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A Beautiful Piece of Work

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The iconic lantern and tower of St. Marie’s Church is once more gracing the town centre skyline of Bury following its complete rebuilding.

Following the award of a £214,500 grant, from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, towards the cost of the project, the works went out to tender, and construction of the massive scaffolding began in June 2019.

Erected scaffolding view 1.
Erected scaffolding view 2.

Our main contractor, Lloyd and Smith Ltd., arrived on site when the scaffold was complete, and work was finally completed in October 2020.

During the dismantling of the tower, each stone was given an engraved number, and stored on a specially strengthened section of the scaffolding.

Stones engraved with numbers.
Stones stored on strengthened section of the scaffolding.

During the re-construction, each stone was pinned and locked into place before being tied into a stainless steel frame running the height of the tower.

Inside the church, we had to cut out some of the plaster to the west wall, over the choir, to replace some rotted lengths of the main roof purlins. As we did so, some major cracks were found to the masonry, and it was essential that these were filled and repaired. This additional work involved filling the crack with roofing tiles to give strength before pointing up. Over thirty stainless steel straps were bolted into place to ensure rigidity and prevent any further cracking and potential movement of the masonry.

Major cracks in the masonry.
Bolted stainless steel straps.

This additional work, and the complete replastering of the west wall, added many weeks to the contract period.

The weather over the winter of 2019 / 2020 also slowed reconstruction. As the weather then began to improve, the coronavirus pandemic began to evolve, necessitating changes in working practices which again slowed progress in reconstruction, and eventually caused the site to be closed down for almost two months between March and May 2020.

Work resumes after shutdown.

When work could safely be resumed, re-construction moved on and included the installation of a digital carillon.

The sloping pediment supporting the tower and lantern was repointed and clad in lead to prevent rainwater penetration.

The digital carillon, part-funded by two generous donations, sounds out on the hour, and plays part of the Lourdes Hymn at Angelus times of noon and six p.m.
The carillon is silenced during thew hours of 8.00 p.m.- 8.00 a.m. to avoid nuisance.

The completion of the capital works is a terrific achievement for all concerned, but the new challenge for the parish is to meet the second part of the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s contractual requirements – ‘the promotion of the heritage’.

Their expectation is that we will work to attract more visitors to the church building and show off some of its beautiful features and artefacts.

Given the current restrictions, that is not going to be easy, so thank you for reading this piece, and watch this space for further developments!

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