TALKS are set to take place to discuss whether Southampton’s famous Bargate shields should be replaced, as the current ones are “largely disintegrated”.

Southampton City Council made the comments after residents raised concerns at not seeing the 11 shields placed on the 800 year old structure, following restoration work back in 2016 which both spruced up the structure and looked to fix a damp issue to stop decay.

However the authority, which will hold the talks with Historic England, confirmed that the shields – which depict coats of arms including the Cross of Saint George – are actually still on the structure, but the paint work has chipped away and they were damaged.

A spokesperson said: “At this point, discussions will be held with Historic England to decide if the remaining bits of shield can be conserved, or if the rotten stone should be cut out and replaced with something more robust.”

They added that the authority is “waiting for the front of the Bargate to be deemed ‘dried out’ by Historic England”, before work on restoring the Caen stone shields can take place – in whatever form this may be.

While this work takes place, temporary shields will be fitted “so the look of this historically important building is preserved”, the council said.

However, it added: “Historic England will not allow temporary shields to be installed in the meantime.”

It’s not known how much longer it will take for the structure to be dry, but Historic England confirmed that work is “on track”.

The spokesperson for Southampton City Council added: “The medieval shields on the Bargate were originally carved in greensand but rotted away due to the damp approximately 200 years ago.

“The more recent shields were made from Caen stone which also started failing by 1900 and were ‘repaired’ with mortar and held in place by iron pins.

“Further repairs were undertaken in the 1990s by a leading conservation practice, using special mortar and paint, but again failed due to the damp issue.

“A major repair programme was then undertaken to fix the damp issue and after two years, a Historic England adviser assessed the wall and said it might take several years to fully dry, given the wall is some 2m thick.”