Most people, reading this article, will be aware that our church has embarked on a bold initiative to protect and preserve this beautiful building. Many will have participated in the various consultation processes where the way forward has been planned. The discussions and suggestions made have greatly helped us to progress.
To set forth on a venture of this nature is not for the faint hearted. Holy Trinity has existed on its present location since 1086 and has been and still is the heart of the town, not only in its ecclesiastical role, but also as a contributor to the cohesive life of the parish. Most people’s lives have, in one way or another, been touched by its presence. However, all is not well with the state of the building and action needs to be taken if we are to achieve the headline of this article.
It could be said that we are being too ambitious in what we are hoping to accomplish but, having been given the opportunity by a most generous bequest for the reordering of the church, it would be sad to lose the chance to not only rectify that which needs to be done to protect the building but also to greatly expand its use and effectiveness.
As a church we are fortunate that we are able to call on a number of people who are willing to give their time and experience to the project. Much preliminary work has been done as, before any plans were made, it was decided that we needed to examine the true state of the building and its immediate and future preservation needs. Experts were appointed who reported on the outstandingly high levels of humidity in the church, especially by the north wall and in the 14th century Lady Chapel. This ‘almost raining’ result represents a real threat to the building and, in part, explains the requirement for the regular and expensive re-painting required for the north wall. If left unchecked the high levels of dampness will have a damaging effect on the building fabric over time impacting the timberwork and encouraging condensation. Fluctuations in humidity can also have a damaging effect on the pipe organ. There will be further investigations to examine all potential causes for the high levels of humidity but, in the meantime, the heating engineer, building engineer, and appointed architect are unanimous in advising that an under floor heating system, using the latest technology and with a modern boiler, will provide the major part of the solution to this problem.
In order to accommodate the under floor heating the stone floor will have to be lifted and the floor will be laid with a slight slope at the entrance, leading to a level stone floor throughout the body of the church up to the chancel, providing greater accessibility and much needed flexibility of use.
These two actions will cost approximately £466,000 and are essential to our first objective to protect the past.
During the second phase we will move on to preserve the present. This stage involves a number of measures to make our church more flexible both for ecclesiastical activities and other appropriate events. From the many consultations that have taken place and opinions contributed by participants, it now seems clear that a majority are in favour of removing the pews and replacing them with chairs. Those who have seen the effect of this in other churches and cathedrals can testify to the benefits it brings. The estimated cost would be £91,000. With the ability to accommodate over 300 people Holy Trinity is already a much sought after venue but, in this new format, it will increase the options for potential users.
There is also the intention to re-site the rood screen to open up the church and chancel and, most likely, move the screen to the archway between the choir and the Lady Chapel. In addition the sound system has been found to be generally inadequate and is an essential part of our worship and other activities in the building. The approximate cost of these two items is £75,000.
Lastly, in this stage, we would provide a nave altar which, again, has proved beneficial in many other churches with its easy access for the congregation. Added to which, it will be positioned on a dais which will be movable. For those services when the nave altar is used it will be much more inclusive for both clergy and congregation, bringing everyone together. Naturally the high altar will still be used on specified occasions. The cost of this is approximately £37,500.
For the third phase there are a number of items which will enhance the building in all its present activities, but will also ensure its future. The three most significant items are: firstly revision of the main entrance to make it more welcoming, probably with glass doors and open vestibule area, with improved ambient lighting; secondly, necessary major repairs to the organ, which is extremely highly regarded in the county and in the opinion of some experts one of the most outstanding in the country; thirdly, improvement to the lighting. Together with some other smaller and less expensive items the approximate cost of this phase would be £571,000.
To bring all of this about, over a period of time, will not be cheap, and the overall estimate is in the region of £1.25million. So far we have received, including the legacy already mentioned, well over £400,000, which leaves us with the requirement to raise around another £800,000. The original legacy enables us to get started on the urgent requirements and now it is up to us, with the aid of some donations from trusts, to endeavour to raise the remainder. We will be launching a fund raising campaign, entitled “The Six Ps Campaign” on the evening of Nov 4th with a wine and cheese party at Holy Trinity. Apart from applications to a number of relevant trusts we will be asking people individually to contribute in one of the following ways: to donate to a specific item or to the campaign generally, or by covenanting over a period of time.
This is an exciting project which, if carried out in full, will ensure that Holy Trinity will have the opportunity to remain one of the most outstanding churches in Gloucestershire When we look back at the history of our church over so many years we cannot be but amazed at what has been done by all those people who have worked and cared for this building and the place it holds in the lives of so many in our community. In a time when the challenges have never been greater it stands as one of the most thriving entities in this area. Now is the moment when we can do our part to follow the example that has been set by all our predecessors.
Howard Browning and Mandy Jutsum, Churchwardens