Thursday saw the new lights in the Church switched on! We believe that the innovative design by Paul Ruffles will be pleasing to all who worship and visit St Gregory’s Church. With just 2 spotlights positioned in St Benedict’s Chapel, highlighting the altar, the improvement from the previous dated system is very noticeable. There is still a lot of work to do within the Chapel – we are awaiting the delivery of the new cornice which was damaged beyond repair following water ingress from historic leaks; also the walls will be redecorated within the next few weeks.
The majority of work over the next few weeks will be the removal of scaffold from the Church. This will allow Ellis to focus on the Sacristy. The area has been hard wired for the electrics and the pipework has been installed for the 4 new radiators. The windows and stonework have all benefitted from cleaning and restoration. All oak cupboards/furnishings are currently being manufactured in the workshop in Shepton Mallet and we look forward to the fit-out in the weeks to come. It has been decided to retain the original flooring which is considered to be in good order – all boards will be sanded, treated and varnished.
Image Painting Contractors (Mike & Dan) continue to work at high level and are currently applying an Osmo wood wax finish to the beams which will not only protect the wood but has an intensive coloured decorative finish.
Work on the clerestory windows is now in the final stage. The first phase was to strip the paint from the stonework surrounding the stained glass windows.
Mortar and re-pointing work was then carried out which was followed by the application of a lime based shelter coat.
Finally, you will see Jiri meticulously cleaning the windows with a solution of “vulpex Liquid Soap” – this is proving to be effective.
We can now look forward to a pivotal point in the works when Pen Hill return on the 28thAugust to commence the removal of the 100 ton of scaffold within the Church. We are turning the corner……………………………
Restoration Blog 10th August
A site meeting was held this week with the following in attendance: Architect, Surveyor, Lighting Designer and senior representatives from Ellis & Co. The meeting covered the progress to date with work continuing on all aspects of the renovation. The staining of the ceiling boards and rafters is near completion and the reinstatement work to the chancel arch has now been finished – all were in agreement that this work had been completed to a high standard and the result was visually rewarding. It will be further enhanced when the new lighting system is installed which will illuminate this historic feature.
All the furniture due to be installed into the sacristy is currently under construction at the joiner’s shop in Shepton Mallet. The cupboards will be oak and there will be a consultation exercise with the sacristans to determine the positioning of the shelves etc prior to the final fit-out.
There will be 3 new cast iron radiators installed under the windows in the link corridor with a further 1 positioned within the Sacristy. Historically, this area has always been cold and I am sure that the sacristans and altar servers will welcome this addition. You will see that Jiri is currently doing mortar repairs to the window areas of the corridor.
There are a few minor repairs required to the clerestory windows. Ellis have secured the services of Brockweir Glass to address the problems. You will see Bruce May has removed the glass and will now take it to the workshop where he will remove the lead, flatten the window back and insert a new piece of glass into the face. This technique is called copper foiling.
Restoration Blog 29 June
You will be interested to read an email received this morning from Lindsey McCullam. Lindsey is a Property Surveyor employed by the Diocese and is a key player within the team working on our restoration project:
We have now reached a stage where we have good access to all parts of the works as the boarding has been removed allowing for a thorough inspection and scope of works to be defined. The result is that a number of provisional items were able to be omitted or indeed replaced with alternative methods of work or quantity, hence the fluctuation in the estimated contract sum since tender.
A note on this is that we are aware of some additional works that we had not accounted for but have since become apparent. For example the rotten wall plate behind the cornice in St Benedicts Chapel.
There are many variables in a project of this size and having professional advice is essential to the respect and preservation of the valuable historic fabric, whilst being careful to keep an eye on the cost of such works. Some expert advice was latterly recruited to analyse and confirm colours for the timber when it was identified that the scissor braces were stained 2 different shades! We are currently still early on in what is quite a long project at St Gregory the Great and there are still likely to be various fluctuations to the contract Sum. The team will be doing their best to ensure that the cost of the works is as close to anticipated as possible, but where urgent items occur such as the wall plate, these must be incorporated whilst we have access and skilled labour to do so, adding to the estimation.
You will also note further evidence of unscheduled work in this picture of the keystone to the arch of the Lady Chapel.
