Restoring a church during the COVID pandemic

In 2019 the National Churches Trust awarded St James Church, Leckhampstead, Berkshire a £15000 Cornerstone grant towards a major five year project to restore the church.  COVID restrictions caused severe disruption to work and costs increased.  Church warden, Michelle Martin explains how the Friends of the National Churches Trust came to the rescue.

Photo: John Lord

St James Church is an usual but beautiful Victorian building designed by S.S. Teulon in brick and flint, which contains artefacts from all ages including an eleventh century font, fourteenth century bell, Jacobean pulpit and Georgian altar rails.  However, many other critical elements were showing their age and needed urgent attention.

Our Five Year Plan

In 2015 a five year plan was developed. Stage 1, the restoration of the front porch and boundary wall was successfully completed in 2017.  Fundraising for Stage 2, the Roof Appeal, commenced in June 2018 and £220,000 was raised by the end of 2019.  Initially we were just looking at replacement of the roof but as the project progressed it became clear it had to include the repair of the stained-glass windows and an upgrade to the lighting.

Steel support beam added

This stage was finished in May 2021, requiring additional funds of £40,000.  The National Churches Grant was the final grant received and enabled us to reach our target. As a result, we have been able to re-tile the roof, make the building weather-proof, improve the roof insulation, and resolve the structural movement in the roof and walls.  The church is now no longer on the National ‘Heritage at Risk’ register.

The Friends Vote Grant rescued us

The project was by no means “textbook”.  Covid happened just after the scaffolding was erected in March 2019 and as the roof was taken off tile by tile, first a bat appeared, and then more and more problems were revealed – rotten beams, leaks, decayed brickwork, and damaged guttering, to name but a few.  Work was put on pause, but the costs kept on running.  The National Churches Trust came to the rescue again in helping us when we received a Friends Vote grant to cover Covid costs and an additional grant to help fund additional work, such as the repair of the trusses supporting the tower to stop it falling down.  We are so grateful to the Friends of the National Churches Trust for voting for us, these grants made all the difference, enabling us to start the project and then helping us finish the work.  Some contingency was included in the scope of work, but a pandemic was definitely not one of the scenarios accounted for. 

The reality is that managing projects of this size is very stressful at times from design and faculty application, fundraising, through to building works, project management and sign-off.  There was no magic formula, just the tireless hard work, commitment, energy and support of the PCC and the Fundraising Committee, and all those who supported us including Trusts, donors, the community and all who worked on the project with us. Leckhampstead is only a small village of about 300 and we were lucky to be able to build a team of volunteers to organise local fundraising, research grants, develop grant application writing skills, manage budgets and projects, and develop good working relationships with architects, builders, and specialist craft-people.

Fundraising is a continuous challenge

St James is like many small churches and has many costs both running costs (clergy costs, energy bills, and insurance) and capital costs (building works and repairs). With lower congregations and donations, ageing buildings, increased regulation, and higher costs, fundraising is a continuous challenge.  Normally pre-Covid most of our annual church running costs were funded from regular worshipper donations and local fundraising and we hope this will resume in the coming months.  Our reserves were used up in the building work and so future capital projects will need to be entirely funded through Trust donations and grants.   Post-Covid, it is a similar but different world, with the fundraising landscape no easier. 

We are now commencing Stage 3, the installation of an efficient heating system, flexible seating, and additional facilities, which is planned to start in 2022. It continues to be a journey of peaks and troughs and many false horizons, with unexpected problems requiring creative solutions, the odd moment of despair but in the end sighs of relief combined with triumphant highs. 

We thank Michelle for her insight into what it has been like to manage a church building project through a pandemic. More information can be found on the St James website.

Church exploring with our camera

In this special blog post from one of our Friends, Ros Patrick described the joy she and her husband get from exploring and photographing local churches.

My husband and I moved to England from Australia six years ago. One of the first things we noticed was the beauty of the countryside and the next was the incredible age of so many buildings. We live in Wales so we’re in the perfect place for both.

Within thirty to forty miles of our home we have so far visited over 160 churches and we have found it’s a wonderful hobby to photograph them and read their history. This includes finding them in the first place as many are quite isolated and up narrow country lanes. We’ve walked to quite a few for the last mile or so as driving on a road barely wide enough for one tractor is a bit nerve-wracking.

