Brompton Regis Church has now successfully completed its Tower renovations. Huge thanks to our Treasurer, the PCC, and the many charities and sponsored who so generously assisted us in maintaining and renovating this historic building. The details below record the history of this project for posterity.
The medieval tower of St Mary’s Church at Brompton Regis will be 800 years old in 2020, and has been absorbing water through the centuries. The effects inside the church have become acute in recent years, with green mould and peeling plaster on the walls, and puddles on the floor in very wet periods. The damp atmosphere has become a threat to the church’s historically important Thomas Lewis organ, and the building has been placed on the At Risk register by Historic England.
Tower renovations began in August 2018 on this ancient local building
The Heritage Lottery Fund has now come into partnership with the Parochial Church Council to address the problem decisively. Having committed some legacy money to the project, the PCC has been raising further funds and is approaching the final target, but the major part of the cost is being borne by the HLF. Preliminary drilling and other investigative works have been completed, and the full repair and conservation project will get under way on August 13th. It will last nearly a year and will involve complete re-grouting and repointing, stonework repairs, a new tower roof and improved ground drainage. It will be guided by Architect Alan Smith of Smith Gamblin, a Bridgwater-based architectural company, and carried out by Carrek Ltd, a Bristol-based company specialising in historic buildings.
Our Churchwarden Malcolm Miller said in a recent newspaper article about the project: “The parish is hugely appreciative of the HLF’s commitment to conserving this important part of its heritage for present and future generations”.
The church has also received £10,000 from the National Churches Trust together with £3000 each from the Somerset Churches Trust and Allchurches Trust, plus several smaller but much appreciated grants from other charities, and this support will enable the complete realisation of the project.
As of April 2019 the Tower Project is now well under way. Here is an update of progress from the project managers and builders, with some pictures of the work.
The medieval tower of Brompton Regis church will be 800 years old in 2020, and has been absorbing water through the centuries. The effects inside the church became acute in recent years, with green mould and peeling plaster on the walls, and puddles on the floor in very wet periods. The damp atmosphere threatened the church’s historically important organ, and the grade 2* listed building was placed on the At Risk register by Historic England.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund went into partnership with the Parochial Church Council to address the problem decisively. The PCC committed some legacy money to the project and raised further funds, but over 60% of the cost was borne by the NLHF. The church also received substantial grants from the National Churches Trust, the H.B Allen Trust, Somerset Churches Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation and Allchurches Trust, plus several smaller grants from other bodies, and VAT was reclaimed through the Listed Places of Worship grant scheme.
The project was initiated and managed by the Churchwarden Malcolm Miller and PCC Treasurer Bill Rees.
After preliminary drilling and investigative works were completed to assess its scale and cost, the full repair and conservation project started in September 2018. Planned to last about a year, it involved flushing out the wall filler materials, complete re-grouting and re-pointing of the walls, stonework repairs, a new tower roof and improved drainage. It was guided by Alan Smith of Smith Gamblin, a Bridgwater-based architectural company, and carried out by Carrek Ltd, a Bristol-based company specialising in historic buildings.
With the tower scaffolded and wrapped in cladding, initial drilling of multiple holes into the walls enabled the soggy remnants of 13th century filler materials to be flushed out from the wall cavities so that new grout could be injected to fill the voids.
Pumping and injecting the grout into the walls
Raking out the pointing
Blocking up of the grout after it being injected into the walls
Following the injection of 9 tons of grout into the walls, the tower roof was repaired and renewed, the bell chamber was re-pointed, and stonework repairs were carried out, including local sourcing of matching replacement stones.
Work then moved inside to remove the plaster from the interior of the tower, taking the walls back to stone. The revealed 13th century stone was not of a quality which justified leaving it exposed so, after a lengthy drying-out period, the ringing chamber will be re- plastered (using the correct lime-based materials, unlike past coatings which exacerbated the dampness problems).
The tower is so wet that a decision has been made (March 2019) not to proceed immediately with external re-pointing but to wait for further weeks of drying time. The removal of the internal plaster will help by enabling the stone at last to breathe. When the scaffolding is finally removed, the final phase of the work to install a new drainage system at the external base of the tower will be completed in the autumn of 2019.
Income from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, from trusts and other forms of fundraising was £240,000. The following organisations gave financial support to the project:
The National Lottery Heritage Fund
The H.B.Allen Trust
Emmanuel College, Cambridge National Churches Trust
The Philip Laity Stoate Foundation Somerset Churches Trust
An anonymous trust
The Cave Foundation
Garfield Weston Foundation
Funds were also raised through private donations and generous contributions made at local events such as a cream tea and a pub quiz. The fundraising campaign was very successful, enabling the PCC to commit less money from its Davey bequest reserves than originally envisaged.
Removal of rain water pipe
Local school children visiting the church and building site