Churchyard challenges solved – thanks to Community Payback

In a special blog post, Maryann Williams, a volunteer at St Mary’s church in the village of Llanfairtalhaiarn, Conwy, talks about how their small parish overcame the challenges of managing the upkeep of their churchyard.

There must very few churches whose supporters do not struggle with the upkeep of their churchyards. Managing grass that seems to grow as you watch it, malignant weeds and leaning or crumbling gravestones are all part of the annual issues.

Graveyard at St Mary’s church.

Within its original stone walled boundary, there is a large grassy area containing many visible gravestones, some upright and some lying flat ready to surprise the uninitiated mower. A wildflower meadow in the centre and additional small flower bed with lavender and buddleia attract bees and other insects. There are steep banks and we also have to contend with vigorous earthworks from a determined mole. We also are responsible for the management of a closed churchyard right next door. AND the average age of our congregation is more than 60 – with many of us getting older.

Rake and Cake”  

How do we manage? We have a mowing and strimming rota and twice a year we organise a “Rake and Cake”. Within half a day we can blitz the creeping brambles and the awkward corners that need regular attention. So the area around the church usually looks really good.

But what about the closed churchyard next door? For some years it had been left alone and it had begun to look unkempt and neglected, even though it attracted a decent array of butterflies. Managing this when volunteers were already overstretched was not possible.

Graveyard at St Mary’s church

Local Community Payback Team

When a person offends he or she can be brought before a magistrate’s court. A range of penalties can be imposed depending on the type of offence and the person committing it Being a retired magistrate, I was very familiar with the options and that one possible sentence was of unpaid work (Community Payback), regarded as an alternative to a custodial sentence.

Community Payback work doesn’t necessarily need to be arduous, free time is lost and the offender must comply with the conditions imposed – eg being ready for the morning pick up, and obeying the rules of the working day which can be challenging for some. The projects carried out are community based – litter picking comes to some people’s minds but clearing wasteland, working in charity shops and painting community buildings are also on the list.

For us at St Mary’s our local team has been invaluable. The Team supervisor arrives early with a van full of workers, strimmers and rakes. The team comes annually for the marathon task of strimming, raking and clearing the disused graveyard (we leave it virtually untouched for most of the year to encourage wild flowers, butterflies and birds). They have also worked in our main churchyard pruning and clearing brambles around the walls. One year I asked that a pile of random rubble be cleared away – by the afternoon I had the newly created rock-bordered flowerbed mentioned earlier, an idea of their own.

Overcoming Lockdown

Over the last 18 months life has been much more difficult for the Team organisers with no group travel in vans being possible.  However our local organiser, Dave, has soldiered on valiantly bringing just one worker and between them they managed the winter clearance over some weeks.

The team has a new project this week– we have a shed door and some ancient wrought iron gates all in great need of renovation. We are supplying the wire brushes and the paint and now we are about to have a new and much smarter look.

Community Payback Worker cleaning gates

This is a huge help to us. The team members are universally friendly and the work rate is fine. We supply of tea, coffee and cake – and the jobs get done. Wonderful!

I would strongly recommend Community Payback as a tool for those needing help for church maintenance (and am happy to respond to any queries) Team organisers are always looking for more projects so the chance of cost free work can only be of mutual benefit.

Thanks to Maryann for sharing her experience of using the Community Payback Scheme to solve the problem of churchyard maintenance. More information on the scheme is available on the Government website.

Grade II Listed Anglican Church rejoices at new acoustic secondary glazing installation

Selectaglaze are a member of our Professional Trades Directory. They have recently installed 47 secondary glazing units to several large gothic arched stained-glass windows in St Philips Church, Wolverhampton for noise insulation and thermal insulation.

St Philip’s is a Grade II Listed Anglican Church in the Penn Fields Conservation Area, 3.5km south-west of the centre of Wolverhampton. In the early 19th century, Penn Fields was predominantly rural. As suburban life started to develop and progressively move west, the population increased gradually. The nearby village church of St Bartholomew could not accommodate the numbers of new churchgoers; therefore, an acre of land was given, in Penn Fields, to build a new church.

St Philip’s was built in 1858 in a Victorian Gothic style designed by Wolverhampton architects Griffin and Weller. Constructed with rock-faced stone with ashlar dressings under tiled roofs and with stunning original stained-glass windows, the church is the focal point of the village. The first vicar, Reverend William Dalton invested £3000 in exchange for the patronage and was licensed as Perpetual Curate of the Church in October 1859. The suburb grew during the early 20th century, with further domestic buildings and the extension of the church grounds to the west to form a vast graveyard.

Complete refurbishment of the church

In 1991 Wolverhampton Borough Council made St Philip’s (Penn Fields) a Conservation Area with the church forming its centrepiece. In 1996 as part of a large internal modelling project, the Church was divided to increase the multi-functionality of the building. Worship is undertaken on the upper floor, with the ground functioning as an events space.

Architects Brownhill Hayward Brown and Main Contractor Croft Construction in charge of a complete internal refurbishment of the Church in 2020.

The original large gothic arched church windows, which could not be replaced, required a solution to raise their thermal efficiency so that community activities downstairs, like children’s groups could take place in a comfortable environment.

Furthermore, it was imperative that noise egress on the ground floor, which had internal and external facing windows was kept to a minimum, so as not to disturb those worshiping on the upper floor.

A solution to reduce noise levels and create thermal insulation

Brownhill Hayward Brown got in touch with Selectaglaze to explore treatment options that would complement the church windows and be effective in preventing noise ingress and egress and thermal insulation. In addition, access to the primary windows for ongoing maintenance and cleaning was required.

