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How it was done

Early in November 2004 a "portaloo" was delivered to the Churchyard. Then a skip was laid on the Rectory drive. Finally several large, strong builders arrived. After so many years, was it really going to happen? Yes! Sam, Pete and Richard started digging up the floor in the tower. Despite a delay caused by finding remains of archaeological importance and concerns of structural safety, two feet of rotten floorboards, joists and rubble disappeared in a very large cloud of dust.

Pete, the carpenter, built a screen across the nave and south aisle to provide a safe working environment for the builders and to protect the congregation from scaffolding, tools and dirt. Once covered with curtain material, it made a useful place to hang notices and Christmas cards. Work rate increased more men dug trenches outside for pipes, laid concrete floors, built frames and cupboards, alongside contractors from other companies running electricity cables, repairing bells and clock and installing a new heating boiler and pipework. Each Friday night, everything was put away and cleaned for Sunday worship and then laid out again every Monday morning for a week’s work. Sadly, sometimes work was interrupted by a funeral. Then clearing and cleaning was done midweek as well.

In mid-December, even more scaffolding and men arrived to build a framework in front of the tower arch. Then Barry, Pete and Doug set about cutting the templates for the screen that would fill the arch. At the same time large amounts of steel rods and mesh arrived. These and a large amount of concrete formed the foundation of the floor and support for the north and south walls in the tower. At this point, all the scaffolding, equipment and tools were removed and the screen shortened to enclose only the rear pews because a wedding was imminent on the Saturday and the Nine Lessons and Carols on the Sunday. Christmas was coming!! So the Church was left clean and shining. Everyone took a two week break and returned in the New Year.

Pete built the toilet walls and ceiling and the kitchen range in the south aisle. Doug joined him to lay the tiled floor while Richard and Stuart started on the plumbing and drilling. It takes two days to drill a hole through a metre of 800 years old stone, flint and mortar. They needed a hole for the water pipe, one for the air vent and a 4-inch one for the sewer outlet. During these difficult days, technical terms were used, sometimes, which the writer diplomatically chose to ignore, professing profound ignorance.

By late January, the toilet and kitchen were complete, the base of the staircase was rebuilt and the tower walls received the first coat of lime wash. During these weeks, the number of contractors on site rose and fell as work on the wiring and the heating was connected to the building of the toilet and kitchen range. The last week in January saw the return of all the scaffolding behind the builders’ screen. Barry, Sam, Pete and Doug hoisted the top half of the oak frame for the screen into the tower arch to test for fit. Then it all came down again so that the next two coats of lime wash were put on the walls and dried completely and all the other works finished. This took longer than hoped because the old mortar in the walls is so friable that large chunks fell out whenever even the tiniest hole is drilled. The wall then has to be replastered with lime mortar and allowed to dry before work can continue. This can take a week or more, depending on size.

In early February everyone, with the addition of Matt and Matty, returned and the screen was built in the arch. The oak was waxed and it looked magnificent. The special Warwick glass arrived from Pilkingtons and was fitted to the screen. Then the scaffolding and builders’ screen were removed.

Oh, what a revelation! What an amazing sight: this elegant glazed screen, hand built and beautiful beyond our expectation. In the next two weeks all the little things left over from such a big project were finished off. The protective plastic was removed from the Lady Chapel and cleaning operations began before the first wedding of the year. Work also stopped, sadly, for a funeral. David Ferguson, our architect and Peter Wakefield, the building contractor, made a final inspection, during which Peter presented a bouquet of flowers in thanks for the chocolate biscuits and tea that had been provided.

Then on Friday 25th February 2005 the builders finally said goodbye. As he had done so many times since September 2004, when the electricians first arrived, Fred Rogers came to help return St. Mary’s to its accustomed layout and cleanliness. Four hours later, the First Phase was complete and we went home.

Jill Rogers

St. Cedd's Sunday Services - 10:30 am

1st Sunday: Family Worship

2nd Sunday: Holy Communion

3rd Sunday: Morning Worship

4th Sunday: Holy Communion

5th Sunday: Evening Praise and Celebration#

# 6.30pm. No morning service on this Sunday of the month

St. Mary's Sunday Services - 11:15 am

1st Sunday: Holy Communion*

2nd Sunday: Morning Prayer

3rd Sunday: Holy Communion

4th Sunday: Family Worship

5th Sunday: Parish Family Communion

* 6:30 pm (4 pm during Winter month). No morning service on this Sunday of the month