And we’re still on for Advent!
The original programme left us two weeks to clear up before Advent. The unexpected need to remove asbestos took three weeks we weren’t expecting, but our architect, builder, archaeologist, structural engineer and under-floor heating experts have worked hard for us – thanks to them we are still on time.
Protecting the Past
All our experts and building team have been trying to understand the role that the big water tank under the sacristy plays in our overall drainage of the north side of the church. Recent rains have shown that rainwater drains in to it at one side, and drains out of it on the other. This is not instantaneous, so the tank acts as a holding tank while the water finds a way out, emptying and filling the tank. Chiz the archaeologist has duly donned his long breather (he’s suitably qualified) and been lowered in to investigate (upside down!). The tank has been shown to be in good condition, so it has been “closed-up” with a new manhole on top. This allows the floor to be laid, the heating installed, and the sacristy can then be fitted out.
We’re a little further back on drainage in the middle of the nave. The drain laid by the Georgians or Victorians, which was found to be broken under the middle of the nave and has therefore been a major cause of dampness in the church. It has now been replaced north-south right across the nave by a modern uPVC drainpipe, in a single run. This needs to be connected to the gutters and drainpipes to the north, and this is in progress. Rebuilding the outflow to the south, though, has yet to be finalized – there is a helpful gradient downwards, but the outflow path through the graveyard will need much thought and sensitivity because it is, after all, a graveyard.
As part of the current programme we are replacing the 28-year-old old technology boiler (condemned by the asbestos people) with two modern condensing ones, operating in tandem as recommended by the heating engineers. The flue has been troublesome, though – the old one needs replacing, but its tortuous path through the building caused the engineers in the past to choose to join and fix it to the masonry in an unhelpful way. Our engineers have therefore had to erect a scaffold to take the old liner out, and put a new one in – you can see the scaffold to the right of the main door. We are trying to take this opportunity, of having a scaffold in the right place, to install some ventilation into the roof-space over the nave, since that has been shown to generate very high temperatures and humidities in summer, bad for the softwood trusses which hold the roof up.
Preserving the Present
We have been involved in digging out the foundations, putting in place specifically-designed reinforced concrete “panels” to protect sensitive areas, building up with hardcore, then RFG (recycled foamed glass) to allow the area to breathe, laying a small particle slate layer over a geotextile to create an absolutely flat surface (checked by laser) and finally laying “Fermacell” boards to act as a base for our under-floor heating. This essentially completes the foundations for the floor, which runs, flat , throughout the nave, lower chancel, sacristy and choir vestry. This base will then be used to build up the heating layers, with a terra-cotta tile top layer, which will be the floor used during Advent. The final limestone tiles will be laid early in 2018.
You have seen the chairs that we will use in December – 40 have already been delivered to the Porch Room. By end-November, we will have a total of 300. They will be used throughout, including the choir, but the choir will need a stand in front of them, to read the music, and to store the amazing amount that they carry round with them. Stands are currently being made by a local craftsman – we think that you will like them.
We have decided to take our time in moving the rood screen, and building a storage unit outside the north door, near the kitchen (largely for storing the staging). Those changes will now happen in Advent/New Year. The rood screen, in particular, needs to be measured and moved by a specialist, and the Diocesan Advisory Committee (and us) will need to be satisfied that we are treating one of the treasures of our church with the respect that it deserves.
So, we will have our church back in the first few days of December. The church itself can celebrate Christmas, and there are also a number of choral concerts planned – the Stuart Singers and Cappella Singers, in particular. One thing worries the Building Team, though – please, ladies, don’t wear stilettos to the church in Advent and Christmas! – it might just test the terra-cotta layer to destruction!
Structure below the terra-cotta
In the New Year, and potentially up to Easter, we will be laying the final limestone layer, on top of the terra-cotta. The stone we plan to use will be two different stone qualities from a quarry in Ancaster, Lincolnshire. This is not as strange as it might appear, as the limestone there is the same seam as the Cotswolds, but that seam goes underground through the home counties, and reappears in Lincolnshire. The advantage is that the limestone there is much harder, and more suitable for floors. There are two similar qualities in the same quarry – one buff, one blue, but not so different as their names might suggest. We intend to use a combination – mainly buff, but with patterns picked out in the blue. A similar effect was used in the re-ordering project in Holy Trinity, Bradford-on-Avon:
Planning for Posterity
We have been more successful than many churches which have undertaken re-ordering projects, in raising the finance. The David Thomas Trust, a series of other trusts, and very generous donations from individuals or groups have got us to a state where we can be confident that we will complete the project in its minimum form. However, we have always talked about a “Stage 1” which includes the various storage cupboards, and makes a more attractive entrance, with glass doors and roof-light, and which doesn’t lead you directly into the kitchen and loos. The Building Team are still working on this, and would welcome further donations where they can be afforded, whether for chairs, or more generally.
Meanwhile, think of the future. There are several other areas that we ought to consider, but can we just mention one – acoustics and audio-visual. Acousticians did an early survey in 2015, showing that the acoustics were on the resonant side – good for music, but less good for speech – and variable in different parts of the church (Why can’t you appreciate concerts so well if you are in some specific places well away from the stage?). However, they could not measure the need properly until we had a new floor, and knew how it would be furnished, how the organ sounded, etc. After Easter, we can re-measure. Then, we can decide what we need to do: do we need baffles, sound-deadening drapes in specific places, redesign of the organ grille in the north aisle, etc?. Then we can really decide the best way forward for acoustics, and what we need as the best audio-visual system for the future.
We are fortunate in having a splendid web-site, and last month we referred you for an archaeological viewpoint to Chiz Harward’s blog. You may also know that Alan Vaughan is videoing progress, in a stop-frame video, and we shall be looking at how that can be shared more widely when we have reached a suitable point.
Howard Browning and Mandy Jutsum, Churchwardens