Restoring the Church

Church Restoration Blog

Now that work on restoring the church has actually started, it seems a good time to create a new website section on the progress of this work.  The articles in this section are organised as a blog, with the most recent articles displayed first (ie you need to scroll right down to the bottom, starting with "Church Restoration Background" if you want to read the whole blog from the beginning, in sequence).

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We've received the following email from Kevin Rogers, Head of Parish Property Support at the Diocese:

 

Dear Amanda, Florence and Nick,

Just to bring you up to speed. I hope this finds you and the other residents well during these very strange times.  

You will have seen a bit of activity on site this week. Fullers, in line with government guidance, have returned to the building site. Fullers will revise their programme and we will tell you more as we look at options.

One interesting recent discovery was realising that the area at the West which allowed the lowering of coffins to the crypt level was still in place but capped with a concrete slab. Some of the West and South scaffolding is resting on this and we may need to reconfigure both scaffoldings in the coming weeks.

For the moment the exhibition is on hold – we will look at ways in which this can be re-opened as lockdown eases or as an open-air display. We are also looking other ways we can share the progress on the roof.

With all good wishes,

Kevin


Sure enough, work on the church resumed in mid-May and Danny has sent some fascinating photos illustrating what is going on.  Here's a selection - more to come in later blogs.  Hover the cursor over the images to see the captions.  We've also provided handy Wikipedia links to explain what may be unfamiliar architectural terms.

First, the main culprit for the damage.  Here's two photos of the Valley Gutter running the length of the aisle, which as Kevin has pointed out, was regularly blocked with leaves from the enormous London Planes overhanging the South Aisle, causing water to leak into the church (these were cut back about a year ago, but they look pretty big again!).

 

Exposed Timber RaftersValley Gutter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first repair task is to erect a temporary roof then remove the original slates - look at the size of them!  Some will be re-used but mostly they will be replaced with new ones of Welsh slate, mounted in special supports.

SlatesScaffold Roof Protection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here's examples of the water damage, both to the end of the rafters and also to the Wall Plates which support them.  The wall plates are being completely replaced with massive timbers of Douglas Pine chosen for its low moisture content to minimise warping in the years (centuries?) ahead.

Water Damaged Wall PlatesDamaged Rafters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More damage. including a massive hole in the Lath and Plaster interior ceiling.  This will also be replaced, on a second set of rafters below the upper ones.

Existing Damage Lath and Plaster CeilingWood Damage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the damaged timbers are carefully labelled so they can be faithfully repaired or reproduced  ... and structural repairs can begin, in this case to the Purlin Ends, which have also been damaged (Purlins are the longitudinal beams which support the rafters).

Purloin End RepairRecording Timbers Once Removed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fascinating isn't it?  Watch this space!

 

In February 2020 the London Diocese announced it had secured funding of just over half a million pounds from Historic England to carry out urgent repairs to the church, starting with the aisle roofs. You can read the announcement on the Diocese website here. Of course this is far from the estimated £6 million for a complete restoration, but additional funding is being sought from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and other sources, and the Diocese sound fairly confident that this funding will materialise.

Kevin Rogers, Diocese of London Head of Parish Property Support is quoted as saying:

“We are hugely encouraged by Historic England’s financial and technical support for the initial phase of critical repair. This is the first key step to bringing Sir Charles Barry’s magnificent building back into public benefit.”

Danny Burns on Roof Cropped

Shortly afterwards, residents of the Square were delighted to receive this letter from Danny Burns (pictured), Site Manager with Fullers Builders Ltd, announcing that Fullers had been awarded the contract to carry out the repairs.  

Fullers LogoFullers Awards

 

Fullers is a specialist building company established in 1872 and managed by the same Fuller family throughout their 150 year history. They "specialise in the conservation, repair and restoration of buildings of historic interest" and have a reputation for "sympathetic repairs and high quality building conservation and repair" - sounds like just what we need. Check out their website, here - it's very encouraging, with beautiful artwork (puts our website to shame!). The pictures of past projects are particularly interesting.  Danny has worked on a couple of churches - St Michaels & All Angels, Blackheath, and especially St Michaels Highgate - whose interiors look just like how Holy Trinity must have been in its heyday - see below.

 

St Michaels & All Angels, Blackheath

St Michaels Highgate1 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sure enough, scaffolding started going up at the end of February and within a few days the whole of the South aisle was encased in sheeting, shuttering and a temporary roof.  Apparently the South aisle roof was on the point of collapse due to rain damage.  This will be tackled first, then the North aisle, then the West turrets, over an 18 week period according to Danny's letter (but see below!).  Residents were for a couple of days baffled to observe vast quantities of timber delivered to the church but it transpired that this was nothing to do with the repair work - apparently the church is being used on a temporary basis to store supplies for use in other churches in the area.

Then Coronavirus struck!

The first sign was that painting of the shuttering in an attractive shade of blue stopped halfway through, then all work ceased at the beginning of March. Just before it did, we took up Danny's kind offer to contact him and he explained briefly what was going on and reiterated his willingness to keep us informed of progress if and when the work resumes - and he's been true to his word as you'll see in the next blog!  However, the need to maintain social distancing on the site means that the work is going to take longer than expected - Danny reckons two months for the South Aisle alone.

The letter from Fullers above stated "we will make every endeavour to avoid disrupting daily life in the Square". Based on what we saw before lockdown, I (Nick) have been impressed with what I’ve seen of their work – as promised, there has been minimal disruption for residents and the site has remained very neat and tidy.  But feel free to add any comments, questions or observations of your own by clicking the "Add New Comment" button below.

 

The planned restoration of Holy Trinity Church in Cloudesley Square has been reported on extensively in this website.  Now it's actually started!  For the background to this long-anticipated development, please click on the links in the timeline below:

"You will have seen the scaffolding rise on the south aisle of the church over the last few weeks. We understand that this work, funded by Historic England, is for emergency repairs to the South Aisle roof which was discovered to be at the point of collapse.  Further work to the North Aisle roof and the West Turrets is expected to follow.  The attached letter from the contractors, Fullers, has been circulated, estimating that the works will last for 18 weeks.  We understand that a formal announcement will soon be released by the Diocese about this work and the larger renovation project for which funding by the Heritage Lottery Fund is being sought. We understand that the Diocese are also hoping to host a residents update meeting about the proposed renovation of the church at some point in mid to late April (date TBD)."

More details in subsequent blogs - watch this space!