be recommended but in almost every case these will be reversible if they are found to be ineffective or possibly even harmful. The results of all these trials will be widely demonstrated to the involved stakeholders and the relevant authorities. As a result they are expected to lead to new, more efficient governmental processes for the protection of the sites against climate changes and natural hazards.

The particular areas of concern at Mellor relate to extremes of wetting and drying, the slippage of embankments and the long term conservation of brick and stone structures. For example, are they best preserved in the open or should they be buried for protection?

The project is designed to last three years, ending in May 2019 but all of the sites will carry on with their measurement and research as far as possible and try to spread the knowledge gained to other sites with similar problems. Brexit or no Brexit, we can still cooperate and share our knowledge.

MLHS Meeting'STORM over Mellor', Marple Local History Society, January 2019

Bob gave us an important talk about some very local historic assets. It is good that there is a programme to conserve and develop them but it is all too easy to think that someone else will do it. It is our common heritage and we are all responsible. If you feel you can make any type of contribution please contact www.matrust.org.uk

By Hilary Atkinson, January 2019

STORM Pilot Sites

Diocletian Baths

Construction time

  • Ancient history – 298-306 BC (Roman Baths)
  • Early modern period – 1565 AD (Cloisters)
  • Contemporary period – first half of the 20th century (Museum building)

The main conservation issue of the Diocletian Baths is related to the static of the ancient buildings, and to the heavy car and bus traffic around them (including two underground lines passing nearby). However, the Roman brickwork is also threatened by air pollution, heavy rains, winds and thunderstorms, which are becoming more and more frequent in the area. The presence of the surrounding gardens also increases the risk of fires, especially in case of thunderstorms. Besides that, the tall timber trees have already fallen on the Museum buildings. Floods are also a parameter that threats the site due to the remarkable raising of the planking level in the last three centuries and to the presence of underground rooms. These risks do not affect only the buildings themselves, but also the objects which they contain being seat of the National Roman Museum: marble sculptures and inscriptions, pottery, bronzes, paintings, stuccoes and mosaics.

Diocletian Baths
Rethymno, Greece

Construction time

  • Hellenistic shipyards – Neoria (3rd – 2nd BC)
  • Early modern period – (Fortezza fortress) (late 16th century)
  • Buildings in the old city (~1850)
  • Minister (1955)

Because of continuous exposure of the monuments to extreme climate events and natural hazards, the old city buildings and the Fortezza fortress suffer from several types of deterioration. Results can be spotted on both stones, binders, mortars and coatings of the monuments, creating the need for their rehabilitation and preservation. Although the restoration and conservation work carried out by the involved stakeholders is significant, the current protection and conservation actions lack the real-time monitoring and risk assessment, which is required for more effective and efficient management.

Rethymno, Greece
Ephesus, Izmir,

Construction time

  • Ancient history (3rd century BC) (Great Theatre)

Ancient city of Ephesus was originally constructed as a harbour city. The city was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614 AD. The city’s importance as a commercial centre declined as the harbour was slowly silted up by the Kaistros river. In the past the city was exposed to inundation, and erosion. It is under continuous exposure to human made and natural hazards. The structures need to be strengthened against seismic hazard.

In the context of STORM, a seismic hazard assessment for the site is performed. A detailed numerical 3D solid model of the structure is generated using 3D laser point clouds provided from radar measurements. Structural performance of the structure are assessed to detect possible weaknesses or damage initiation location. The structural model accounts for the effects of climate change, temperature, humidity and human related hazards. Material and geometric properties of the construction elements will be changed to account for such effects, which possibly caused degradation of materials or loss of construction elements due to environmental or human related hazards, in time. Innovative, applicable and reversible retrofit schemes will be suggested to prevent further (progressive) damage and to improve the seismic performance of structure in future.

Ephesus, Izmir,
Ruins of Tróia

Construction time

  • Ancient history
  • 1st – 5th century AD (Roman settlement)
  • Postclassical era 5th century AD (Early Christian Basilica)

The major causes of degradation in the Roman site of Tróia are related to its geographical location: the shoreline of the River Sado estuary, in the vicinity of the Atlantic Ocean. The proximity to the estuary and Ocean cause a variety of threats: tidal action, mechanically affecting constructions on the shore, high humidity, favouring biological and carrying soluble salt that damage building materials in general and painted stucco in particular, rising humidity, strong winds and rain causing mechanical damage, and high thermos-hygrometric variations. Vegetation growing and wasps making nests on earthen mortars also affect the integrity of ancient structures. The sand substrate and sand dunes, easily moved by water and wind, pressure archaeological structures and accelerate erosion, which is clearly manifested as structural deformation, masonry open joints and loss of cohesion of bedding mortars.

Ruins of Tróia
Mellor Mil


Finally we have the Boiler (left) and Engine House (above) completed and the remains revealed in all their glory. It was a great point of discussion during a recent visit by the Newcomen Society. Celebrated Engineers were amongst the visitors - posing searching questions to our guides. Everyone had an enjoyable and fruitful visit.

Mellor Mil
Roundhouse, Mellor
Mellor Mill

Ann Hearle leads a party round the Mellor Mill Archaeology site.

Mellor Mill
MLHS Meeting

The view from behind Bob Humphery-Taylor at the MLHS Meeting on 21st January 2019

MLHS Meeting
MLHS Meeting

Bob Humphrey-Taylor

MLHS Meeting
MLHS Meeting

The view from the rear of the meeting on January 21st. 2019

MLHS Meeting