Whole villages must have disappeared as the size of the church is completely out of proportion to the size of the hamlet where it is. Other churches have been surrounded by buildings and parking can be difficult.

As we’re in the Welsh Marches a lot of the history is pretty bloodthirsty, and some families have a sad reminder in the graveyards of the members who died in battles.

We have been lucky as we only rarely find churches which are locked – I feel we should give a special thankyou to the men and women who must open and lock them each day. Some of the locks require a very large and ancient key.

We have found several churches which have workmen doing repairs and maintenance and it must be very expensive to keep such old buildings in a good condition. We have met a lot of people who enjoy their beauty and history and I hope will do so for many years.

You can explore some of Ros’s beautiufl photographs in their flickr photostream.

New glass artwork will reduce draughts at St John’s Church, Silverdale, Lancashire

John Goddard, Bishop of Burnley, is to lead a Service of Dedication on Sunday 16 February (10.15) to the new artwork “Revelation” in St Johns Church, Silverdale, designed and created by glass artist Sarah Galloway.

Sarah Galloway St Johns Siverdale

Sarah Galloway St Johns Siverdale

The St John’s PCC commissioned the artwork because the church’s tall west Tower was susceptible to draughts. The purpose of the new glass screen is to decrease the volume of air within the church so as to improve comfort levels for users. After The Friends of St John began fundraising, in 2011 architects Blackett-Ord Conservation Architecture, based in Appleby-in-Westmorland, commenced on site research and monitoring. A temporary plastic screen was installed in order to carry out airflow modelling exercises and the extensive experiments undertaken by the architects indicated that a glazed screen would make both a significant contribution to thermal comfort within the church whilst reducing heating costs.

When designing the 6m x 2.5m glass screen Sarah Galloway was inspired by themes relating to Genesis, whilst also referencing the local countryside in a semi-abstractive manner. Exploring Revelation 21:1 and the “.. water of the river of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the thrown of God and either side of the river, the tree of life…” Sarah has interpreted these words as a border: the layout of the work concentrates tree and water motives around the edge and bottom of the glazing, expressing the design using deep sandblasting to create lines of texture on both sides of the toughened 15mm glass.

After the many months of planning and the complexities involved installing the artwork, the Vicar of St Johns, Canon Paul Warren, is very pleased with the end results. “Sarah’s artwork looks splendid. I’ve found it fascinating to observe the design in different lights and at different times of day. There’s often something new to discovered”.

Glass artworks
Artist Sarah Galloway has designed and created many glass artworks across the UK. Working from her studio in Pilling, Lancashire, Sarah creates glass artworks for both religious and secular buildings. In recent years she has designed and made the windows for Sunfields Methodist Church in Blackheath and West Leigh Baptist Church in Essex as well as creating glass artworks for Blackburn town centre and Blackpool Victoria Hospital. She has made artworks for clients including Sunseeker International Yachts based in Poole, Dorset and The Daffodils Hotel and Spa, Grasmere, Cumbria.

Recently in the headlines after the public showing in Lancaster of the Silverdale Hoard, one of the largest collections of Viking silver ever found in Britain unearthed in 2011, Silverdale is a picturesque village nestling on the shores of Morecambe Bay on the Lancashire-Cumbria border. At the heart of the community, St John’s Church is lively and well used. Completed in 1856 the Grade 2 listed church was designed by prominent Manchester architects Ball and Elce, who produced some of the most innovative buildings of the time and who worked closely with the sculptor J.J. Millson who carved the statue of St John the Evangelist beneath the church’s imposing Tower. Designed in the decorative style, the stained glass in the West window is by Shrigley and Hunt of Lancaster, whilst either side two modern windows by Linda Watson, “The Creation” (2006) and “The Resurrection” also by Shrigley and Hunt and dedicated in 1972 add to the glass scheme.

