The "Building" team

Progress!

After a lot of difficulties - work to a medieval building is often complicated - the new roof drainage and downpipes are in place, with the work on the parvis roof in hand.  These works, initially to be financed by the Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund and our own balances, are now to be aided by additional grant from the Fund, plus Garfield Weston, the Allchurches Trust and the Diocese of York.  We will have to find more money ourselves than first thought, but these works will make a significant difference to the watertightness of the church roof and its longer-term maintenance. 

We are about to let a contract for major repairs to the church's electrical systems, required for electrical safety and insurance reasons.

The Inspecting Architect, Mr. Chris Cotton from Purcells, has prepared his Quinquennial Inspection Report on the church and this, together with the Stonework Conservation and Repair Policy defined earlier this year, will set the agenda and timescales for future repair and enhancement activity.  We will need very substantial grant aid.         

How the " Team" began

In May 2013, the PCC agreed to a proposal for relieving PCC agendas of minor and routine matters by delegating them, within stated terms of reference, to working groups.  The group which is the subject of this brief summary was set up to deal with Finance and Buildings and hence became known as "F&B".  Its inaugural meeting took place in July 2013 and those present - groups were open to all willing volunteers interested in their remit - elected the PCC Treasurer as its Chairman, a post he has continued to hold.

That first meeting recognised some crucial issues:-

  • Inevitably, much of the work of the Group will take place within the legal and financial constraints under which both the Church of England and registered charities have to operate
  • Church of England legal and administrative structures are more than a little convoluted.  Their basis sometimes does not appear particularly sensible or realistic in the 21st century - but that is the backdrop we have.
  • Guidance from regulatory authorities such as the Charity Commission, the Chancellor of the Diocese and the Diocesan Advisory Committee, or grant providers such as the National Heritage Memorial Fund has to be observed if we want to succeed
  • We are there to serve the best interests of St. Patrick's and must put those interests first in what we do, as is required of PCC members.

F&B began addressing its work by producing a list of matters requiring its attention, divided into quick fixes (although some did not turn out to be quickly or easily fixable), medium term issues and longer-term/strategic matters.  Perhaps not unexpectedly, most of them related to buildings rather than finance and arose from the needs of an iconic Grade 1 listed building - plus the Church Hall, which had (and has) its own issues to address.  The rest of this note deals with how F&B found ways of addressing many matters which have, from comments in the Visitors' Book as well as from the congregation and from the local community, have enhanced our lovely church.

Working through the list, there were one-line entries which were very resource-intensive.  An example was "repaint heating pipes and radiators", which consumed hundreds of hours of volunteers' time in rubbing down paintwork and applying undercoat and topcoat (there are 37 radiators of various sizes, perhaps best described as either awkward or very awkward to paint, plus some 400 feet of connecting pipework, some of it hidden below gratings, which needed cleaning out first).  Conversely, there were some which were discrete tasks relatively easily addressed, such as stripping ivy from the church car park wall - which immediately resulted in a need to repoint the top three courses of brickwork!  Progress was reported monthly to the PCC. 

Listing everything F&B has achieved in the last three years is beyond the scope of this summary for the church website; and would potentially become a repetitive recital, as there have been around a dozen revisions of the original list and some items have persisted on it, or taken longer than others to address.  However, it is worth stating that F&B's approach has developed and metamorphosed over time, particularly in its liaison with the church's Inspecting Architect.  Part of our resources came from Community Payback workers and our experience of using this resource was entirely positive, in one case the stripping of mid-20th century paint from historic doors and another the repetitive task of gently sanding hundreds of square feet of Victorian pew plinths, preparatory to applying Danish Oil.  All of us have learned (and in some cases devised - or perhaps reinvented) new techniques to deal with what we have encountered; and lateral thinking is often useful in a building designed 600 years ago!    

A task carried out by the core members of F&B was to clean the upper levels of the tower.  This was no mean undertaking, as it encompassed the tower top level immediately beneath the spire, the belfry, an intermediate chamber empty apart from the shafts driving the clock hands on the four separate faces, the ringing room and associated steps, ladders and walkways.  To avoid the long part-crawl along the access gallery from and to the apex of the north transept, followed by the ascent or descent of the north spiral staircase, the team opened the trapdoor to the now unused southern access (steps projecting from the south wall of the tower into the transept - a route for those with a good head for heights and sure feet) to the ringing room, hauling tools upwards from and lowering detritus downwards to the south transept floor some thirty feet below.  This took almost a whole day for six reasonably fit and agile Third Agers, with two more at floor level sending and receiving the contents of the haulage bags!  The refurbishment of the belfry itself, including repainting the bell frames, hangers and wheels, is scheduled for the spring/summer of 2017. 

We laughed many times whilst working, such as at the objurgations when having to use some fairly gymnastic methods of moving around the bells in the belfry (not much space around hard objects which moved, sometimes seemingly of their own volition); or when the author of this summary stalked through the priest's door into the chancel wearing a hard hat, safety glasses, a breathing mask and dirty overalls, much to the surprise of two visiting ladies admiring the reredos, who were not expecting a visit from Darth Vader.    And there were practical issues we encountered, such as Danish Oil masking the scent of flowers (no matter how artistically arranged) several days after application; or the verger being less than amused at the fine dust from sanding pew plinths finally settling just before a service.  Foresight and commonsense was often essential, such as stopping and sealing the clock mechanism (entirely mechanical and industrial size) before cleaning the levels above it. 

We learned as we went along and we did not make too many mistakes, probably because of the commitment of the individuals in the team and their personal skills, plus the help and advice of the architect and the willingness of the PCC to trust us to get on with our allotted tasks without going beyond our capabilities or our terms of reference.  And we enjoy the role.  The photographs show F&B members in some of the tasks we have accomplished.