The quinquennial inspection report of 2018 identified all the structural defects within both the church and presbytery. As a result, a restoration group was formed to work towards returning the church to its original condition.
Funding was just one big problem. The church had limited funds available which would allow minor repairs to begin, but a more substantial amount would be needed to complete the task. The group looked at sources of grants, such as the National Lottery and National Churches Trust, but the process of applications was daunting. Sadly the pandemic has also reduced monies available for grants.
Another significant challenge had become apparent – expertise, or rather our lack of it. We were a group of amateurs attempting a major restoration with little or no knowledge of how to proceed. Who should we approach to do the work? How would we choose the best quotation? Would we need permission to proceed knowing the church and presbytery are both Grade II listed buildings?
It was decided to enlist the help of the architect who prepared the quinquennial report - Rob Harrington. There would be a cost for his services, but we could rely on his experience.
The fabric of the church and presbytery has suffered neglect for many years. Any repairs and decoration have often been completed without using the correct materials. Consequently we were starting from scratch.
Urgent repairs included removing the iron cross from the church roof, securing the louvre vents in the gable wall and making safe an area where a large piece of masonry had fallen away. The gutters which badly needed cleaning were stripped of vegetation and the lightning conductor repaired. The walls in the entrance porch and lobby, like the rest of the church, had been painted with non-breathable paint which over time had collected moisture in the masonry, causing the plaster to degrade. Overall parts of the church look sad and unloved.
The first job undertaken was a structural survey of the church and presbytery. Using modern techniques this allows the architect to prepare accurate plans needed for future planning applications.
Due to the listed status, permission has to be sought first from the Historic Churches Committee to undertake the work, then the trustees have to agree funding. This is called a Faculty Application.
Our first successful application was to apply protective covering to the stained glass windows fronting Lord Street. These had previously been shielded by a high hedge, but its removal had left them exposed to possible vandalism. Fine mesh grills are now in place which are only noticeable to close inspection. Re-plastering the entrance porch and lobby and an area close to the Cardinal Allan window was also agreed, however this must wait until exterior repairs to the outside of the porch are completed to make it watertight.
In 2020 we received a very generous bequest from a couple of parishioners which boosted our restoration funds. Unfortunately, we have also found serious problems with the presbytery roof which have taken priority over the church. It requires a complete re-roofing plus re-building of the two chimney stacks - both identified with a lean in the structural survey. Plans have been submitted to the Conservation Officer at Wyre Borough and Listed Building Planning Consent has been granted for the repairs. Requests for tenders have been placed with contractors, and a faculty application is being made to the Historic Churches Committee and the Trustees. Subject to their approval, we hope to complete the presbytery repairs during the summer of 2021.
Our third faculty application covers repairs to the church. This will concentrate on external waterproofing. Any missing tiles will be replaced. Gutters, downpipes etc will be cleaned, repaired, replaced, and painted as necessary. Pointing repairs will be made to stonework, using the correct materials. Any damaged stained glass windows with their surrounding stonework will be repaired. The iron cross will be replaced. This way it is hoped to make the whole building watertight to permit re-decoration inside. Again we would hope to complete this stage during 2021.
We recently employed a conservator to expose areas of the original paintwork, from the day the church was completed. This has created interest from parishioners and our plan is to restore and repaint in a similar fashion. Before deciding on the final design we hope to seek the views of the parishioners as to which they feel is most appropriate.
At the side you can see some pictures of the work that is required.
As you can see, we are making great strides forward. Everything now rests on approval for our faculty applications, a continued supply of money, and some dry weather while the roof is repaired!
Update February 2022
Work is progressing well on the presbytery roof. Next will be the replacement slate tiles which haven't been changed since it was built in 1878. We still need your help as once work has been completed on the presbytery our focus will move to the Church. Please spread the word about St Marys restoration
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