Selectaglaze secondary glazing installed with standard glass can markedly reduce noise levels by up to 45dB and higher if thicker glass is used. Furthermore, secondary glazing placed in front of stained-glass panels can incorporate anti-reflective glass to preserve clarity.

The church windows are very large and together with the obscure shaping of the stone reveals on the ground floor, the installations initially looked challenging, but when Selectaglaze visited St Philip’s to survey it was found that a simpler solution could be implemented. The window reveals were deep enough to accept the standard fixing method, creating a cavity between the primary and secondary glazing to meet the required acoustic and thermal reductions. The arched windows on the first floor were bolstered by wooden frames but could still be modified with the same solution to the windows on the ground floor.

Selectaglaze installed 34 units to 11 openings, a combination of 11 Series 10 slimline horizontal sliding units and 23 Series 46 slimline fixed light units. Fixed light secondary glazing can be joined together with other products such as horizontal sliding units as over lights or side lights – best for arched windows as they can be shaped or curved to a full circle.

Reduction in heating costs

For the four stone openings on the ground floor, three Series 46 fixed lights were transom coupled to a Series 10 horizonal sliding unit. The horizontal slider was fitted in the lower half of the reveal for access to clean the primary windows, with the fixed lights coupled above to follow the tracery of the beautiful original gothic arches.  The community space has now been made more thermally insulated with the addition of secondary glazing and they should start to see a reduction in heating costs, with less heat escaping and the draughts eliminated.

A similar solution was installed in the Church space on the first floor within five wooden reveals. Series 46 fixed lights were transom coupled side by side above a Series 10 horizontal slider in each window opening with a good cavity to reduce noise egress. Events on the ground floor can happen at the same time as church services, without disturbing prayer.

“Aesthetically it all looks excellent, the thermal glazing on the external window does seem to make the community rooms considerably warmer when heated, as we have held small business meetings in them, however the acoustic glazing awaits fully testing its effectiveness as and when COVID restrictions allow.” Peter Smith, Vicar of St Philip’s Church.

Selectaglaze is a specialist designer, manufacturer, and installer of bespoke secondary glazing systems across the UK. Selectaglaze seeks to provide their customers with the best in class product and service to meet all challenges, which is achieved by a process of continual improvements. Selectaglaze has the widest range of secondary glazing units providing a vast range of solutions for projects.

Sign up  for monthly Selectaglaze e-bulletins, with recent updates, new blogposts and events.

Looking forward to The Big Update?

We will, as always, be attending the Historic Religious Building Alliance’s The BIG UPDATE!

This year looks as exciting and informative as previous years, offering the chance to keep up to date with what’s happening to secure the future of historic religious buildings, and to meet others with similar interests and concerns. All are welcome.

There will be short, informative talks with space for questions and discussion, and time to network.

 

Speakers include (not in order of appearance):

* Keynote speaker: Sir Laurie Magnus, Chair of Historic England (a body which came into being when English Heritage split into two earlier this year)

* Philip Arundell talking about grants offered by the AllChurches Trust

* Ingrid Greenhow, talking about the ‘Taking Stock’ programme for Quaker Meeting Houses – a survey of these buildings to obtain a strategic overview of their importance and future opportunities.

* Rachel Harden, Deputy Director of Communication, Church of England, talking about effective ways of publicising a church project

* Shahed Saleem talking about the British Mosque, based on his survey of mosques and providing a foretaste of his forthcoming book

* Andy Warren of Natsol – everything you have always wanted to know about installing a compost toilet at your church

* John Winton, currently National Director of Churches Tourism Network Wales. This is soon to develop into Sanctaidd, a new organisation which will provide comprehensive support to all places of worship in Wales.

* CASE STUDY: Sara Loch and Chris Curtis on the Cupola Project in Blandford Forum

 

All are welcome.

The cost, including a full hot lunch and all refreshments, is £44.00 per person. Discounts are available to paid up members (see the booking form). Places are limited; paid up members receive priority. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any queries.

www.hrballiance.org.uk

Venue: St Alban’s Centre, Baldwins Gardens, London EC1N 7AB

 

See you there!

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:

http://www.nationalruralcrimenetwork.net/research/internal/national-rural-crimes-survey-2015/?member=NorthYorkshire

 

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.

Church buildings: burden, blessing and an asset for mission

Together with many Dioceses and some other national organisations we were lucky enough to receive funding from English Heritage for a Places of Worship Support Officer. Although this programme has now finished many regional PoWSO’s have been kept on by Dioceses and are continuing to give much needed support and advice to the churches they work with.

Here we welcome guest writer Andrew Mottram to introduce a new report written jointly by PoWSO’s in the West Midlands area. A discussion document based on their experience in the Dioceses of Hereford, Lichfield and Worcester from 2009 to 2015, the report is full of content and ideas which may be relevant to churches and those who care for them across the UK.

St Luke, Reddall Hill, Cradley Heath (Andrew Mottram)

Since 2011 up to seven PoWSO’s in West Midlands and Wales have met regularly and found that there were common problems frustrating their work to support Church congregations struggling with their buildings.

In addition to a widespread lack of understanding about the benefits of preventative maintenance, the main issues are the Church of England’s structures and legislative requirements – from the appointment of clergy to the closure process, all of which can hinder the effective management of church buildings.

In 2014 “I wouldn’t start from here” was produced by the four West Midlands PoWSO’s as a discussion document shared with other PoWSO’s in England. There was general agreement that the problems identified were common across the country but there were innovative solutions being considered in some dioceses.

CBBBAM is a summary of the previous discussion document and offers solutions to the issues raised. In summary there are too many buildings for the people available to manage them. This leads to neglect and to assets becoming liabilities. There needs to be a strategic approach to managing buildings, ensuring that there are creative solutions to surplus buildings and effective support for parishes in the management of their buildings.

Andrew Mottram

Download the report here.

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