Chapter House of St Paul’s Cathedral becomes more energy-efficient

Sat adjacent to the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral, south side of Paternoster Square, is the grade II* listed Chapter House designed by Christopher Wren and his son and built between 1712-1714.

The Chapter House has been used by the Cathedral over the years for many purposes; it began as accommodation for the Dean and other members of the Chapter. Interestingly, like St Paul’s Cathedral which has been rebuilt five times, the current Chapter House was not the first to stand on site; its predecessor was destroyed in 1666 by the Great Fire of London.


Seen as the administrative heart of the Cathedral, it was refurbished during the 1950’s into offices and recently has been undergoing a major revamp while still retaining key characteristics of the building, to bring it up to 21st century office standards. Another important requirement was to improve the thermal insulation throughout the building, thus retaining the building’s heat and reducing energy bills.


Selectaglaze Ltd, specialists in the design, manufacture and installation of secondary glazing, undertook this project as their tested products can reduce heat loss by up to 50%. This is achieved by the bespoke fitting of the secondary glazing alongside the use of high performance seals.

In the Chapter House, a number of Selectaglaze products were used to suit the various window styles and sizes. These were mostly chosen from the slim-line range that is particularly appropriate for heritage buildings, as they are unobtrusive and accepted as a reversible adaptation by heritage agencies across the UK.


Established in 1969 and Royal Warrant holders since 2004, Selectaglaze boast an extensive range of products to suit the needs of different buildings. Find out more about Selectaglaze in our Professional Trades Directory or email .

The hidden meaning of gravestone symbols

In a guest blog post, Fergus Wessel, letter cutter at Stoneletters Studio, explains how gravestone symbols remain an important part of our history and our future.

Next time you wander through a churchyard, take a closer look at the gravestones and you might notice some wonderful carvings of symbols.  What do these symbols mean and what is the history of gravestone symbolism in the UK?

The earliest gravestones you might encounter are likely to have originated in the mid 17th century. Earlier ones had been largely destroyed during the Reformation, especially those with Catholic symbols such as the cross.  During this century, there was a morbid fascination with life and death which is reflected in the symbols often found on these early stones.  Common symbols include skulls and crossbones, hourglasses, angels and winged cherubs.  These are all symbols of death, resurrection and mortality, the hourglass representing the passage of time and the winged cherub representing the flight of the soul from the body upward to Heaven and the hope of the resurrection.

Towards the late 18th century, these earlier symbols began to be replaced with symbols of salvation and hope such as the dove, which, carrying a twig in its mouth, could mean hope or purity.  The urn, representing the soul was also common.  Early carvings of the figure of Hope and her anchor appeared, which were later simplified to just an anchor.

symbol dove


Victorian gravestone symbolism

By the Victorian period, more compact images became common often depicting flowers, foliage or the cross.  The cross did not become common until the 19th century due to fear of Popery.  As the primary symbol of salvation, it became prominent during this time, appearing in plain, decorative or Celtic forms. Trees also became popular, representing life when shown upright, or death when cut down.  The poppy represented sleep and palm leaves represented victory over death.

symbol celtic cross 1

Celtic cross

symbol poppy-w800-h600


symbol tree-


Tools or symbols of trade also became common as well as crops on memorials to farmers.  Mourning figures such as angels can be found from all periods.  Other symbols might represent accidents that occurred, or a biblical scene.  Books can represent the Bible, but can also mean wisdom and knowledge.


Bespoke gravestones

As a letter cutter myself, I am often asked by clients to carve a symbol onto a gravestone.  Quite often the symbol chosen represents something very personal; it might not have a universal meaning but means something to the person who commissioned it.  On the other hand, there is still an enduring popularity in symbols of love, peace and hope such as a heart, the cross and a dove. Symbols of eternity in the form of a circle, whether it be a sunken disc or a hole in the stone are also popular, as are symbols from nature.  Here are more examples of gravestone symbols, many of which I have carved in recent years.


Stoneletters Studio specialises in hand carved gravestones, opening plaques and heraldry. Find out more about Stoneletters Studio in our Professional Trades Directory. Or you can contact them directly on 01993 220405.

Pipes, gutters and drainage

J & JW Longbottom


Keeping churches watertight is a great concern to those who maintain the buildings for religious and community use. Efficient drainage and rainwater systems are therefore needed to ensure that rain ends up on the ground and not inside the church.

