Despite strenuous efforts over the past 2 years to define a sustainable and low-carbon heating system for the church, it has proved impossible to find a workable solution within the constraints of the building and existing boiler house location - it became clear that the only sensible short-term solution was to replace the existing 25 year old oil fired boiler with a modern gas fired equivalent and have mains gas installed to the church. In April this year, the combination of a blocked drain taking water from the south aisle roof and a failure of the sump pump in the boiler house led to a significant flood in which the oil burners and one of the circulating pumps became submerged and effectively unusable. We immediately decided that to repair the boiler would not be cost effective and began to plan to carry out the gas conversion works over the summer. Members of the Friends Of St Mary's assisted with the repair of the drain during the churchyard working party in May so that the situation did not at least get any worse.
You may be aware that the process of making changes to a Grade 1 listed ecclesiastical building is complicated, to say the least, and it became apparent during the course of the summer that the process of permission-granting to allow us to install a gas main, new gas boiler and improvements to the radiators would extend into the autumn. In addition, because we could not commission any work to proceed before being granted a faculty (the church's equivalent of planning permission), we missed a potential autumn installation slot in our heating contractor's calendar.
We took the decision during August to attempt to repair the existing oil boiler as an interim measure and also to repair the once submerged pump. We decided to aim for an installation of the new gas boiler during January 2013 We have received the faculty to install the gas main and this has now been installed. We have formally applied for a faculty to install the new gas boiler and improvements to radiators and once this is granted, we will commission the work from the heating contractors.
Until then we hope and pray that the existing boiler holds out until January and that we have an unseasonably warm autumn and early winter!
Over £1000 was raised on Saturday 29th January 2011 at the inaugural concert in aid of the new Friends of St Marys charity which was launched this week. At a public meeting on Thursday a constitution for the charity was proposed and approved by all present and an executive committee formed to start the work of the new organisation. Expressions of interest in membership are now being received and once a bank account has been setup, membership applications will be accepted. An annual membersip fee of £10 per annum (minimum) was proposed and agreed upon at the meeting. Registered Charity status will be sougth in due course.
Friends of St. Mary’s will promote the restoration, preservation, repair, maintenance and improvement of the historic church building, contents and churchyard. It will promote and organise fund-raising events and, in due course, grant funds to the Parochial Church Council who, with the churchwardens are legal custodians of the church building and have responsibility for its upkeep. Contrary to popular belief there is no central government or church funding for the maintenance of buildings such as St. Mary’s—work is funded partly by small grants from various charitable trusts but most money currently has to be raised by the church congregation.
There are many people in the village and beyond who would be willing to support the aims of the ’Friends’ but who would not see themselves as part of the worshipping church congregation. Membership of the ‘Friends’ and becoming involved in its activities will allow
them to show their support for an important part of the village’s heritage. ‘Friends of St Mary’s’ will be about celebrating and encouraging interest in the church building and its history.
As well as helping to raise funds, it is hoped that the ‘Friends’ will take an active role in caring for the church and churchyard. The task of maintaining a 13th Century Grade 1 listed building and over an acre of churchyard can be an onerous and financially demanding one
and it is hoped that ‘Friends’ will feel able to join the existing voluntary effort of church members to keep costs to a minimum by joining occasional maintenance working parties.
The churchyard itself is an important space—primarily for grieving—but also a significant opportunity for wildlife conservation. Recent investigations have shown the presence of long-eared brown and pipistrelle bats using the roof spaces of the church as a summer roost
and a project is under way in association with Aylesbury Vale District Council to encourage swifts to nest in specially designed boxes. Promoting wildlife conservation is therefore another area in which Friends of St Mary’s could become involved.
At this early stage we are seeking expressions of interest from those who would support the aims of the Friends of St. Mary’s and would be prepared to join us in caring for this significant building and surrounding land in this most picturesque of villages.
If you would like us to send you furhter details of membership please send Friends of St Mary's an email
When the old roof was removed in mid November, several sections of the lath and plaster ceiling collapsed and many of the timbers beneath were found to be saturated. More seriously, the central 15th Century beam supporting the roof was been found to be in poor condition at the point where it bears on the north wall. Repair work to this area had been carried out in the past but it was uncertain as to what additional support was available to the central beam other than the decayed end of the beam resting on the north wall (below left - arrowed).
