After years of planning, meetings and discussions the construction stage of Phase I of the Refurbishment Project finally got underway on the 29th July 2010. The elapsed time to completion was stated as thirteen weeks – which meant completion by the end of October that year providing that there were no unforeseen difficulties. The following report together with the various newsletters circulated at the time tells the story.
The church was closed for all services from the 3rd May 2010. This meant that we had to find alternative churches for the number of weddings already booked for the summer months. All the weddings have been rebooked at for the same dates with a slight change to the timing of one or two weddings. We are most grateful to our friends at the alternative churches and also for the understanding and flexibility of the wedding couples and their families.
Church services at St Mary's are being held in the Church Hall whilst the church is being refurbished.
The church was completely stripped of all furnishings by volunteers during the month of May 2010. The pews have all been sold – some to members of the congregation and others to members of the local community. The Choir Stalls have also been sold to a private owner.
The historic Manor Stalls have been retained and will be re-positioned at the entrance to the chancel.
As stated in the March Newsletter, the Street pulpit will be removed from its present position and rebuilt against a column next to the chancel.
The old organ was advertised for sale and eventually went to a French Organ Builder. He and a colleague, together with church volunteers, spent a long Saturday dismantling the organ and carefully storing the parts in their removal van. It is understood that the organ will be lovingly rebuilt and restored to working condition for installing in a French Church. We are sure that the organ will provide French audiences with years of wonderful music.
The order for a new electronic organ has been placed with Hugh Benton, The Organ Workshop, Cheshire, at a cost of £22,279. A deposit has been placed. The organ furniture will be in light oak.
Contract for Refurbishment
Up to seven contractors were invited to tender for the refurbishment. Three tenders were received. The architect discussed the detail of the lowest tender from Norman Wright Portsmouth Ltd. A number of items were clarified and the cost of some items reduced. Two significant items were cancelled at a considerable saving – these were the audio/visual facility and the spiral staircase into the tower.
This reduced the final figure for the tender to £298,325.25 zero-rated for VAT.
Following some discussion, the PCC meeting on the 13th July 2010 approved the Norman Wright tender at the above figure.
The above cost will be covered from existing funds, a significant legacy, and interest free pledges. A Diocesan Loan may also be negotiated should this be necessary.
Consultancy fees will be due to the Architect and the Mechanical & Electrical consultancy. We would also require a Health & Safety Co-ordinator, but Alan Hoad has volunteered to take on this responsibility because of his previous business experience. Alan will waive the fee.
A two-step dais, roughly circular in shape, will be built under the tower. This will contain the nave altar, priest chairs, lectern, etc., and can also be used for any future concerts held in the church.
The font, standing at the west end of the north aisle, will be re-positioned on a central west/east axis. The current font will be re-positioned.
Chairs: – 15 sample chairs were obtained and these were on display in the Church Hall. Members of the congregation at the 8:00am and 10:30am services had the opportunity to try each chair and to state their preference. The majority chose the Irish Contract chair. Following a PCC meeting on the 18th July 2010 approving the purchase of these chairs, a formal letter has been written to the supplier for 150 chairs, including 25 with arms, built from ash and stained in light oak, at a cost of approximately £22,000 including VAT. The chairs are expected to be ready by the end of October 2010.
It is proposed to have a scheme for members of the congregation to purchase individual chairs in memory of loved ones.
Members also voted for the Bistro Alpha chairs. These will be used to provide additional seating for services or concerts with larger audiences. The PCC will be requested to approve the purchase of a 150 Bistro chairs at a cost of approximately £5,800 including VAT.
Altar & Priest Chairs – the design of the nave altar and priest chairs is under consideration.
Storage and other furniture for the church – still to be decided.
The contractor planned to access the church building through the West Door from the field to the rear of the church, but this has not proved to be possible. Instead the access will be from Church Road.
The contractor will take the following actions:
Only authorised personnel will be allowed access to the church building during the refurbishment.
The Vicar, the PCC, and members of the congregation are delighted that the refurbishment of the St. Mary' Priory Church has started. It has been a long and painful journey, but it has been necessary to consult with as wide an audience as possible. We are most grateful for the advice of the church architect together with the heating and electrical engineer. Members of the DAC have also been very supportive whilst we developed our thoughts and ideas.
We look forward to a warm and comfortable church brought up to modern standards whilst retaining the dignity of this proud and ancient building, used not only for church services but also by the wider community.
Revd. Paul Ginever
1st August 2010