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St Marie’s Lantern and Tower Update

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Our contractors, Lloyd and Smith Ltd., have worked hard both inside and outside the church.

The west wall of the church is some forty inches thick, covered by between four and six inches of plaster inside. When the plaster around the main roof purlins was removed to allow the rotted sections of those purlins to be cut out and spliced with new timbers, large cracks were found to the masonry. There are four of these, mainly around the arched window to that wall. The masonry has been found to be stable and static; the cracks have been repaired with pieces of tile, (to give strength and fill the large voids), and cement, after which stainless steel straps have been bolted into the stonework to prevent further cracking.

A survey of the existing plaster has shown that it is very loose, and is only just hanging on to the wall. As such, it must all be removed.

The masonry to the wall will be re-plastered using lime plaster which can dry out if it becomes damp, whilst modern plaster would become damp and simply fail. It is not practicable or cost effective to meet the levels of any existing plaster that remains, so specialist plasterers will ‘feather’ new work in.

Externally, work has begun to re-build the tower.

We now know that much of the tower was not ‘plumb’, and that the stonework was not well tied in to adjoining masonry. This is now where the skill and expertise of the contractor’s masons really comes into play, as they re-construct for strength and stability. This entails each individual stone being put into its place, assessed, then removed for slight re-shaping to ensure a proper fit. This is very painstaking work, and as the work stopped for Christmas and New Year, about 30% of the re-construction had been done.

Overall, the work is currently some 3 – 4 weeks behind schedule, principally due to the combination of the internal work and adverse weather conditions. This is likely to increase for the reasons given in this update.

We recently received the second instalment (40%) of the grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Our progress report had been accepted after scrutiny, and the instalment payment authorised (£85,800). We have received 90% of the total grant; the remaining 10% will only be released when the Heritage Fund is satisfied that we have met all the ‘approved purposes’ of the project in full.

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