It has finally started. At this time of writing (the start of July), the exterior scaffolding is being erected. This is due to take two weeks and then the interior scaffolding is scheduled to take one week.
The serious business of removing the windows then happens from the top working towards the windows at the bottom. There is a programme of works available to view in two locations.
One is at the rear of the large red noticeboard at the back of the church. The other is on the Men’s Working Party noticeboard in the large hall. Both show the timeplan and schedule of what should happen and when. There is a period from the 25th July for sixteen weeks when the removed stained glass is being restored at Pendle Glass. This specialist task is being performed by David Moore at Padiham near Burnley.
Members of St. Nicholas are to be invited up to David Moore’s work place to see how this highly skilled repair and renovation is performed . The stonework is to be carved and produced at Lambert/ Walkers property in Bamber Bridge near Preston. A similar invite is to be made to anyone who would like to see how this specialist craft is undertaken.
There has been several milestones which have had to be passed in order to achieve the commencement of the works. The English Heritage offer was reduced from £178,000 to £163,000 due to the competitive bids for the work. There are churches which are in much more urgent need of funding than St. Nicholas’. I also feel that the legacy left by the late Robert Thompson, had influenced the grant offer. The offer had to be accepted on behalf of the PCC and signed and returned within four weeks. The deadline date to be received was 8th May which was a Sunday. As there is no post on a Sunday this meant that the signed contract offer had to be at EH’s offices in Manchester by Friday 6th May. An extraordinary PCC meeting was called for the PCC on 4th May to read and accept the conditions of the contract offer. It was duly signed and posted on the 5th May and arrived on the deadline day Friday 6th. If the offer had not reached them on that day the offer would have been unconditionally withdrawn. Talk about cutting it fine, phew !
On 26th May, the ‘faculty petition’ was approved officially from the High Court Chancellor of the Diocese and Official Principal of the Right Reverend James Stuart, Lord Bishop of Liverpool to the Reverend Colette Thornborough of the parish of Blundellsands St. Nicholas’. The official seal was on the approval and the Chancellor’s name was Sir Mark Hedley. Hhowever, there were some conditions attached to the approval. The first was that we required a letter of approval from our insurers, The Ecclesiastical Insurance Group. Our architect had to fill in the questionnaire requested by them first and this was delayed by having to obtain Health and Safety clearance and the completion of the contract with the renovation company, Lambert/ Walker. Copies of the faculty approval had to be forwarded to all interested parties, ie Lambert/ Walker, Pendle Glass and our architect, Robin Wolley. Meanwhile, Tim Johnson, PCC’s Treasurer, and I were invited to an English Heritage seminar at St. James’ House on 20th May. This was to explain the changes administered for any subsequent grant applications of which we were encouraged to apply for by the English Heritage architect, Tim Wilkins.
On 27th May another meeting took place at the church. This was between Lambert/ Walker, Pendle Glazing, Robin Wolley, Neville Beech, our quantity surveyor, Tim and myself. We discussed the programme of works, the funding, the Heath and Safety issues, security and provisions for the church to continue its services with the minimum disruption. We also discussed with Neville, the plan for a further application and the priorities which would give us the best chance of a successful bid. We were mindful that we had to spend any money that we had or English Heritage would take that from us within the bid. Our church lighting and the organ both required money urgently spent on them but this would also require further faculty applications. The thought made me shudder; I hate paperwork. Another meeting took place on 17th June with the MD of Lambert /Walker, Adrian Walker and Stephen Bailey and myself where we were introduced to the site manager, a very young Danny Parker. A joint contract, called a JCT was handed to me along with the relevant Health and Safety forms known as an F10. Copies of the church keys were handed to them and the erection of the scaffolding and positioning of the porta cabins was clarified. I have signed the contract with Lambert/Walker and am to retain it until the works are complete. There are works completion forms to be sent to the Diocesan Registry in Westminster, London, the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group and English Heritage when we are satisfied that the work has been done satisfactorily.
My next task is to submit the application for the 50% first stage payment of the grant offer. A further 45% is to be applied as an interim stage payment and then the final 5% installment is applied for when the works are complete.
It has been a very challenging exercise but I have been encouraged and supported by Tim Johnson especially and many members of the congregation. That last, bitter winter and the incident with the high rose window has confirmed to me that this restoration is crucial. Hopefully, in six months from now we can all say that it was worth the disruption. I ask for your patience, understanding and prayers during this time.
Stephen Green, Churchwarden