J & J W Longbottom Ltd, members of the Professional Trades Directory, are a specialist manufacturer and supplier of cast iron pipes and fittings for rainwater and soil drainage systems. The company take pride in the fact that they have maintained traditional methods of manufacture and have been based in their foundry at Holmfirth, West Yorkshire for nearly one hundred years.

Recently, J & J W Longbottom Ltd supplied new cast iron gutters to the Victorian Basilica-styled Russian Orthodox Cathedral Church in South Kensington. The project Architects, BLDA, were in need of a very large moulded gutter which the company was able to supply from its extensive range of standard patterns. New patterns were also made for non-standard gutters, matching those on other parts of the building, and cast in their foundry.

Russian Orthodox Cathedral Church in South Kensington

Russian Orthodox Cathedral Church in South Kensington

The company regularly supply their products to church projects and recent ones include the Grade I listed St Paul’s, Spalding where ornamental gutters as well as special hopper outlets were custom made to match those already in the building.

Another notable project was St Augustine’s Church in Ramsgate, to which the National Churches Trust awarded a £40,000 grant to fund major repairs and new cast iron gutters and rainwater pipes were supplied by J & J W Longbottom Ltd.

Kent, RAMSGATE, St Augustine (2012) #002

St Augustine’s Church, Ramsgate

Find out more about J & J W Longbottom Ltd in our Professional Trades Directory. Or you can contact them directly on 01484 682 141.



How to film a church spire

We’ve just launched our ‘Save our Spires’ campaign to raise much needed funds to help repair church spires at risk.

Save our Spires

Save our Spires

As part of the campaign we’ve produced a video to explain just why spires are so important. The amazing aerial photography in the film was produced by Kestrel-Cam, which provides remote aerial photography and video using radio-controlled UAVs, or drones, throughout the UK. The company uses the very latest multi-rotor drone aerial platforms, all equipped with professional stills cameras and video recording equipment. This allows them to offer aerial drone photography, filming and video services to a wide range of clients. The type of project that they can get involved in includes: photography and filming for estate agents, commercial property aerial photography, film & TV aerial video for the likes of the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

They are often asked to do aerial surveys of tall structures which would otherwise be difficult, or expensive, to reach.

In our case we asked Kestrel-Cam to come and take high definition video of the newly refurbished spire at St Michael and All Angels Church at Chetwynd.

The cost of erecting scaffold to gain access to such tall structures would be prohibitive but with these modern drones the job can be completed quickly and cost effectively.

In fact pretty much any sort of aerial photography can be achieved by these remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles which can legally fly up to 400 feet. What was once work for camera equipped helicopters can now be carried out by these high tech drones and at a fraction of the cost.

The company is CAA approved to do commercial aerial work within the UK and have been operating their drones for a little over 2 years.

Further information on the company can be found on their website

Or contact Duncan Armstrong – 07791 864890

National Rural Crime Network survey

Police at churchSadly, our beautiful places of worship are sometimes victims of crime.

Thanks to the many dedicated organisations helping to care for and support places of worship much progress has been made in keeping heritage crime, including attacks on places on worship, on the national police agenda. However, we need to keep up the good work.

In response to concerns from people living and working in rural areas, the National Rural Crime Network is launching the biggest ever survey of rural policing and crime, and we hope that the results will provide evidence to support our pressure to make places of worship as great a priority as farm theft and other issues with which the police are more familiar.

The National Rural Crime Network survey has received Home Office funding to undertake the rural crime and policing survey. The on-line survey will run for about five weeks and it is hoped that the findings will help shape and inform:

  • awareness of crime in rural areas
  • appropriate crime prevention
  • government policy
  • policing and partnership activities

The survey provides an opportunity to raise public awareness of crime and anti-social behaviour within the historic environment and to provide data to  help the police to integrate heritage crime into their core business and working practices. Although it is a national project and clearly not aimed specifically at places of worship it does give everyone the chance to make their case and it would be good if the places of worship perspective could be well represented in responses.

If you care for a place of worship in a rural area, please consider taking part in the survey:


For more information about security and personal safety in places of worship please explore our new website Resource Centre.

And for some recent good news from the Churches Conservation Trust, showing that stolen items can indeed be recovered by Police if they have enough information.


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