Observing strict working practices necessitated by Coronavirus, Ellis and Company completed repairs to St. Mary’s Church just before Easter. Originally the church had hoped to celebrate Easter in the newly conserved building. Now, though carefully monitored, it stands empty awaiting the return of its congregation and visitors in the months to come.
These recent works have included carpentry and joinery repairs to the ancient pews, floor boards and wooden panelling, relaying the stone floor at the west end of the church, lowering the Saxon font to its original level and transforming the boiler room into a vestry, allowing access into the beautifully conserved South Porch, an entrance which was abandoned in the 1830’s.
One of the improvements which is most striking is the increased sense of space when you enter the building. Here, there will be interpretation panels and more room for welcoming people to the building.
St. Mary’s font, the church’s oldest feature, has been in continuous use for the baptism of babies, children and adults for over nine hundred years. Ellis’s carefully deconstructed its heavy stonework, repairing the masonry and removing it from a modern plinth before reassembly. The font’s wooden cover was probably made later, in the 15th century when pointed and increasingly decorated lids became fashionable.
St. Mary’s Vicar Clive Deverell and Curate Teresa Townsend are looking forward to using the newly kitted out vestry – quite a luxurious compared to the previous facilities! Teresa says:
“The vestry is looking very impressive, even without the final finishing touches. The craftsmanship for this small room shows the same high quality of care as is evident in the rest of the church building. It is going to be really useful to us all to have somewhere to get ready for services and store our robes and essential church equipment. It will be worth the wait!”
A new more environmentally friendly heating system and a new lighting system have also been installed, plus new lighting to the paths.
As previously reported the team from Ellis and Company, led by Luke Catley, have been working periodically at St. Mary’s since October 2018 – their vans have been a regular site parked outside the church. In the process of the project Ellis’s apprentices and trainees have learned new skills, especially in lead work and joinery, experience which will be invaluable to them and will benefit other historic buildings they work on in the future.