Restoring the Church

Church Restoration Blog

Now that work on the church has actually started, it seems like 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).




Mid July, and the restoration work is well under way.  Here's some more photos from Danny (and a couple from Kevin) illustrating what's going on - as always, hover the cursor over the images to read the caption.  

First, more examples of damage, not just to timbers, but also to stone and brick:

Rotted TimberGutter DamageDamaged StoneRotted Stone


And here below are photos of some of the new materials.  The stone is mostly Bath Stone sourced and prepared by Wells Cathedral Stonemasons in Somerset.  It has the advantage of being a "freestone" meaning it is easily worked and can be sawn or "squared up" in any direction.  This is the same Bath stone as originally used by Barry, as the following extract from the Holy Trinity Vestry minutes of March 1971 makes clear (from a Holy Trinity Chronology prepared for the Diocese by Rebecca Preston - well worth consulting, incidentally - see also here - a wonderful source of information about how the church was built):

"The church is a fairly characteristic example of a good Commissioners’ Perpendicular, simple but not mean. The body of the building is of stock brick and the window tracery, string courses and turrets are of Bath stone."

The timber is mostly Douglas Pine, as noted in an earlier post.  The image below shows a Box Joint, usually used for joining beams at right angles but in this case used to extend the length of a single beam.

New Stone CroppedWedge DetailMortice and Tenon


Although most of the Gault Bricks (aka "Suffolk Whites") are in fairly good condition, the mortar is not, and a great deal of repointing is necessary.  Fullers are using special lime mortar (slaked lime with specially selected sand), for several reasons:

  • This is what was used originally, so it looks good and blends in well (look at the quality in the detail photo on the right!)
  • It is flexible so less likely to crack as the building moves (past repairs have used cement mortar, with unfortunate results as you can see in the picture with Danny's hand earlier)
  • The mortar allows to bricks to "breathe" - in other words water does not get trapped within the brickwork, leading inevitably to damage.

Wall Under RepairLime Mortar Detail Reduced


Here's some of the results.  The photo on the left shows repaired rafters - most of this work is completed.  A new gutter has been fitted and will be lined with lead.  In the middle of the gutter is a new "Catch Pit" for collecting debris so that the gutter does not get blocked up again and rainwater flows freely out of hoppers at the ends into drainpipes.  The catch pit will be lined with stainless steel (who will go up there and clean away the debris though I wonder?).

New Catch Pit in Gutter

Repaired Rafters and Gutter


Finally, here's a photo of a new section of stone inserted into the space where damaged stone has been removed.  Interestingly, the stone is bonded into place using adhesive, then finished off with mortar.  And below that, a great interior shot showing a new Purlin between the lower and upper rafters.  The black structure is one of Barry's moulded plaster beams which can be see apparently supporting the ceiling from the interior of the church.  These actually have wood inside them with plaster artfully moulded around the wood.  As I understand it, Fullers are using steel beams to lie alongside the plaster beams to give extra support.  I've seen them being winched up to the roof and they certainly look extremely sturdy!New Stone in Place Detail


New Purlin and Plaster Beam




We've received the following email from Kevin Rogers 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 done as lockdown eases or as an open-air display. We are also looking at other ways we can share the progress on the roof.

With all good wishes,


Kevin Rogers |  Head of Parish Property Support

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 posts.  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 to me!).

Valley GutterExposed Timber Rafters

















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.


Scaffold 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.

Damaged Rafters

Water Damaged Wall Plates


















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

Wood DamageExisting Damage Lath and Plaster Ceiling



















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  (Purlins are the longitudinal beams which support the middles of each rafter).

Purloin End Repair

Recording Timbers Once Removed

















Fascinating isn't it?  Watch this space!


In February 2020 the London Diocese announced it had received funding of getting on for 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 other sources, in particular the National Lottery Fund, and the Diocese sound fairly confident that this will materialise.

Kevin Rogers, Head of London Diocese 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 CroppedShortly 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 Fullers 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 - its 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 and 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 NaveSt 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 enscased in sheeting, shuttering and a temporary roof.  Apparently the South aisle 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 being delivered to the church but it transpired that this was nothing to do with the repairs - apparently the church is being used as a temporary depot for supplies to other churches in the area.

Then Coronavirus struck!!

The first sign was that painting of the shuttering (in an attractive shade of blue) stopped half way 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 post!).  However, the need to maintain social distancing on the site means that the work will take longer than expected - Danny reckons two months for the South aisle alone,

The letter from Fullers 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 your own comments, questions or observations via "Add Comments" below. 



The planned restoration of Holy Trinity Church 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 articles - watch this space!