Back to the Building (Part 38)

Martin & Mandy

Published Version

I hope you all enjoyed last months fun and games, and if it all went to plan you got right to the end without realising how long ago it all took place. I certainly know that's what happened for some people. Anyway, back to the building now - we have a roof! Amazing, it's only taken the best part of four years, but we have a slate roof and a central window in the roof to let all the light in while keeping all the rain out. When the roof started being built the strangest of things happened, initially when we were standing on the new floor with just the base of the brick and block work walls around us it looked awfully big, then as the walls were completed it looked and felt small. A bit later on when the joists and the purlins were installed it looked big again and by the time we got the main staircase in and some of the scaffold removed the stairs looked minute.

The same changing size trick has happened from the outside too. Initially from the garage the box that was being built on top of the Nave looked massive - a real monster, clean light coloured wood everywhere made it look huge - we'd almost started to wonder whether we had done the right thing... But as the roof tiles went on the whole outline started to dull and as the weather changed, the colour of the tiles changed, in an odd way that normal clay tiles don't do. Once the roof was fully covered the massive rooms on top of the Nave had shrunk again to be much lower on the building - I know this sounds mad but it's true.

The roof lantern that's been fitted is in a specific colour that caused the window company no end of problems. We had mulled over a couple of colours with the help of Sarah the conservation officer, but the trick really has worked and the whole roof assembly has flattened and blended beyond our expectations as it's been installed.

The gable end wall at the east end of the church has also turned out rather nice, the existing wall was practically falling down and with a good shove it would have done - so a rebuild was required. To make it all fit in with the look and feel it needed coping stones on the top of it and quoins at the corners but of course the whole building is just off square which makes cutting and installing them a bit of a pain. Anyway they looked good once installed but Nick, one of the stone masons, is whinging on about them not being right, so I'm summoned to the church to have it explained to me. This is a common feature if you end up with the right people - even though I'm doing the paying they still think the building is theirs, so I end up on top of the scaffold in the freezing wind and rain having Nick show me why the quoin is 2 or 3 degrees out of square and how if we don't sort this the world will end when the gable end wall is plastered! Stunning really because the problem he has discovered is so small it's untrue and you would only notice if you had a telescope and were looking specifically at one particular item on the wall. Still, this is now obvious (even to me) and Nick's right we need to resolve it, and so he does. He appears happier and the quoin looks even more fab than it did before.

While the gable end wall is being sorted we also have a look at that crack underneath the Chancel arch and all Published Versionthe stonework below. The crack is big enough that you can hide half your arm in it, but it gets filled up with some engineering grout along with some stainless steel ties and it soon disappears.

The state of the stonework on the arch is not good, it's covered in layers of emulsion paint and a number of other paint finishes which have not done it any favours. So a lot of scraping and brushing needs to go on before most of it comes off. The pointing falls out while this is being done which is no surprise and there are some impressive gaps which are quickly filled with slate and lime mortar to keep the stones in place. Since it's an arch slate is used in the gaps as it's rather strong and will not compress over time. The finishing pointing is not completed but the structure of the arch is made a lot happier. For the time being we leave the doors and the top window in place but when we come to remove that I suspect we have yet more layers of paint on the stone to deal with. The picture here is after it's been cleaned and the slate packers installed but no pointing - that comes later.

Published Version

Next stages - well, a floor in the Nave is the next main attraction which will be a limecrete slab rather than concrete so that the whole lot can live with the rest of the building and we don't end up with damp or movement problems. The slab will sit on a lot of recycled glass and will take a week to set. We need to wait for the weather to be right for this - whilst you can get away with pointing and small pieces of limework when it's near freezing - the slab really does need to be carefully laid in temperatures that will not affect how it cures. Next month I'll tell you about Yorkstone and deadly spiders - don't worry, they're not in Hertfordshire!

For more history and information related to St Bartholomew's visit