ST GILES SHIPBOURNE LAUNCHES A MAJOR RESTORATION APPEAL
WHAT WORK NEEDS TO BE DONE?
The Church needs major restoration. No major work has been done on the fabric since the nave and tower were re-roofed in 2009. The most urgent problems are these:
- The tiled roof of the Vane Chapel is failing and the tiles need to be replaced: there are many broken and slipped tiles. The roof is not leaking yet but it will do so soon if nothing is done.
- The stonework of the stair turret to the tower is very decayed both outside and within, the latter the result of water penetration through open joints in the masonry. An extensive programme of stone replacement and repointing is needed to the turret and the windows need repair because some of the glass may otherwise fall out.
- The stonework of the chancel and transept gables is in poor condition and needs repointing and some replacement of the most eroded stones. The stonework of the porch entrance is badly decayed and needs repair.
- The gutters leak and the leaks are damaging the stonework: they need to be re-sealed.
- The crypt is often flooded in winter because the drainage has collapsed deep beneath the churchyard and we need to install an alternative system for getting rid of the rainwater.
There are other, less urgent needs, including repairing the stonework of the tower, retiling the lower part of the nave walls, the existing tiling of which is falling off, and restoring the dirty and damaged wall-paintings in the chancel.
We cannot put all of this right in one project – it will take more than one phase over quite a few years; but we must make a start and deal with the major problems soon if the condition of the church is not to deteriorate seriously. So, we want to start by dealing with the urgent problems listed above.
WHAT IT WILL COST AND HOW WE ARE RAISING THE MONEY?
The first phase of repairs – the most urgent work – has been costed by our quantity surveyors at about £280,000, of which we have spent £6,000 so far on professional fees. About £44,000 is VAT, which we can fund with a grant available from the government. So, we need to raise about £230,000. (These figures do not include the cost of solving the crypt flooding problem and for this we shall need to raise additional funds).
Fortunately, we have strong reserves, saved over quite a few years, from which we can devote £100,000 to this restoration project, leaving £130,000 to find from grant applications and local fund-raising.
We are applying for grants towards this sum and have received offers totalling £52,500 from five major grant making charities, for which we are profoundly grateful. The number of grant-giving charities is smaller than it used to be; neither the government nor Historic England gives grants for church repairs and the National Lottery funding for churches is only a fraction of what it was 5 years ago.
We therefore need to find over half of the £130,000 ourselves, from the congregation, community and visitors. We have already had a wonderful response to our appeal and have received gifts and pledges of some £74,000 (including GiftAid), for which we are deeply grateful. This still leaves some £3,500 to be raised from grants and donations to meet our original target. We are planning to put the project out to tender in March or April 2024, appoint contractors, and have the building work done in the summer and autumn of 2024. Our target does not take account of recent cost inflation so we are aware that the actual cost may be significantly higher than the original estimate of total costs.
If we do not reach the amount needed to carry out the full programme of works, we shall have to trim back the work and miss the opportunity to complete our programme of the most urgent work. So will you help, please? You can do this in two ways, first by supporting the programme of fund-raising events, which began with the Roux dinner on 16 May 2023 and, second, by donating whatever you can afford towards the restoration. We hope that you will give generously to help us repair this fine building. Thank you.
HOW TO DONATE
If you are willing to donate to our restoration appeal, you can do so as follows:
- by bank transfer (sort code 09-01-51, account number 74188307), or
- by making a donation online at CAF Donate at https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/23053
- by placing cash or cheques in the yellow envelopes in Church at services, or
- by placing cash or cheques in the wall safe in the Church porch entrance.
Cheques should be made payable to St Giles Church Shipbourne. Please include a reference ‘Appeal’ on bank transfer donations, on the CAF donation platform, on the back of cheques and on yellow envelopes so that we can track progress.
If you are a UK taxpayer, you can take advantage of Gift Aid and boost your donation by an extra 25%. To do this simply ask for a gift aid form from the Treasurer, Charlie Keeling at [email protected] , or any of the Appeal Committee (Paul Britton, Andrew Boorman, Lindsay Miles, Viv Packer and Nick Ward).
If you are willing to support the appeal but would prefer to give later, once we are nearer the point of starting the works, we would be very grateful for an indication now of any amount you feel able to pledge – please speak to a member of the Appeal Committee.
WHAT HAVE WE DONE IN THE PAST?
The church launched an appeal in 2007 for funds for urgent repairs, and for improvements to its facilities.
St Giles Church has been standing for 125 years but the structure is showing its age. When the church was inspected by the architect in 2005, she found that the nave roof was worn out, the roof of the Tower was leaking, causing rot in the timbers supporting the roof, and some of the stonework was badly damaged after being exposed to the weather for more than a century. The advice was that we couldn’t patch it up any longer: we needed a new roof on the tower and nave and extensive repairs to the timbers, stonework and leadwork.
The tower and the roof
Fund raising started straight away. The Church applied to English Heritage for a grant out of Lottery funds and we were delighted when they offered a substantial grant towards the cost of the repair work. The exploratory work carried out in 2007 revealed that the Tower roof was in a much worse state than had been thought.
The repair work began in July 2008. The old tiles were stripped off, new felt and battens were put in place and new tiles were laid on the roofs of the tower, the nave and the north-east porch. The leadwork was repaired or replaced where necessary to make St Giles watertight and ready for the next 125 years. In the tower the structural timbers have been repaired where they had been damaged by damp and a new dormer doorway has been built in oak to replace the old one. The gutters were sand blasted and repainted. A stonemason has restored or replaced individual stones on the outside of the tower and on the wall of the West gable end, since many of these had been eroded by the weather. He also carved a new gargoyle, so St Giles once again has a gargoyle on each corner of the tower. Finally the cockerel on the weather vane was restored and re-gilded.
