Churchwarden and Project Team Leader of the re-pointing project, Henry Pitt, shares the background to this important work as the scaffolding starts to go up on site.
Successive quinquennial [five yearly] inspections of St Michael’s, which are a legal requirement for Church of England churches, have shown that while the basic structure remains in a sound condition there has been a progressive deterioration in the condition of the external pointing. This has been particularly noticeable on the tower and the east gable wall. Gaps have also been noted in the pointing of the coping stones on both the east and west gables and on the roof ridge stones.
The concern was that deterioration would accelerate, especially in severe winters and that the cost of the re-pointing would increase with time. It was also clear that extensive and complex scaffolding, at considerable expense, would be needed due to the unusual architecture of the church with its central tower and side aisles.
In 2017 the Parochial Church Council decided to launch an appeal for funds to enable the work to undertaken. Generous grants have been received from:
The Heritage Lottery Fund, The Headley Trust, ChurchCare/Wolfson Foundation, Allchurches Trust, The Alan Evans Memorial Trust and the Franklin Trust. There has also been a magnificent response from church members and the wider local community.
As a result contracts for the scaffolding and the re-pointing work have now been placed and erection of the scaffolding has begun.
Because of the inaccessibility of the tower and roof without scaffolding inspections of these areas have been done using binoculars which, while enabling gaps in the pointing to be seen, do not enable the condition of the remaining pointing to be assessed. The full extent of the re-pointing needed will, therefore, only be determined by in situ inspection once the scaffolding is in place.