This brief report summarises the Leckhampstead Roof Appeal Project, which started in June 2018 and was completed in May 2021. A background to the project provides some history and puts the work into context of the long-term plan. Our supporters are then highlighted with our sincere thanks before the timeline of the project including Covid interruptions is shown. The project spending is then detailed in the breakdown followed by the unexpected additional structural issues and costs. Finally, the outcome is described showing that all objectives were met.
St James Church is situated in the small village of Leckhampstead in West Berkshire between Newbury and Oxford. It is a beautiful Victorian building designed by S.S. Teulon in brick and flint, which contains artefacts from all ages including an eleventh century font, fourteenth century bell, Jacobean pulpit and Georgian altar rails.
The church building has served its congregation well for over a century and a half, but it was cold and damp and further damage was being caused by the deterioration of the roof, which allowed for the ingress of water and weather to the detriment of the church fabric as well as the comfort of the congregation and other church users.
St James was placed on the Historic England Heritage at Risk Register, as a Priority A building, due to the poor state of the roof, and structural movement caused by spreading of the roof. In addition to this, the trusses supporting the integrated tower were starting to fail and the whole roof was at risk of collapse. Many roof tiles had fallen to the ground, were broken or chipped, and the internal fibreboard (inserted during a 1949 roof repair) had drastically deteriorated due to moisture resulting from leaks, and water vapour from gas heaters. The rate of decay put the future of the building at risk.
In 2015 a Five-Year Plan was developed to maintain, preserve, refurbish and re-order the building. Stage 1, the restoration of the front porch and boundary wall was successfully completed in 2017. Fundraising for Stage 2, the Roof Appeal, commenced in June 2018 and £220,000 was raised by the end of 2019. Stage 2 was initially just the replacement of the roof but as the project progressed it became clear it had to include the repair of the stained-glass windows and an upgrade to the lighting. This stage was finished in May 2021, requiring additional funds of £40,000. Stage 3 is the installation of an efficient heating system, flexible seating, and additional facilities such as a toilet, which is planned to start in 2022.
2. Project Funding
We are incredibly grateful for the generous support of the following charities to our Project. The total funds raised were £258,000. The Project would not have succeeded without your continued
support throughout the Project. We are particularly thankful of your support midway through the Project to support additional Covid related costs, window works and structural damage.
Royal County of Berkshire Church Trust
The Sabine Sutherland Charitable Trust
The Bernard Sunley Charitable Trust
The National Churches Trust
The Greenham Common Trust via The Good Exchange
Garfield Weston Foundation Trust
The Gladiator Trust
The Gerald Palmer Eling Trust
The Englefield Trust
The Friends of St James
The Payne-Gallwey Charitable Trust
All Churches Trust
Walter Guinness Trust
Many private donors
3. Project Timing
JG Restoration Ltd, the appointed builders to the Project, commenced works on 7th March 2020 with the erection of the scaffolding and the delivery of 28,000 church clay tiles. Unfortunately, due to the Covid restrictions limited work commenced. Once supply chains re-opened and Covid restrictions were lifted for construction sites we were unable to restart works due to Bat Licence restrictions, which would not allow works between June and September, so work re-commenced on 1st September.
The Project has taken a total of 9 months which was longer than originally anticipated due to complications with structural works within the Project. The Project was completed in May 2021, about 14 months after its initial start date.
4. Construction Issues
The initial project works was to replace and insulate the exterior roof and to plaster and paint the interior. Once the roof was removed it become clear additional repairs would be required.
– The builders reported: “Repairs to the tower support beams. The support beams had sagged downwards quite considerably and showed signs of distress with the eastern beam showing a split to the underside. Further investigation calculated that under full dead and imposed loading the beams are overstressed by around 2.4 times their capacity. Under just dead load they are at the limit of their capacity. In an unlikely event of a heavy fall of snow they will not be able to support the additional load!” To resolve this steel beams were fitted to the underside of the oak beams.
– Wall ties were added to prevent any further movement of the walls.
Additional repair work included:
– Numerous rotten rafters replaced,
– A large amount of brickwork was replaced,
– The new roof altered the gutter position and functioning. Timber was added to allow the gutter to work efficiently,
– The Bell Tower was leaking and required additional scaffolding to be put up to investigate. New lead was fitted under the bell to prevent the leaking.
– The porch had also moved away from the church roof and had to be realigned. Additional lead work was also added to the porch.
5. Additional Works
Whilst the internal scaffolding was in place, we were able to see closely the stain glass windows in the top of the church. The windows were in a far worse state than we had initially anticipated, and we were advised to get them repaired as a matter of urgency. Additional funding was secured to repairs all the windows, which now look beautiful.
We were also able to utilise the scaffolding to introduce new lights in the church. The existing lighting was put in place in early 1960 and was not originally part of the Victoria design of the church. The lighting has not been upgraded for decades and is not efficient or effective. The new lights highlight the new roof and give brighter and more consistent illumination for the congregation and are more energy efficient.
All the key objectives of the Roof Appeal including, to re-tile the roof, make the building weather-proof, improve roof insulation to aid heating, and resolve structural movement in the roof and walls have all been achieved. The new roof preserves the church for another 80 years. In addition, the tower support beams have been reinforced, the porch realigned to the church, the windows repaired, and the lighting upgraded. The fabric of the whole church is now fit-for-purpose, with benefits of lower maintenance costs and a much more welcoming environment for the congregations and other church users.
We are immensely proud that the church, a Grade II* listed building, is now no longer on the National Heritage ‘At Risk’ register.
This was a community project and has prepared the church for the next stage, which will be refurbishing the interior to provide a more flexible community space for a wider offering of alternative forms of worship, and a venue for events such as concerts, parties and meetings. It is the only venue in the village which can accommodate large events for the local and wider community