Zejtun Police Station

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The Malta Police Force traces back to 1813, at which time the Governor of Malta, Sir Thomas Maitland, embarked on a journey of reforms and improvements, amongst which was maintaining law and order on the island. The Malta Police Force is therefore one of the oldest police forces in Europe. At a par, we find that Żejtun was a major contributor to the island’s agrarian economy. Many of the Maltese merchants and traders hailed from the city. As Malta’s economy shifted to the servicing of the Royal Navy, much of the island’s commercial activity shifted to the fortified cities around the harbour, with the importance of Żejtun declining gradually over time. In 1865, a cholera outbreak led to 84 deaths in the city, out of a total population of 5491. As Żejtun continued to develop, the British colonial administration built a police station and a public school. The Żejtun Police Station is one of the very few police stations in Malta which are housed within a building that was specifically designed for such use. Architecturally it is also a very intriguing building built in a Neo-Classical style synonymous with public building architecture under the British Rule.

A visual and photographic inspection of the site was undertaken to ascertain the condition of the facade, thus enabling the formulation of a proper conservation strategy.  This appraisal concluded that the damage, which has occurred, could be generally summarized as follows:

Prior to the conservative intervention, the facade was in a relatively good state of repair, given that the building remained in use and was subject to maintenance carried out over the years. The columns were painted over and showed some powdering damage on the lower areas mainly due to being exposed to weathering conditions and pollution. The cornice of the balcony showed signs of black crust. Dirt and black crust accumulated in areas not washed by the rain, such as below the cornices. The black crusts formed in sheltered areas are associated with the most aggressive gases i.e. Sulphur which results in the transformation of calcium carbonate into calcium sulphate, which also includes black carbonaceous material. This brings about the formation of a hard surface skin which tends to blister and exfoliate. Further loss of detail due to surface erosion may also be resultant of this chemical instance, which in turn weakens the matrix beneath the crust. Some of the balustrades underneath the cornice were subject to powdering and flaking, with some instances of vegetation growth. Black crust formations could also be observed on the top cornice and open joints.

Due to the nature of the damage the following restoration works were carried out:

The facade was washed down using water and stiff bristle/ nylon brushes.  Poulticing was used for decorated or moulded areas.  This procedure basically consisted of applying wet packs to the façade and allowing them to dry in order to extract the black deposits out of the stonework and pass into the poultice, which was later on brushed off of the stone surface. The Architect in charge allowed for the reconstruction of damaged stone and missing sculptural and decorative stonework. The latter were replaced using appropriate templates approved by the Architect in charge. No cement was used, with the plastic repair mix being solely composed of hydraulic lime, sand and stone dust.  Clay particles were combined in the mix, in order for the mix to be of closer consistency to that already existing.

Open joints were cleaned and all loose mortar was removed, while the mortar which was still in good condition was retained.  Mortars similar to the existing ones were used to point the joints.