Despite the inclement weather, work has been steadily progressing on the North face of our church. Behind the plastic sheeting, all the stonework including the mullions and tracery of the lower windows have been replaced or repaired. The mullions are the long thin vertical stones and the tracery is the elaborate carved upper sections. The corroded ferremantra has been replaced. These iron uprights hold the window sections together and their decay is the primary reason for the cracked masonry. Regular rubbing down and repainting will extend the life of the windows. At present, the lower windows are not glazed. This will be done once the scaffolding has been removed as a precaution.
The upper windows have been the greater challenge for our contractors. Each of the six windows has had to be replaced. The problem is that each window has its own individual pattern. The stone carving has therefore taken considerable time and effort to reproduce the original design concept. It’s only when you stand up close to each window on the scaffolding that you appreciate the work which has been spent on the detail. Have a look at the photographs which I took prior to the clerestory windows being removed. They are on the restoration notice board at the back of church. At some time, a repair attempt had been made to stem the masonry erosion with a mortar/cement mix. You can see that on the grey patches on the photographs. Without the correct proportions of lime in the mix, this has accelerated the decay. The decay was even worse internally than externally. The polycarbonate guards apparently didn’t allow the windows sufficient ventilation. They had only been installed to contain the crumbling sandstone. I hope to have photographs of the newly installed clerestory windows before the scaffolding is removed. Please compare the before and after prints.
The North porch doors have been removed, restored and replaced. They look fantastic. The large masonry blocks which support them are called jams. These were in appalling condition and have also been replaced with stunning newly carved replicas. The apex of the porch was removed and rebuilt as it was dangerously unstable. This discovery has eaten a little into our contingency fund but that is why they are written into building contracts. The porch ceiling was of lath and plaster. This has now been replaced with a material called master board which is cheaper and easier to maintain. Approval for this change of material has had to be sought by the architect. The DAC administrator has agreed to this change of faculty. Listed buildings like our church require this permission if any structural deviation from its origin is required. Looking from the inside there are two pairs of doors which we enter to reach the outer doors just the same as the South doors. At some time we will have to address their appearance. For now, a good clean and some tlc from the Men’s Working Party will have to suffice. The Marley stone floor will also need a good clean, any volunteers?
The penultimate site meeting is due on 24th January when progress will be reported.
We have received our interim payment of 45% of our grant. This was instantly reduced by further payments to our architect and contractor.
The completion date is for the end of February. After the scaffolding has been removed, the lower window glazing fitted and new guards installed we will approach completion. A final visit by the English Heritage architect will hopefully sign the works finished including the window behind the organ pipes. This was not included in the contract but from the outside will complete the North restoration. We still have to replace the lower roof but that is to be included in my Phase 3 grant application. Having to replace six not four clerestory windows reduced our grant. Postponing the lower roof replacement was our best option with the limited funds available.
A big thank you to all who have contributed to the restoration fund-raising. We could not have done what we have without you.
When the practical completion certificate is issued, I will need to forward a copy to the Diocesan Registry in London along with photographs. I can also claim the final 5% fee from English Heritage.
The re-opening of our North Porch will be a huge milestone for St. Nicholas’ especially with St. Michael’s PCC agreeing to explore the possibility of a united parish.
Our quinquennial inspection is due at the end of January. Our architect will also submit a report to me regarding the south side of the building. I need this in order to submit an application for Phase 3.
That’s another story. Watch this space!
Stephen Green, Churchwarden