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.

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.

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.

Inspiring churches and Heritage Open Days

Sarah Holloway
Sarah Holloway

 

Our Guest Blogger Sarah Holloway, Heritage Open Days Co-ordinator, writes about Heritage Open Days events at churches.

Model making, morris dancers, bubble blowing and a punk rocker. Not things you would usually put together I suspect, but all connected as part of Heritage Open Days events at churches this year.

Once a year this annual festival of heritage and culture offers people an opportunity to see and experience something not normally available, and for the hundreds of faith sites taking part it’s a great chance to open doors to new audiences.

Heritage Open Days

Heritage Open Days

From digging out and displaying your parish registers, to hosting exhibitions of wedding dresses , holding organ recitals or giving people the chance to experience speaking from a pulpit; there is so much that churches can offer visitors. By thinking creatively, involving music, arts and family history, sites can provide a new reason for people to come to the building. And once over the threshold visitors are often amazed at what they find inside – be it stunning architecture, fascinating history, a peaceful haven or a welcoming community – encouraging them to return.

Inspiring highlights

Here are just some of the many inspiring events being held at faith sites across England as part of this year’s Heritage Open Days…

Forever blowing bubbles… St Paul’s Parish Church, Sale, Greater Manchester have organised a wonderfully festive day for visitors. There will be music and dancing as well as tower tours and the parish registers on display. And lots of fun for children too, activities including a dressing up box, a storyteller, and bubble blowing!

Punk rocker turned window designer… Frettenham Church, Norfolk are offering the chance to meet the artist who created their Resurrection window. One of our blog team wrote about this last year (The punk behind the window) and is planning a follow up piece after this year’s event. So a good example, not just of a creative event, but also of using social media and different networks to promote it.

Reading, Heritage Open Days 2012Working on a theme… In Dorking, Surrey, events are taking inspiration from the anniversary of WWI. The Quaker Meeting House has a thought provoking exhibition of artefacts, letters and photographs, focusing on the story of one conscientious objector. They will be engaging children in the story with model making of refugee houses and a soundscape to match a slideshow. Whilst at St Martin’s Church, the local folk club and friends will be taking visitors through a selection of songs, prose and verse from the period.

Working together… Heritage Open Days is well established in Cheetham Hill, Greater Manchester and they use the festival as an opportunity to bring sites and communities together. This year there is a heritage coach tour taking in five different faith sites, a temple a synagogue, a mosque and two churches.

Unsung heroes

These are just a handful of the creative events taking place at faith sites this September. At the heart of all of them though are the brilliant teams of dedicated volunteers. These amazing people should never be underestimated, their passion and enthusiasm can turn the smallest event into the most special day. So a huge thank you to all who take part. And if you aren’t one of them this year, please do go out and support them, maybe you’ll be inspired for next year!

Heritage Open Days take place from 11 – 14 September 2014 .You can search for more events and find out how to get involved at the Heritage Open Days website

 

Willis Pipe Organ restoration_c2_Anna Page

A unique church in the heart of the City…

 

Greater London, DOCKLANDS, St Peters Barge

Navigating the urban jungle that is the Docklands area of London is always an interesting experience… surrounded by the huge glass cathedrals of trade and commerce and yet finding constant reminders of the areas heritage, a bustling and world’s largest trading post, with ships from around the globe gathering to trade goods and ideas.

Docklands has an interesting collection of churches worth exploring, built by workers and company owners, and reflecting a range of architectural styles.

However, right at the heart of the area, between Canary Wharf and West India Quay is a unique and yet perfectly formed church, one which both reflects the heritage of the area and provides services to its current and future communities.

St Peter’s Barge is London’s only floating church and hosts a wide range of activities and events.  It’s also well worth a visit to see the very calm and light space that has been created aboard, amongst the hustle and bustle of the area.

To find out more about St Peter’s Barge visit their website

 

To learn about the history of docklands, view this short BBC film

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