The photo on the left shows the decayed end of the 15th century beam bearing on the top of the side chapel north wall.
On Thursday Nov 25th 2010 the moulding beneath the beam was removed (with some difficulty) to try to ascertain whether the short vertical post attached to the wall beneath the beam and above the north window was contributing to the support of the beam or if it was a purely cosmetic feature to 'balance' the similar but clearly structural post on the opposite wall. The joiner is shown in the photo on the right removing the moulding piece from the beam.
It has now become obvious that the upright post is attached to the wall with steel supports and furthermore that when this was done the wall had also been strengthened by inserting a concrete section above the north window and behind the upright support.
The architect is now satisfied that the beam above is adequately supported and work can now proceed on the replacement of the roof covering.
For those who like to know for sure what they are sitting beneath when using the side chapel the labelled photo on the left shows the main beam (red arrow), the steel supports passing through the wooden beam support (blue arrows). The slots marked with yellow arrows are the mortice joints for attaching the decorative moulding to the corner.
We will archive these photos for the benefit of future churchwardens and architect when the roof next needs renewal!
The last quinquennial report on the condition of the church building in 2007 identified the chancel roof tiles as likely to require attention within a few years. The relatively harsh winter caused further damage to the tiles on the chancel roof and with signs of the ingress of water through the north transept roof earlier this year it became clear that some costly remedial work was going to have to be carried out. An examination of the chancel roof suggested that we could defer the work on the south side but the north side tiles were in need of urgent replacement. Although it proved difficult to locate any particular point where water was entering the transept roof, the poor condition of the 50 year old roof covering suggested that it be replaced as soon as possible.
Work commenced in late October 2010 and over 4000 clay tiles from the chancel roof have now been replaced with new equivalent hand-made tiles of 2 shades in order to retain a weathered appearance. We must use appropriate traditional materials when carrying out restoration work on this listed bulding and fitting the right tiles to retain the historic character of the building has proved to be a costly exercise. The picture on the left shows the roof with all the old tiles removed and with new underlay and battens fitted ready to receive the new tiles.
Before work commenced we were advised to check for signs of the presence of bats in the roof space and when this was confirmed, work was delayed until the animals had left for their winter roosts. In replacing the tiles it was necessary to retain openings for bats to return to the roof for a summer roost in order to comply with current wildlife legislation. This has been achieved by introducing special ridge tiles with openings to allow the bats to enter the roof cavity. We are assured there is no danger of the bats being able, once inside the roof, to find their way inside the church and despoil the interior with their droppings. The work is now nearly complete on the chancel roof and the new tiles look splendid. (right).
North transept roof
The north transept roof is a different story. With evidence of water damage visible in the interior of the north transept - sometimes called the 'side chapel' it was expected that there would be some remedial work required required before the roof could be replaced. When the old roof was removed in mid November, several sections of the lath and plaster ceiling collapsed and many of the timbers beneath were found to be saturated. More seriously, the central 15th Century beam supporting the roof has been found to be in poor condition at the point where it bears on the north wall. Repair work to this area had been carried out in the past and further investigations have shown that earlier reinforcement work to the wall and upright wall mounted support is satisfactory to bear the load of the beam and compensate for the short end section of eroded timber.(below left - arrowed). Yes - that is a hole in the ceiling to the left!
Following these investigations, work can now continue on making good the roof timbers and subsequent replacement of the roof.
More news will be added here as we get it!
A working party of around 10 members of the church met in St Mary's on Saturday 9th October to do some maintenance before the winter season. Reflective panels were installed behind radiators fitted on external walls to direct heat back into the church (rather than heating the walls) and the heating pipe ducts were cleaned of many years worth of grime and cobwebs. Some preparation work was done ready for the planting of a new hedge to conceal the repositioned heating oil tank in the churchyard. This working party was organised by St Mary's Energy working group which looks at all areas of the church's energy consumption, advises the PCC on energy saving matters and promotes environmental concerns within the church.