There has been a small amount of structural movement that has caused the face of the stone to blow. The new stone insert is currently being carved in Ellis stone masons workshop in Shepton Mallet.
We therefore continue to fundraise and are most appreciative of your sustained generosity to support this important work. An example is the £276 raised by the 55 Club, at a table top sale, in the Old Priory this week. Well Done!
Restoration Blog 29 June
Work continues at pace within St Gregory’s Church. We are pleased to advise that the programme of works is on-schedule. The removal of the scaffold will commence on the 28thAugust and this phase will take 3 weeks to complete.
You will see in the accompanying photographs the progress made on the reinstatement of the chancel arch – this element of the project is indeed proving to be visually rewarding. Mark, Miguel and Valentina are commended for their work.
You will also see Jiri Polok working on the Clerestory windows – they have been cleaned back to the stone, the open joints repointed and then a lime base shelter coat applied. At very high level the painters are working in uncomfortable conditions staining the beams. The transepts and majority of the nave have now been painted and it is hoped work on the aisles will begin next week.
The electricians will return on Monday to complete the high level 1stfit.
This Saturday will see 2 hard hat tours of the church; this will allow parishioners the opportunity to view at first hand the work being undertaken and to receive a brief from the architect, conservator and our prime contractor. We hope the tour will prove interesting.
Restoration Blog 22 June
Friday 22ndthJune 2018
Another week of industry (and intrigue) at St Gregory’s!
Following the inspection by Mark Perry (Perry Lithgow Partnership – Conservator) of the Chancel Arch in September 2017, a further visit from his colleague Richard was made to view the environment and fine tune the process. It was advised in September that the original decoration appeared to be intact and has been simply overpainted. Removal of the covering layers is therefore considered viable and that an uncovering project would be visually rewarding. This exciting element of the project will hopefully commence within the next 2 weeks.
The plaster repairs continue and you will see in the adjacent photos Thomas hard at work in an area directly above the crossing. Chris is also at high level vacuuming to reduce dust levels as a result of the ongoing work. Loose debris is being removed from the wall heads and mortar applied to give strength to the top of the walls as well as fill air-gaps along the sides of the eaves.
Paul Brightmore the stonemason is now undertaking repairs to the stone skirting throughout the Church. He is de-fassing any loose or flaky stone and applying mortar repairs and replacing any damaged with new bath stone. Work continues on the rubbing back of ceiling boards to remove glue residue – this is particularly apparent at high level.
This week’s photographs also show the discovery of 3 personal letters which were nailed to the top of the structure at the very top of the north narthex – these date back some 40 years. Furthermore, we were intrigued to find a door in the link corridor of the Sacristy (previously hidden by cupboards and boarding). George (Site Manager) excitingly applied a crowbar to reveal………………………………………… (See photo).
Friday 25th May 18
Last Sunday saw Masses resume in St Gregory’s Church and despite the inordinate amount of scaffold (approximately 100 tons in total), hoarding, protective coverings and temporary lighting “all was normal”! – We are grateful for your patience.
Our Architect, Izaak Hudson visited this week and had a good look at the timber where the polystyrene on the aisle ceilings has been removed. The removal process has left quite a bit of residue which will have to be sanded-off and re-decorated (see photos). This is now subject to analysis of the existing paint/varnish to check for lead. In order that we have as close as possible a match to the existing paintwork he has recommended we get some microscopic analysis of the existing paint and have some colour matches produced.
Approximately 70% of the ceiling boards on the upper Nave have now been removed.
Pen Hill is expected to complete the scaffold construction by close of work today (Friday). It is 4 weeks since the first delivery of equipment and we are grateful for their efforts and timely completion. They will return next Tuesday to remove any surplus equipment.
Next week will see the continuation of the high level board activity and the commencement of the removal of defective plaster from the walls. In addition, Paul Ruffles (lighting designer/technician) will conduct a survey in preparation of the forthcoming electrical works. Paul has been involved in the re-lighting of many religious buildings. These have ranged from small parish churches to large central churches – he also carried out the survey and scoping study for the re-lighting of York Minister. To conclude, a more sophisticated temporary lighting system will be installed with smoke alarms fitted to the scaffold.
