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Church Restoration Project – Complete

St Mary Church

I am most pleased to be able to say that replacing the Nave, Chancel and Vestry roofs, plus masonry, brick work and drainage repairs were completed by the forecast completion date of 24 March 2016.  Whilst the tidying up of the area around the church is still ongoing, because of the damage to both hard and grass surfaces being quite extensive, owing to the heavy work done in very wet weather, that too is going well. 

I am most grateful for the efforts of G & J Banks, the main contractors, and of course to our Architect Duncan Wilson.  The whole project ran very smoothly at a difficult time of year for the type of restoration work being carried out.  My thanks also go to Chris Davis.  Banks are based on the Isle of Wight. So to make the best use of time on site and save on traveling time they asked if we could find accommodation in the village for their workmen.  On hearing this, Chris offered to put up three workmen on weekdays for the duration of the project.  This proved to be a godsend.  Thank you Chris and Margaret.

The new roofs can be seen from some angles, the clean black lines of the drainpipes clear and if you look closely new pieces of masonry and brickwork can also be seen.  There is, however, much that is not obvious to the uninitiated and you could be forgiven for asking what did we get for The Heritage Lottery Fund’s money (and that of our own St Mary’s Building Trust).  Rest assured, there was a lot of joinery work, now hidden under the new roofs, and much of the masonry and brickwork restoration cannot be seen clearly from ground level.  There were in fact no fewer than one hundred and sixty sections where stones or bricks needed to be restored or replaced.  Although we had some very wet weather, we were also lucky in that we had a very mild Winter.  The use of lime mortar was essential and that will not cure in frosty conditions.  In practice there were only a few days when restoration could not continue and any time lost was soon made up.

There are lots of photographs of the work and when the dust has settled we will explain is some detail what has been done.  Suffice it to say that, thanks to the grants received and especially the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, we hope that the exterior of St Mary’s is in sufficiently good order to serve our Parish for another fifty years.  In parallel with the restoration work we have been looking at ways of making our unique heritage more accessible.  We are improving our web pages and the literature in the church and shop and will be holding a heritage exhibition; all aimed at attracting more support for St Mary’s and investigating ways of how the church can be used better to serve our community.

All the hard work has not been just so that we have a nice church building in the centre of our village.  We now need our parishioners to support the church and to welcome our new Priest-in-Charge.  Without your support we will have wasted our time.  So please join us and make use of our unique church.  St Mary’s is there for us all.

Finally, a big thank you to my project team of Gillian Barrett, Ray Lucas, Tim Tayler, my fellow churchwarden Sally Dashwood and of course my wife Elizabeth (for putting up with me for the past two years).  Their expertise and unfailing support have been invaluable.

Gordon Howard

Churchwarden and Project Manager

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