On Tuesday, 23 February 2012, a small group, just four of us, were privileged to be escorted up the scaffolding which surrounds the tower by James, the personable site manager of the company overseeing the work on the Church tower. The purpose of the visit was to view the progress that is taking place in restoration of the fabric of the building.
I thought that the trip to the top would be undertaken via the internal stone spiral stairway. This was not so! Access was by means of a succession of ladders connecting each stage of the scaffolding, at the top of each was a small aperture through which one squeezed to gain a foothold onto each platform.
At the first few levels, the scaffolding was built around 3 sides of the tower, but as we ascended, this became scaffolding around all the four sides. Some of the work was at a very advanced stage. Stonework was being replaced, each piece being numbered according to the detailed plans. Although the technology of the original is 300 years old, this has been matched by 21st century technology and the same skills that were needed originally have not been lost. Some stonework was being “raked out” ready for re-pointing (none of your “two of sand and one cement” here, though). A lime mortar is used which replicates the original.
Towards the top was a “workshop” where stonemasons were putting the final touches to each intricate piece of carved stonework. We saw the aperture that was the cast-iron clock face, now removed for restoration off-site. Part way up, specialists in stained glass were refitting the ancient windows. At the very top, the stone balustrade was nearing completion and one could view the now-completed roof of the tower, ready to receive the 10 metre flagpole!
The whole visit took over an hour.
From what was seen, I am sure that the fabric of the tower will see another 300 years of life, and more.
Roy Needham, Parishioner