For more information contact:
Alan Morris (Sarah Galloway Glass) m: 07831 130 633 w: 01253 799104
info@sarahgallowayassociates.co.uk
http://www.sarahgallowayassociates.co.uk

Keeping churches and memories alive at Christmas

Canon Roger Royle

Canon Roger Royle

By Revd Canon Roger Royle

If you are anything like me, memories are a very important part of Christmas. Some may be painful or sad but hopefully the vast majority will be warm, funny and strengthening.

As a child Christmas couldn’t come quick enough. But my mother made me wait. She took me to a church where carols weren’t sung in Advent. At home decorations didn’t go up until Christmas Eve and the Baby wasn’t put into the crib until we came back from Midnight Mass. This all added to the memories, the mystery and the magic of my childhood Christmas in Wales.

Memories also came flooding back to many of the people who, as part of our Diamond Jubilee celebrations chose their favourite church as part of ‘The UK’s Favourite Churches‘ initiative.

St Martin-in-the-Fields

St Martin-in-the-Fields

I wasn’t surprised that Campbell Robb, the Chief Executive of Shelter chose St Martin in the Fields. Here is a church that very definitely practices what it preaches. It was out of the work that St Martin’s did and still does for the homeless that Shelter was born. This Christmas I expect the demands on both Shelter and St Martin’s will be as great as ever.

A delightful memory

Camila Batmanghelidjh (provided by PA, no stated copyright)If ever there is someone who is a kid at heart it’s Camila Batmanghalidjh, the colourful founder and director of Kids Company. Her favourite church is one I also love and have often worshipped in, Sherborne Abbey. In choosing that church Camila had a delightful memory. When she was at boarding school she used to hide in a cupboard so she didn’t have to go to church.

The late Rosalind Runcie, whose husband was Archbishop of Canterbury said once that too much religion made her go pop. Well that certainly isn’t true of a good friend of mine, Gloria Hunniford. In selecting her favourite church she chose one to which as a child, she went five times a Sunday, St Mark’s Portadown. It was also the church where her daughter Caron, who died of cancer, was christened. So, for her, St Mark’s will bring back sadness as well as joy.

Keeping churches alive

May I wish you many happy memories this Christmas and again thank the many Friends and supporters of the National Churches Trust for all that they do. It is through their support that many of the churches people remember with affection from the past are kept alive today.

Roger Royle presents the Christmas Day early morning programme on BBC Radio 2 

If you would like to support the work of the National Churches Trust, please visit our website.

What a difference a year makes…

From:

To:

Yorkshire, HUDDERSFIELD, St Peter (Sarah Crossland 2013) #018

I’m humming Dinah Washington whilst reflecting that one of the many really lovely parts of my job is that I get to go out and about and visit churches. Most of the time this because they have applied for a grant, so I don’t always see their best side… however, when I get to go back and see just what a difference our funding has made it’s truly worthwhile.

Last week I went back to see Huddersfield St Peter and met with the Vicar, a very happy Revd Simon Moor.

2011

When I first visited this impressive Victorian town centre church in 2011 it was in dire need of major works to parts of the roof and to stonework along the north and east walls. The two vestry roofs needed re-slating and new leadwork, and internal drainage needed replacing to prevent the considerable water ingress which was taking place. Stonework was in dire need of repair and replacement, including to windows (mullions and hoods) and walls, and two pinnacles on the east door were leaning considerably. Also, the whole east end needed re-pointing to remove concrete and other harmful mortar.

In 2012 we awarded the church a £40,000 Cornerstone Grant to complete the major repairs to the fabric of the building to safeguard it for the future. This grant was only made possible by the support we in turn receive from Friends, donors and trusts and foundations.

2013

This month I visited again and was delighted to see the extent and quality of the work undertaken to repair the fabric of the building, particularly to the roofs and stonework of the vestries and the east end.

The church members have a long term vision for their building and its place in the town.  They have plans for making the space open and accessible, and for encouraging use of the building by a wide range of groups and individuals. Having completed this major phase of repairs, they are now able to for more activities and events, and be sure that the fabric will sustain them for many years to come.

The church is continuing to fundraise for further repair projects, including more repairs to stonework, if you would like to find out more please visit their website.

For more information about becoming a Friend of the National Churches Trust, and helping to save and secure churches like Huddersfield St Peter please download our membership leaflet.

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