Friday 18th May 18
Another industrious and progressive week at St Gregory’s church!
Pen Hill have now constructed Lifts 4, 5 and 6 of scaffold and now only have 1 more level to go. Overhead boarding has been secured to the beams in the central nave and on lifts. This coupled with the hoarding on the aisles has eliminated the natural light. In view of this we have installed festoon lighting; this will provide adequate light in the short term. Limited seating has been positioned in the nave with additional pews installed at the west end (albeit not facing the altar).
A general precaution for those attending Mass on Sunday - you will be entering an environment which, throughout the past 4 weeks (and going forward), is a construction site. You are therefore requested to exercise caution when entering and leaving the Church. In the event that you need to evacuate in an emergency, please leave via the signed exits (South Porch, through the corridor to the Sacristy; if worshipping at the rear of the church, through the West Door).
Friday 11th May 18
The construction phase of scaffolding continues with further deliveries of supplies arriving last Wednesday. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd lifts of scaffold have now been erected (there will be a total of 7 lifts in all). This covers the area from the West Porch to the Sanctuary which measures 100ft x 26ft. 146 overhead beams are now located in the central nave with over 3000 fittings (see picture) used. We are hopeful lifts 4 and 5 will be completed next week.
The polystyrene has been removed from the timber roof boards, which appear to be in good condition.
Nicolson & Co (pipe organ builders) have been commissioned to secure and protect the organ; they will visit on Monday the 14th May to undertake this task. Our wonderful organ is a valuable asset of St Gregory’s which will be carefully protected throughout the renovation.
Ply hoarding has been secured to the scaffold which has effectively closed both the North and South aisles to the public – the Nave will, as originally intended, be open for Sunday Services.
Thomas Czech, a senior plasterer for Ellis & Co, will commence repair work to the aisles towards the end of the week. Thomas is heritage skilled, uses historic techniques to repair on a like-for-like basis and has experience of work in Grade I and II buildings.
Friday 4th May 18
The initial delivery of scaffold was delivered to St Gregory’s on Monday and Tuesday. The scaffolding contractor responsible for the construction is Pen Mill from Yeovil in Somerset and this work has now started in earnest.
The weight of the scaffold tubes will be in the region of 72 tons (25 ton delivered to date). In addition to the tubing, it is anticipated that the scaffold furniture will include approximately 1500 boards, 200 sleepers and 20 long steel girders. The workforce will comprise of 4/5 men per day and it is hoped that the construction will be completed within 4 weeks.
Pen Mill have experience in conservation work and have recently worked in the Cathedrals of Wells, Truro and Salisbury as well as numerous churches across the South West.
The protection phase continues will the majority of memorials, statues and canopies now boxed with 18 mm ply sheeting. The windows have been protected with 10 mm clear Perspex. Construction of the low level platforms will have been completed by Monday 7th May; this will enable work to start on the removal of the polystyrene and glue-residue which currently covers the aisle ceiling boards. These boards will eventually be rubbed-down, sanded and re-varnished.
We are delighted to advise that work commenced on the internal renovation of the Church on Wednesday 18th April by our preferred contractor Ellis & Co. This Company has been restoring and conserving historic buildings and structures across the South West of England and Wales for over a third of a century. They are a large and highly respected family business located in the market town of Shepton Mallet, Somerset. In addition to working on ecclesiastical and public heritage buildings they have their own large workshops for the conservation of crafted building materials.
They only work on graded listed buildings so have significant experience of working historic renovations, repair and restorations – winning the RICS2017 and National Federation of Builders national awards for conservations building last year.
Recent principle contractor work includes repairs to cathedrals in Gloucester, Wells, Worcester, Exeter, Bristol, Chichester and Truro.
You will see in the photographs below that work is well underway on the “protection phase” of the project. The pews have been relocated and the floor covered. The many significant carved memorials, statues and canopies in the church are being boxed-in prior to the scaffold being erected. The sleeper bearers are being positioned to spread the weight of the scaffold which will commence on Monday 30th April. This phase will take for 4 – 6 weeks to complete. Finally, we remain confident that services will revert to the church on Saturday 19th May.