Lady Vane Chapel
The Lady Vane Chapel in the South transept has been transformed. A new glazed oak screen, in memory of Edward and Jocelyn Earle, has been installed behind the choir stalls at the entrance to the chapel. The fine Rysbrack sculpture, carved as a memorial to Lord Barnard and his family who used to live at Fairlawne, has been cleaned and spotlights have been installed so that the memorial can be seen properly. The other memorial plaques have been cleaned. The whole area has been cleared and carpeted. The chapel provides a space for private prayer, for signing the registry at weddings or for meetings.
The Church floor
St Giles has a fine marble terrazzo floor, with complex designs mainly at the east end of the church around the altar. Terrazzo flooring is made up of small pieces of marble. This form of flooring was first developed in Venice in the fifteenth century as a way of using up small offcuts of marble. The technique has been greatly refined over the years. It provides a tough and attractive flooring. However over the years some cracks had appeared and the surface had become dull with accumulated dirt. The conservators who worked on the Lady Vane Chapel carried out discreet repairs to fill the cracks and where necessary replace missing pieces of marble in the aisle and chancel. The colours of the marble have re-emerged after cleaning. We hope to carry out further restoration work in the porch and inside the main door when funds allow.
The loose wooden blocks on the floor of the nave were cleaned and re-fixed securely in January 2019.
St Giles has a fine organ which was built by Lewis and Co, a leading firm of organ builders in the nineteenth century. It has a beautiful tone, the mechanism is virtually unchanged since it was built and it has a fine case. The diocesan organ adviser wrote about our organ:
“In thirty years as an organist…I have never come across such a wonderful instrument. Any church possessing an organ built by T. C. Lewis has a real gem for an instrument. The organs by Lewis are characteristic by their wide range of colour, superb build quality, and if money allows (in Shipbourne’s case) a superb case as well. While the organ needs a full-scale restoration, it still has a fantastic sound – all in all a really satisfying organ. You are so lucky to preside over such an instrument.”
Like the church, the organ is more than 100 years old. Bishops the organ builders stripped down the organ and carried out a thorough restoration in their workshops during 2010 so the organ is now in full working order.
In 2017 the three notable table tombs in the churchyard were carefully restored.
The north west porch
The iron gates at the entrance to the porch have been stripped, re-painted and re-mounted in position.
The lych gate
Extensive restoration work was undertaken in March 2018 on the handsome lych gate at the entrance to the churchyard. In particular, a new hard wood base plate has been inserted at ground level on each side of the lych gate, replacing the original timber which had become badly decayed.
During the exceptionally wet winter of 2019/20, the crypt was flooded on several occasions to a depth of more than a foot; further heavy rain in the winter of 2022/23 resulted in further flooding and once again there was as much as a foot of water in the Cazalet crypt. The drainage system was investigated and it was established that the drain from the Cazalet crypt at the East end of the church has been blocked by silt and it would not be economic to repair it. We tested the soakaways to the south of the church and found that they work effectively and in the autumn of 2023 we installed a pump in the crypt to pump the storm water into these soakaways. Since this was installed, the crypt has remained dry even in periods of heavy rainfall.
OTHER WORK WE PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
Sir Paul Britton has written about our plans for restoring the wall paintings in the chancel.
The Cazalets rebuilt St Giles’ church in 1881. The old church of the 1720s was too small and had become dilapidated. The Cazalets spent a lot of money on their new church, not just on the structure but also on the furnishings and decoration. Most of this was provided by a German firm, Mayer of Munich. Mayer’s covered the whole of the interior of the chancel with stencilled wall paintings, mostly of foliage and architectural decoration but including also the Commandments and the Creed. These have now become very dirty and faded. They have suffered badly from damp and from water damage caused by leaks in the chancel roof in the past. In their present state they rather let the interior of the church down. But they are important because much Victorian wall-painting was lost in the last century when it was deeply unfashionable and was often painted over: not many large-scale schemes like that at St Giles’ survive. The aim, if sufficient funds can be raised, is therefore to clean and conserve the paintings, including repainting those areas where there has been paint-loss. This will return the interior of the church, which is largely unaltered, to the splendour of 1881.
Walls surrounding the churchyard: some repairs and re-pointing are required and a section of wall at the north east corner of the churchyard needs to be re-built. Earth from graves dug over the years has been deposited against the wall in the south west corner of the churchyard and this will be dug out and removed in the summer of 2024.
Underpinning work: the cracks in the walls of the Lady Vane Chapel (the south transept) indicate that there has been some subsidence. These have been observed over the last ten years and advice has been provided by a structural engineer and the church’s architect. Following advice by the Diocesan Advisory Council, the PCC decided not to underpin the walls, but a crack monitoring system was re-introduced in November 2015 on the advice of the church’s architect and civil engineer and the walls are inspected periodically to check for any movement.
We have reviewed whether we should improve the church’s facilities and whether this could be done in a way which is sympathetic to the character of our wonderful church.
Following consultation with the church’s architect we completed two projects in March 2015. They were to:
fit casters to the base of the six rear pews on the south side of the aisle, so that they can be rolled forward, when required, to create a larger space at the rear of the church for social gatherings; and
install drawers or lockers at ground level below the seats in the font screen at the west end of the church, to provide additional storage space.