The restoration of the Nave Roof-2009/2010

The restored roof at the re-opening of the church.


The news that St.Stephen's Church building was deteriorating to a serious extent came as no great surprise to the village. The ominous signs of damp on the ceiling of the nave had long been there for all to see. There were also fears that less obvious deprecations to the fabric of the church were also present.
All this was confirmed by the mandatory Diocesan Quinquennial Inspection that took place in 2006.

1. 2006 Quinquennial Inspection. The mandatory Diocesan inspection carried out by our architect in May 2006 highlighted an overall deterioration in the fabric of the church. Some relatively minor jobs e.g. making safe internal monuments, checking leaning tombstones etc, could be rectified by specialists at PCC level. Indeed, it became important to prove that as a PCC we were willing to take the initiative and start making improvements ourselves. The inspection report acted as a challenge – to do nothing would have lead to eventual closure, something had to be done. Our architect, Philip Hughes, whose firm Philip Hughes Associates specialises in listed buildings, attended an extraordinary meeting of the PCC in early 2007 and outlined possible options. His report had already prioritised the work, and it had to be decided what was feasible in the short, medium and long term. Financial constraints would always be a key factor. Our funds were in a healthy state thanks to many years of careful stewardship by our late treasurer Roger Barrett, but they were not sufficient for a major restoration. The PCC decided;

a. To undertake minor tasks calling in specialists as required.

b. To commission further study into the highest priority major work, the restoration of the nave roof.

c. To postpone necessary work on the tower until such time as funds would be available.

d. To investigate all aspects of fund raising. It was decided to bid to English Heritage for the majority of the funds required. If acceptable, we would then be committed to their sequence of events regarding inspections, surveys and overall quality control.

e. To appoint the architect as Project Manager.

2. Preliminary Inspections. The architect's report acts as a guide for further in-depth specialist surveys and reports. The following had to be commissioned:

a. Budget Cost Estimates from Chartered Quantity Surveyors Bare Leaning and Bare. These estimated the cost of the repairs to  the nave roof restoration at £148,300, excluding VAT (17.5%) and professional fees.

b. Investigative Works, requiring opening up of the roof to check level of repair required.

c. Structural Engineer's Report.

d. Measured Survey.

e. Bat Survey. The church is a a summer bat roost, and this protected species only allows for work to be carried out in the winter months.

f. Access Audit.

g. CDM Coordinator. This Health and Safety report is a legal requirement.

3. Fund Raising. An application was made to English Heritage for inclusion in their 2007/08 allocation of funds. Being Grade 2 listed building helped and our bid was accepted with a grant of £20,000 allocated for investigative works, and £91,000 allocated for the main task. A main condition of the grant was that the PCC should raise almost as much again through its own resources. An Appeal was launched in the church in September 2007, attended by Lord Ashdown. This proved successful, and was followed by many smaller events organised by the PCC Fund Raising Committee. It was our aim to hold a monthly event in the village, and this succeeded in giving the campaign a high profile. Events included film nights, car boot sales, book sales, concerts, a duck race, and safari suppers . We were actively supported in the village, and in particular significant amounts were raised in the Bell. It was realised, though, that this alone was unlikely to bridge the gap, and many requests were submitted to charities and award granting bodies. Because we were already being supported by English Heritage, which indicated our project was on a firm footing, we obtained a higher level of support than would otherwise have been likely. Apart from this, our benefactors were:

a. National Churches Trust £15000

b. Friends of Somerset Churches £5000

c. Garfield Weston Trust £5000

d. Viscount Amory Trust £2000

e. Alan Evans Trust £1500

f. All churches Trust £750

g. Council for the Care of Churches £4000

h. St Andrews Trust £500

j. Mary Webb Trust £1000

4. Contract Tendering Process. At the completion of the preliminary inspections the Project Manager put the work out to tender. Only EH approved firms could be considered, and the contract was awarded to Magenta Building Conservation Limited, based in Blandford, and with a well established track record of restoring listed buildings.

5. Implementation of the Plan. A planning meeting was held in mid 2009 to finalise all details of the project, which was scheduled to take 16 working weeks. Scaffolding was erected both inside and outside the nave in late September, and work began in early October. A roof was erected above the scaffolding platforms to allow for work during bad weather, and this proved invaluable. The removal of the slates revealed to all the necessity of the work, and much rotten medieval timber and crumbling masonry was removed and replaced. Monthly progress meetings were held on site and we were able to watch all stages of the work. Early in 2010 we received a delivery of new Welsh slates, and these were fitted when all the underlying repair work had been completed. The interior of the nave was fully redecorated and the scaffolding removed. We then employed contract cleaners to deep clean the entire building. The project finished on schedule and in time for the congregation to celebrate Easter on 4 April 2010.The 'official' reopening and rededication by the Bishop followed later in the month

6.Conclusion. Many lessons were learned in undertaking a project of this magnitude. The importance of appointing a Project Manager is essential, and without the assistance from EH we would not have been able to start.

The support from the village has also been fundamental in achieving success, and it is quite clear that St Stephens Church is an important facet of village life. Our next Quinquennial Inspection will soon be announced, and in the current financial climate it will be interesting to find out if EH support will be forthcoming for Phase Two, work on the chancel and the tower


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Reviewed 27th Sept. 2019